Over the past 30 years, I’ve consulted with a lot of companies and I’ve seen a lot of really great marketing…and a lot of really bad marketing.
When I see the bad marketing, it always reminds me of the fairy tale, “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen. You probably recall that the story tells of a homely little bird born in a barnyard who suffers abuse from the others around him until, much to his delight (and much to the surprise of others), he matures into a beautiful swan, the most beautiful bird of all.
The story is a tale about personal transformation for the better.
Now I don’t delight in telling organizations that their marketing looks more like the Ugly Duckling before he undergoes his transformation; but still, that doesn’t prevent me from being honest with them. After all, a lot hinges on marketing, and I know the drill. If the marketing isn’t working, then it gets cut from the budget. When marketing gets cut from the budget, then sales eventually suffer. And I don’t need to tell you what happens when sales start to suffer.
So when it comes to marketing, honesty is always my policy because there’s a lot at stake. It’s happened more than once when I’m at an introductory meeting with a potential new client and they talk to me about how they’re “the Cadillac” product or service in their industry and their service and support are superb and they don’t worry too much about their competition because, well, they’re simply the best.
They get me so whipped up that I’m practically sitting on the edge of my chair, just waiting to see how their marketing reflects all of this greatness! And then it happens…they show me their marketing program. I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at the “poker face.” I’ve learned the hard way that reacting without first thinking typically doesn’t bode well in this situation.
So I look at the marketing program before me…the brochures, the campaigns, the ads, the website, the videos, the social media strategy (or lack thereof)…and I can tell immediately – within three seconds – that they’re not investing enough in their marketing. Much of it appears to be done with “bare minimum” resources. Then, I have to tactfully have “the talk” with them.
In an attempt to avoid these awkward conversations in the future, I thought it would be helpful to share five “warning signs” that your organization might need a marketing makeover.
- Nothing matches.
You probably wouldn’t walk out of your house in an outfit that doesn’t match, right? Well, why do this to your brand? Strong brands consistently deliver on their promises to consumers in every marketing interaction. Inconsistent messages and visual imagery can confuse consumers, forcing them to turn away from your brand in search of one that does continually meet their expectations. If your website, ads and marketing materials look like they come from multiple companies, then you need a marketing makeover so you communicate a consistent brand at all times.
- You don’t know what you want.
If you haven’t mapped out your one-year and five-year goals, then your marketing efforts might not be helping your business. Take some time to determine your business objectives and then revamp your marketing to help you reach those goals.
- You don’t know how to connect with customers.
If you don’t know who you need to connect with and where to find them, then you will waste a lot of time building relationships with people and spending time in places that won’t drive the business results you need. Instead, define your target audience and determine what matters to them. Only then can you start marketing effectively to them.
- You’re talking only about yourself.
It’s important to strike a balance between being social and only self-promoting. Socially, if you talk only about yourself all the time, no one will want to hang with you. The same is true of marketing. So take the time to get to know people — in person and on social media sites – and build relationships with them so you can engage them with meaningful marketing content and conversations.
- The competition looks better than you.
If your competitors’ messages and looks outshine yours, then you might need to make a change. The idea is to stay ahead of the curve, not just keeping pace. Remember: If you don’t look and sound better than your competitors, then there is no reason for your customers to do business with you. Determine what differentiates you from your competitors and what benefits you can deliver to consumers that your competitors cannot.
I simply cannot stress enough that first impressions are crucial and your customers move quickly. If they can’t determine who you are, what you do and how you can help them in three seconds or less, they’ll pass you by.
Marketing makeovers offer significant opportunities to stay current, jump ahead of your competitors, and appeal to wider audiences. But be careful. I’m not talking about invasive plastic surgery here (we’ve all seen the celebrities who have gone a little too far and our reactions to the before/after comparisons). Instead, pursue more subtle changes that enhance your brand and business rather than completely reconstructing it.
If you recognize you need a marketing makeover – and you do it correctly – you can take your Ugly Duckling marketing and transform it into the beautiful swan I know it can be. And if you need help in making this transformation, I know a highly qualified “marketing plastic surgeon” who can help you. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach out for a no-obligation (yet honest) consultation!