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Avoid Marketing’s Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle conjures up images of mystery, danger and disaster. All too often, marketing gives the same feelings to those who don’t understand it or have failed at it.

Just as three points always make up a triangle, these 3 marketing and sales support mistakes create an area where profits and progress can be swallowed in a “perfect storm” of sales prevention.

1. We know who our customers are. Living in deeply parochial New England, we all too often hear something along the lines of the familiar refrain, “But we’ve always done it that way”. This promotion of the ostrich method of marketing (and/or management by sticking your head in the sand) when it comes to progress and the acknowledgment of changes in technology, styles or buying behavior is extremely dangerous. Or the conversely but equally effective business killer, “everyone is our customer”. Though I’ve seen some Mercedes and BMW’s on my trips to the local Wal-Mart, I’m pretty sure that even they do not expect to have everyone as their customer. In an era of ever-increasing specialization, the need to define your target audience is no longer a nice-to-have but an absolutely need-to-have requirement.

2. We don’t need (or can’t afford) marketing. No less an authority than the late business guru Peter Drucker said that all businesses had only two priorities, innovation and marketing. He also commented “the goal of marketing was to know and understand the customer so well as to make selling superfluous.” Sounds not only important but mission critical to me. Yet the corporate marketing services budget is often the first thing to be cut (if it exists at all) in a down turn or when companies feel the need to reduce costs. How dumb is that?

3. Engaging in “pixie dust” marketing. The other reaction in a downturn is to say something like, “quick, let’s do some marketing to get sales up”. The recent commercials advocating that Yellow Book advertising is the “cure all” to a bad sales month or quarter only serves to reinforce this type of thinking. But rarely if ever does a one-hit marketing effort drive results and even if it does in the short term, it’s highly unlikely to do so over the long run. Marketing is not an event.

Three points can make a triangle. Three points can also make a line that becomes a trend. No matter which configuration you put these three points into, “knowing” the customers you really don’t know, not “needing” the marketing you desperately need and engaging in silver bullet thinking will only lead to one place. But unlike many of the “unexplained” disappearances of the Bermuda Triangle, if you employ this kind of business development strategy, the disappearance of your business will not be hard to figure out.

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