The Marketing Trap: Too Much Thought Can Be Limiting

By January 21, 2013Thoughts

Understanding, analysing, predicting and then analysing again is fundamental when you’re thinking about your marketing campaigns. However, too often as a marketer it’s easy to fall into what I refer to as The Marketing Trap.

If you don’t know what your cost per acquisition is, if you don’t know what your retention cost is, if you don’t know who your target market is and if you’re still debating with yourself about the type of marketing you’re going to get out there you’ve not fallen into the marketing trap, you’ve not yet got into marketing your products or services at all.

The marketing trap happens when you spend too long making decisions, spending too long debating what’s going out, spending too long perfecting the campaign you’re working on (time in which you could have got the campaign out and be working on the next one). As much as anything, marketing can be about momentum and it’s important to keep that momentum going, but it’s easy to say: “I’m not sure if this is going to work,” when you’ve got an idea and effectively as a marketer you become a brake to the marketing efforts of the business.

Know how you react to ideas

Understanding your own reactions to the tasks at hand is an important part of any marketer’s professional competency. If you see yourself objecting from the gut there might be a reason to dig into something, but make sure you don’t spend too long on it. If a decision has been made – just get it done then, you can move onto the next project.

Later you can look back and see the successes and failures. Over the course of a marketers career, there will be successes and failures, these will inform future marketing decisions. I believe a marketers’ reactions to ideas are a a form of tacit understanding about what works and what doesn’t.

The comparative immediacy of online marketing vs offline also creates issues when a marketer crosses over between the two spheres – this is increasingly happening as marketers are migrating from being solely digital marketers and offline marketers to simply marketers once again.

A marketer should put themselves in the position of an entrepreneur; the entrepreneur that sets up a business has to just do everything they can with very little, if any budget in order to come up with a formula that works – a marketer working in an organisation, no matter whether they are a search marketer, a brand marketer or simply the marketing manager heading up all marketing activities has to come up with a winning formula. It’s best to emulate as much as possible what’s gone on before whilst developing the strategy in all directions.

As the old saying goes – if you throw enough mud sooner or later some of it will stick and generally this is true with marketing. That being said it doesn’t always work that if you throw enough money into your marketing campaigns it will generate the kind of returns you’re expecting – when money is trading hands for a service (rather than labour costs for a service) it’s more important to make sure the numbers work. Working out the numbers is easy though, if you’ve got your businesses retention and acquisition costs nailed down (mainly worry about the acquisition costs) you’ll know if something is going to work in seconds – you probably won’t even have to work it out.

Spending a couple of hours doing overly-complicated sums to see if something is potentially going to work may be necessary in big corporate environments in order to justify spend, however the outcome will generally be the same – the marketer will put his or her slant on the numbers, that the gut feeling coming into the figures, the kind of instinctive experience your salary is being paid for.

Thought is limitation, free your mind

When I was younger I used to do a bit of climbing and on the wall of this old converted barn was the phrase “thought is limitation, free your mind”. I’ve contemplated this phrase a great deal over the last 18 years and often if comes back to me when I find myself over thinking a decision.  If you thought about throwing yourself from one ledge to the next when climbing you’d never do it and the same is true of marketing. You’ve got to clear your mind and go on your gut, trust your experience will guide you in a way that being over analytical won’t. Also, bear in mind that if you want to you can almost always bend figures to make them show the outcome will be the way you think it will be (or at least hope it will be).

The over-reliance on data in decision making are just limiting thoughts, and limiting thoughts simply get in the way of doing more and more marketing. Ultimately, the more marketing you do the more you are likely to get back. Stats are a great guide, but they will generally back up your original line of thinking – if they don’t forget the idea and move on. It really should be that simple.

So those are my general thoughts on the marketing decision making process – falling into what I think of as the marketing trap and the idea of just keep on doing marketing all the time to get to where the business needs to be. Things will happen along the way that require reaction and proactive forethought – don’t limit your ideas, understanding or gut feelings by thinking about things too much.

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