Four Reasons Why You Think Marketing Doesn’t Work and How to Fix it

As a small business marketing and growth consultant, my expertise is in high demand from people that want to increase their sales and grow their market share. With that said, most of my conversations with new clients revolve around why marketing doesn’t work. People are eager to share with me how all the marketing they have done has failed. Most are wary of throwing more money away and feel stuck and unable to move forward.

The problem is not that marketing does not work; it is that our perception of marketing is incorrect. Marketing does work but only when looked with the proper “big picture” frame of mind. Below are four reasons why marketing has not worked for you in the past:

Marketing is not just about advertising

Most people make the mistake of confusing advertising with marketing. Yes, advertising is a part of marketing, but it is actually a very small part. It is the last piece of a puzzle, but thanks to an abundance of advertising sales reps, we often start with advertising. The result is general failure and frustration. Starting with advertising is like trying to drive a car with no engine. No matter how great the tires are and how shiny the body is, you’re not going anywhere.

Long before you think about advertising, you need to have the rest of your car in working order. Many have heard of the Marketing Product Mix, also known as the 4 P’s of marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion (advertising). In many cases, this oversimplifies a very complex instrument that, when used properly, can be a huge launching pad for success. The 4 P’s mislead us by causing us to assume that as long as we have a product with a price and a place to sell it, we are ready to promote it. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Today, marketing is all about image and people know the difference between a real image and a fabricated one. A real image takes time to build. It is not simply a slogan on a radio ad; it is a way of life for your business, proven by your consistent commitment to excellence. A real image is portrayed by you, your product, and your employees; it is evident and unspoken to your customers.  Thus, the first step in marketing is setting a high standard and leading by example.

Your brand image does not distinguish you as something special

Many small businesses think that having high quality and consistent design is unimportant. There is a big misnomer that creativity along with a professional look is not important unless you are a large corporation or chain. The problem with this is twofold, and one of the main reasons that small business owners think advertising (marketing) does not work. If you are unwilling to create a brand image that captivates people and grabs their attention, advertising will not work. Perhaps the bigger issue is that without a consistent brand image and message, people will not recognize you. In order for advertising to be effective, people need to hear and see your message many times before it sinks in. Trying a bunch of different messages with no consistent look and hoping that something sinks in will always result in an ineffective campaign.

As stated above, your brand image is what will help make you recognizable. The bottom line is that if people don’t recognize you, they won’t respond to your advertising. Remember that marketing is now more about being sociable than about selling. People don’t answer the phone or return emails unless they recognize who is contacting them. The same is true with advertising. People won’t respond to advertisements unless they recognize the messenger and the message appears to be worth their time. If your business fails to have a well-thought-out, fun, and professional brand image, your advertisements will be looked at like the telemarketers of the 80s-90s…annoying, if noticed at all.

Whether you are a one-person operation or have 1,000 employees, a professional look helps you stand out and get noticed. The next step for effective marketing is to spend your money where it is most effective and this starts with a well-designed brand image.

You don’t have a lead capture system

Up until around 2005, marketing and advertising was all about getting people to purchase your product. Today, things have changed. Marketing is not just about the sale; it is about connecting with your customers and, more importantly, your potential customers. People have access to more information than ever before and merely producing a catchy ad will not be enough to turn prospects into buyers.

The third step in marketing is to focus your advertising on capturing leads so you can stay in contact with them. A good strategy is to have multiple ways of capturing leads. Focus on providing free value to your customers and your prospects in exchange for their contact info and then have a plan and strategy in place to keep your business in front of them. A good strategy is to have multiple ways for customers to connect with you and vice versa. For example, offer a loyalty club with monthly email coupons or text messages, have a newsletter with valuable information related to your industry (and offer a deal in each newsletter to promote new sales), or offer free classes (online or offline). Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. People are willing to exchange their contact info for valuable information, discounts, training, and more. The key is to be specific about your lead capture system and make sure that you are offering something unique and original.

Effective marketing will bring immediate results

This fourth point is the number one reason that people think marketing does not work. The assumption is that marketing will immediately and measurably increase sales. This is simply not true. Effective marketing takes time. You have to have all three steps above in place. Remember, marketing is not just about advertising; it is about creating a long term contract with your customers and community. Marketing is about consistency: consistent quality, consistent value, consistent brand images, and consistent communication. It takes time to build a reputation that people learn and want to pay attention to.  Purchasing a radio spot for a couple of weeks, popping up a website, or investing in a few Adwords will not cause droves of people to rush to you with wallets open. Marketing is about cultivating long term success. The words “long term” imply that it takes time, effort and energy and that implication sums up effective marketing in a nutshell.

So the next time you are tempted to fall into the trap of believing that marketing does not work, first try changing your ideas about marketing. Over time, a well-thought-out and executed marketing strategy that focuses on consistent quality, service, value, image, and communication will pay off.