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5 Fatal Marketing Mistakes that CEOs Make

Working with small and midsize companies over the past decade, I’ve noticed some patterns and similarities in how CEOs (usually also the founder of the business) approach the marketing function within the organization. I’d like to highlight what I believe are 5 common marketing mistakes CEO’s make.

1. Putting the cart before the horse.

Thinking about tactics without a cohesive strategy is a mistake.

There are thousands of marketing tactics that can be implemented, and each of them has a typical outcome, but without knowing first what you’re trying to achieve, it can be a waste of time, money and resources implementing tons of tactics that don’t actually work because you haven’t matched the ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’.

What is your objective? Drive retail purchase, more subscribers, better brand awareness, increase customer leads, differentiation of your products or services, or gain customer insight?

Your tactics become part of your marketing mix, the mix of tactics used to get your message out to your market. Your mix could include a combination of: communications, online advertising, traditional media, PR, sponsorships and partnerships, digital media, social media, Internet marketing, and more.

Tip: First start with the strategy and then select the tactics that best meet the objectives and goals of your plan to maximize success.

2. Hopping on the bandwagon.

Implementing the latest marketing trend because it’s popular and “everyone is doing it”, not necessarily because it’s right for your business is a mistake.

With massive advances in technology, there are new trends emerging in the marketplace all the time. Getting caught up in this week’s buzz about new technologies or copying the tactical approach of another company is a surefire way to waste your time, money and resources. The latest trend may be good for your company or it may be a waste of time, make that judgment with reference to your strategy and target market. For example, social media is great if you want to get the word out to the Yoga community about a new type of Yoga pant, but it is fairly useless if you are trying to sell frozen peas!

Not every tool is created equal. Knowing what you are trying to achieve will help you better understand how each of the marketing tools available to you may or may not fit into the plan for achieving your goals.

Tip: Set your strategy, know your market and use that as the basis for making informed decisions about how best to proceed to reach your specific objectives.

3. Dipping into the DIY toolbox.

Doing it yourself, learning as you go, or building it from scratch tends to be an inefficient use of time and money or ultimately ineffective.

There are marketing experts who do this for a living and there are tools and technologies that already exist and have been proven to work. Why not utilize the services of an expert and his or her vast toolbox of knowledge, experience and resources, much as you would hire a stockbroker to manage your money, or hire an architect to draft a blueprint for your new house.

Many people want to be ‘doing marketing’ – how hard can it be, right? The problem is not that you can’t do it (although for some people it is a lack of skill) the question is why would you want to? The more time you spend delving into the minutia of ‘doing marketing’ yourself, you are diverting precious time and attention away from the areas of the business that actually keep the business ‘in business’ so to speak – understanding the business and its market, business model and key success drivers. The rest should be about getting things done through people and being the fearless leader and visionary that drives the company to succeed – the CEO is like a Tugboat captain steering his ship in the right direction and making sure it doesn’t sink.

Tip: Identify ‘what’ needs to be done, identify ‘who’ has the skills and experience to get it done effectively, then delegate and manage outcomes based on goals and objectives.

4. Jumping on the arrogant train.

Not knowing (or admitting) what you don’t know is a grave error.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. Know what yours and those of your team are. There is more danger in not knowing what you don’t know because that leads to finding great answers to the wrong questions, which is a colossal waste of time, money and resources.

I know a CEO who believes that pay-per-click (PPC) search engine advertising is the ‘answer’ to increase his company’s revenue. He has been forging ahead for years with a PPC campaign that costs him thousands of dollars per month with the objective of generating sales leads. After an outside consultant was brought in to determine the efficiency of that marketing investment, it became blatantly obvious that 98% of those pay per click leads don’t actually turn into paying customers. What an eye opener. For a company like this one, whose cash flow is tenuous at best, this is an extremely costly mistake, which could literally put them out of business.

Tip: Seek out help from experts in areas you know little or nothing about. It will pay off in the long run.

5. Creating a different business strategy every day of the week.

Don’t do this. It is a bad idea on so many levels. It confuses the staff and creates instability within the organization, it doesn’t move you any closer to your business goals, it soaks up precious time and resources, and it has a direct impact on the marketing plan and business results.

Because the marketing strategy is so closely linked to the overall business strategy, changing the business strategy frequently has a direct impact on the marketing plan – most of the time it’s negative and costly.

Change the marketing tactics as often as needed (especially if they’re not working ie. PPC example above), but get the business strategy right the first time around and re-evaluate your business goals annually.

Tip: Create a business strategy that is born out of shareholder goals then build a marketing plan that supports the business goals and a marketing strategy to produce measurable results.

Can you afford to make these 5 fatal marketing mistakes?

About Michela Quilici

International Business Growth Coach, Award-winning Marketing Strategist, Best-Selling Author, Forbes Coaches Council, and Global Leader at Women Speakers Association. Known as a Business Navigator, Michela works with growth-minded business owners, service professionals and CEOs who want to accelerate growth and scale their business, while building a business aligned to who they are.

She is passionate about creating roadmaps that ignite leaders to take inspired action to navigate their growth on purpose using strategy, systems and self-leadership, so they can get noticed, get clients and get profitable.