“We’ve been through two marketing companies now with no results. What are we doing wrong?”
This question in a recent post in an online networking community caught my eye. An established consulting business was expressing their frustration with the non-results they were getting from the marketing professionals they hired.
helloFUTURE LLC, according to their online profile, “helps you create innovative new products, services, and patents via our foresight, innovation and patent development programs, supported by solid technology and project management.” That’s a mouthful. Per their new website, their business would appear to be entirely workshop-based. It’s what they say they do anyway. Some very large clients are on their roster, but based on these, it’s not at all immediately clear what they do.
Based on a comment from the author, it would also seem that he’s not that clear about his brand either. As he says, “ There are others in our space, I can’t understand why we’re getting so little traction in our business. We are a unique product in a unique space.” That’s confusing. Is it a product or a service? Is it a unique product in a unique space, or not?
The company tried two completely different approaches: first, a firm that “supposedly” used AI to create lists of people interested in buying their service offering. It “campaigned over 12,000 people” (whatever that means), and achieved only 20 calls and no business. They then hired a “full service” marketing company that “redid” their communication tools – ads, website and created content marketing. It achieved three leads and no results.
I have to say that, sadly, I’ve heard this story (or something like it) many times over the years we’ve been in business. It speaks both to poor understanding and poor advice. First, a client that has a limited understanding of their brand, its audience and its place in the market, and who is happy to throw the baby out with the bathwater because their stab in the dark didn’t give them the results they hoped for, when they should have been getting down to basics. And secondly, casting a net and hiring consulting firms that promise big, charge big, and pitch their approaches as the answers to all the client’s problems – be it the latest trend or “full service”. Neither would seem to have done the research to fully grasp the associated brand issues, or educated the client before overhauling websites, or developing new campaigns, creative and content. Simply covering all media does not constitute full service in my mind. And I think it would be a safe bet to suggest that they never delivered a brand analysis and strategy.
This company’s problems could have resulted from any number or combination of factors Content, tone, messaging, visuals, PR, media placement and timing, SEO, reputation, markets, influencers, targeting, approach, competition and corporate culture are just a few of the things that could have contributed to non-results. And there was obviously a disconnect when it came to expectations and deliverables – communication breakdown on both sides. The reality is, most all of it would come back to rethinking the brand and the business, and then developing clear, sustainable, brand-driven communication tools.
What does that mean? Well to start with, a full review and analysis of his business, category and competitors. It needs to determine whether they are truly differentiating from competitors and where the gaps/opportunities are in the market – a swot analysis. A deep dive into what they and competitors are doing and saying, and whether those are the same thing at all in the minds of your audiences.
It means an inside look and training as well – the way he and his team talk about and sell the product/service. Interviews with staff and key stakeholders to elicit key insights. And, on brand clarity, training for buy-in and consistency.
Businesses need a solid brand that makes sense and is sustainable, strategies for implementation, and the right tools for the job, used properly at the right time, in the right places. It’s rarely a smart idea to ‘start over’ completely with an established company. If a rebrand or refresh is required, it needs to be carefully developed and managed, and key messages developed to support the brand – before ever venturing into new communication tools.
With new clients, we often see so much time and money wasted in the ‘throw it all away and start over’ approach. Or conversely, the band-aid approach. Mostly, in our experience, non-results are the result of starting in the wrong place to begin with.