The Top Eight Marketing Blunders of 2008: What NOT to Do When Marketing a Business in a Down Economy

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As important as marketing is to a business' success, it often gets the least attention and resources during a down economy, according to Larry Golden, co-CEO of RSVP Publications (http://www.rsvppublications.com), an upscale direct marketing firm specializing in marketing to affluent homeowners.

As important as marketing is to a business' success, it often gets the least attention and resources during a down economy, according to Larry Golden, co-CEO of RSVP Publications (http://www.rsvppublications.com), an upscale direct marketing firm specializing in marketing to affluent homeowners.

"Bad marketing can be worse than no marketing at all, because it uses resources without gaining results," says Golden. "This past year is chock-full of marketing blunders including slashed budgets, failure to invest enough resources and a growing reliance on ineffective methods. Looking forward to 2009, companies that are intent on success should start making marketing one of the most important elements in their business plan."

Here are Golden's candidates for the top eight marketing blunders of 2008:

  •     Blunder No. 8 - Failure to have an annual marketing plan. The old saying about "failing to plan being the same as planning to fail" is particularly important when it comes to developing an annual marketing plan. Budgeting for marketing in advance, with priorities allocated according to their contribution to driving sales, will help ensure that marketing survives budget cuts during the year.
  •     Blunder No. 7 - Product/service will sell itself. Today's consumer is exposed to more marketing messages in one click of a mouse or in one day's worth of mail than ever before. Simply relying on word of mouth is not enough to increase sales in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Remember that the business has no control over the content of word-of-mouth messages. But by taking charge of the content and delivery of the message, companies can control the impact they have on their prospects and customers.
  •     Blunder No. 6 - Promoting products/services without tracking results. Too often, companies get caught up in the execution of a campaign instead of identifying measurable results to prove the effectiveness of that campaign. Building measurement factors into the campaign design will allow staff to track responses and the impact on increased sales.
  •     Blunder No. 5 - Limiting marketing to email methods. Many companies are unaware of how to effectively market their brand via email. To increase the response rate, research a targeted audience to find an exact fit for the particular message, and consider combining email marketing with other web-based marketing as well as direct mail. According to a survey conducted by International Communication Research, 73 percent of respondents prefer to receive new product announcements by mail rather than email. This study also indicates fewer people discard unsolicited direct mail, compared with email.
  •     Blunder No. 4 - Investing only in advertising. Many business owners do not understand the various elements of the marketing mix, including advertising, public relations and direct marketing. They generally know what advertising is, so they feel more comfortable investing in this. However, they would often benefit from contacts with local and trade media for calendar listings, interviews and articles; as well as using direct mail to get their messages in front of their prospects.
  •     Blunder No. 3 - Ignoring social media outlets. Declining to get on board with the technological thrust of social networks could eventually leave many businesses in the dust. Embracing social media like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, the blogosphere, widgets, instant messaging, podcasts, etc. will help smart businesses survive and even thrive in the future.
  •     Blunder No. 2 - Slashing marketing budgets and programs. Unfortunately, marketing is often the first department to suffer budget cuts in a down economy. As strange as it may seem to cut off the supply of new sales leads during challenging times, it's typically because the firm lacks a genuine commitment to marketing and does not understand its value. Of course, that's the wrong approach. Let competitors cut back -- the best time to get the company name in front of prospects is when no one else is trying to reach them.
  •     Blunder No. 1 - Failing to understand why people buy. So much of good marketing is being able to market to "wants" rather than "needs." Particularly at a time that consumers are cutting back on expenditures, it's imperative to make an emotional connection with them.

    Avoiding these blunders can make for a healthier 2009 for most businesses. By targeting messages toward the right audience, monitoring and participating in social networks and measuring results after each campaign, businesses can demonstrate the all-important return on their marketing investment. And the level of investment in marketing may well be the deal maker or the deal breaker in such a tight economy.

About the author:
Larry Golden is the co-CEO of RSVP Publications (http://www.rsvppublications.com), a direct mail marketing franchise. Golden is responsible for relationships with national accounts and key vendors and manages print operations. RSVP Publications has franchises in 125 priority markets across the United States & Canada and mails to more than 11 million unique owner-occupied households, reaching the nation's top 20 percent in income who consume 80 percent of high end goods and services.

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