In my 18 years plus as a marketer, I’ve heard a lot about how marketing is rubbish: “We tried marketing and it didn’t work”; “We hired a marketing consultant and it was a waste of money”; “Our marketing person doesn’t give us results”; “We don’t do marketing.”

So, what’s behind these frustrations and comments and why doesn’t marketing work? It’s normally one of these three reasons.


You’re not talking about marketing.

Frankly, most people don’t have a clue what marketing is really about. Even lots of people that call themselves marketers. Make sure you are talking about marketing in its entirety.

Marketing is about identifying customers’ wants and needs, developing and delivering products and services to meet those wants and needs, and then helping those customers choose the product you have developed for them.

To do this effectively, you need to:

  • know who your customers are (market research and segmentation)
  • have a clear understanding of your organisation’s abilities to meet your segment’s needs (internal analysis)
  • understand the whole market in which your customers exist (macro market research) including competitive options to your services
  • develop key strategic marketing objectives around which segments you are going to target, your strategic approach, and what you want to achieve in terms of market share, income, profit, number of sales etc.
  • have sound marketing tactics in place to help you achieve your strategic aims
  • the first of these tactic is to, based on your research and understanding, develop a product or service they actually want or need, and which your people have the right skills to deliver
  • price your product at the correct level for your identified customers
  • allow them to purchase it in places that are convenient to them
  • promote it in ways that allow them to make the right choice, in a stepped fashion at their pace, to choose your goods or services
  • ensure all of your physical evidence around your product or service reflects what you are offering at the price point you are offering it at
  • have all the right processes in place to meet your customers’ needs at whatever stage of the Buying Process they are at.

When most people talk about “marketing” they mean advertising, social media, emails, brochures and leaflets. That is part of marketing promotion. Which is a point near the bottom of what marketing is. If you don’t get everything before it right then, yes, you’re bang on; your adverts and whatever won’t work. But please don’t call it “marketing”; it’s one element of promotional marketing.


There are marketers and then there are…”marketers”

Do you know the difference between a book-keeper and an accountant? Between a Michelin starred chef and a chef heating pre-prepared food in a microwave at your local pub? Between a builder and an architect? There are all these nuances in marketing too.

Lots of people with the title marketers, aren’t marketers. Lots of people who claim they “do marketing” are doing one teeny, tiny element of marketing. I’m not going to denigrate these people, as often they have been told they are marketers or are doing marketing and, frankly, marketing is not a profession that helps itself. But someone who has not studied marketing professionally, understands the wider marketing picture and where they fit into it, and believes that marketing is all about promotion, is a “marketer”.

Someone who has been given marketing to do because, “They are good at selling” or (my personal favourite), “They’re good at a bit of graphic design work” is not a marketer. They are a person who has been asked to do some of the tasks of marketing but without understanding the context that they are doing it in and what they really need to do.

If you’re lucky, they might be the type of person that can give it a really good go and achieve some results. But a Michelin starred chef-equivalent, who can plan, run and manage a successful kitchen while delivering top class meals at the same time, they aren’t.


You hired the wrong type of marketer

There. I’ve said it. Sorry. But if you hire a digital marketer, then don’t expect them to be great at understanding how to create a rounded marketing campaign. Funnily enough, they’ll give you an awesome digital one with the rest being the best they can. It’s like hiring a pastry chef then getting annoyed that their starters are good but not what you need. And if you need strategic advice and planning, then it is unfair to expect an untrained or inexperienced tactical marketer to provide that.

Before you hire a “marketer” check what you are getting. Are you getting someone who can audit, plan and set strategic objectives? Or someone who is really good at writing and has learnt a lot about how to apply this to marketing?  Read my previous blog “Before you hire a marketer read this” where I cover this in more depth.


To conclude…marketing does work

Marketing done well, works. Marketing done in its entirety, works. Marketing done by people who understand what their role is and how it fits into the bigger marketing picture, works.

And as for the comment, “We don’t do marketing”…well. You can imagine my face when I was told that by an engineer at a FTSE 100 company. Us marketers clearly have a long way to go with marketing marketing.


Kara Stanford is a strategic marketing geek, passionate about helping organisations use marketing in its entirety to succeed. She also tutors in marketing for the Oxford Professional Education Group, is a Chartered Marketer (yes, such a thing exists), and a Watertight Marketing Accredited Consultant (a licensing scheme devised to help SMEs choose a strategic marketing consultant that actually is one).

Contact her to ensure your marketing works.


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