10 Reasons NOT to Launch a Marketing Campaign

March 29, 2011

Sometimes marketing is viewed as a magical elixir that will somehow cure whatever ails you.

In my 20-plus years of marketing experience, I’ve come to realize that good marketing is based more upon common sense than upon creativity. Though marketing can work wonders, it is not a panacea that will transform failure into success.

As much as I value good marketing, I believe there are times not to launch a marketing campaign. My advice is to delay any marketing activities when:

  1. We are unclear what success will actually look like. Without clearly defined goals, we are merely groping in the dark, hoping to grasp something—anything—of value.
  2. We feel compelled to act before we think. In our fast-paced world, we will always experience the strong gravitational pull of urgency. Focusing on what is urgent, though, will often entice us to overlook strategy and jump prematurely into tactics.
  3. We want to begin with communications. A good marketing process ends with communications but that’s never a good place to begin.
  4. We focus on obstacles rather than opportunities. Though we must always understand reality, we will never leave the starting blocks if we focus on the hurdles between us and the finish line.
  5. We have no champion for the product or service. We may all agree that a particular program is important, but unless someone with passion assumes ownership of the program’s success, it will flounder. Of course, marketers will be the easy targets of those who need to blame someone for a product’s failure.
  6. We believe everything will be okay if only we can “get the word out.” I cannot be more emphatic in stating this: raising awareness is not a marketing goal.
  7. We talk more than we listen. Marketing success on a 2.0 world is all about having conversations, not trying to speak louder.
  8. We are unable to profile a target audience. Only the naive believe there really is such a thing as the “general public.” We are headed towards marketing failure if we neglect to define a primary audience. After all, to target everyone is to hit no one.
  9. We ignore the concept of marketing exchanges. Marketing is based upon the premise that we must build win-win relationships where we exchange value for value. Marketing is never a one-way transaction.
  10. We cannot differentiate our product or service. If we don’t know who our competitors are, and if we cannot articulate how we are different and better, then my advice is simple:  Turn off the lights, lock the door and go home. The party is over.
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Quotes I Love

September 29, 2010

Quotations inspire me. They focus me. They motivate me.

I like the way an eloquent quote can elegantly reflect the light of resplendent wisdom. To me, each quotation has special value.

I collect quotes as a gem collector might gather precious stones. Like gemstones, quotes were never meant to be hoarded and stored in a dark, out-of-sight vault. Rather, they are most appreciated when shared and displayed for the enrichment of all.

If you also appreciate quotes, I invite you to meander through this collection of my favorites, categorized by these topics:

  1. Being Creative
  2. Planning and Goal Setting
  3. Being a Leader
  4. Learning, Teaching and Being Well Educated
  5. Understanding Life’s Transitions
  6. Marketing Effectively
  7. Achieving Success
  8. Creating a Compelling Vision
  9. Overcoming Adversity
  10. Chuckling with Yogi

Raising Awareness Is Not a Marketing Goal

April 21, 2010

After all these years, I continue to be disappointed when I hear someone suggest that a communications objective is “to raise awareness.” I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been in a meeting and someone profoundly states, “We just need to get the word out. We need to let the public know about us.”

Let me emphatically state:  Raising awareness is NOT a marketing goal. It is a means to an end and should always be regarded as a tactic in support of some higher-level strategy.

Earlier this month I listened as a nonprofit communicator talked about media relations. She used examples from her organization to talk about writing press releases, pitching stories to the news media and developing relationships with reporters and assignment editors. I was tempted to quibble with her implied assumption that the traditional media are not waning in significance. When someone asked about social media, she brushed off the “new media” as not being serious forms of communication. I couldn’t disagree more, but I’ll save that rant for another occasion.

What I found troubling was that this PR practitioner was operating efficiently at a tactical level, yet she was unable to tie her tactics to any strategy. We spent 90 minutes bumping into trees without once having seen the forest. I wanted to see the big picture. I wanted to know the impact of her communications tactics. When asked what she hoped to accomplish by raising awareness of her organization, she talked about the warm, fuzzy feelings that would be evoked in the general public. Still unclear, I asked what she wanted the audience to do with those “warm, fuzzy feelings.” She was at a loss for a solid answer.

Creating warm, fuzzy feelings is not a marketing goal. That’s a means to an end. Warm emotions can only have an impact when accompanied by a call to action resulting in someone actually taking the desired action.

Communicators are naive if they hope their CEOs will be impressed with only soft, warm and immeasurable results. Those communicators will be vulnerable targets when downsizing occurs. Only those who create results and can demonstrate their impact will be of ongoing value to an organization. Everyone else is just a drain on the organization’s precious resources.

So, I will close with this simple question:  What impact do you hope your communications will have?

If your answer is “to raise awareness” I would challenge you to dig deeper by asking, “What do I want someone to do with his or her increased awareness?”


Where Are You Going?

September 10, 2009

—Focusing on your destination during a job search

Several years ago I was part of a methodical downsizing at a major suburban hospital. In outplacement, I went with my career coach to a job club. When it came time to introduce myself I stood and said:

I’m Duane Hallock, former Senior Vice President at Shawnee Mission Medical Center here in Kansas City. I am now looking for a job that will allow me to use the experience and skills I gained in that position.

Afterward my coach pointed out the obvious:  “Your entire introduction looked backward, not forward,” she said. “Others could see where you had been, but you did nothing to help them visualize where you are going.”

She then gave some of the best career advice I’ve ever received, telling me that a job seeker needs to:

  1. Be forward looking.
  2. Position yourself appropriately.

I’ve come to realize that, whether we like it or not, people are always trying to pigeonhole us. That’s human nature, I guess, and it’s especially true when someone is looking for a job. Read the rest of this entry »


My Personal Marketing Plan

September 8, 2009

You will never marketing anything more important than yourself.” My university professor paused for effect as he scanned the small group of us who were working on our master’s degree in marketing.

His comments caught me off guard. Quite frankly, I thought I already knew marketing, yet I’d never considered applying marketing principles to myself as if I were a product. My professor’s wisdom echoed in my mind, and through the years I grew to appreciate his sage advice even more.

Fifteen years later I stood before my own class of university students. With graduation approaching, these young people would soon be marketing themselves in a competitive job market, so I talked with them about applying marketing principles to their own job searches. I designed a tool for them to use in conducting a marketing audit on themselves. (This was a take-home assignment to be completed over spring break—the spiteful revenge of an instructor who noted that too many students skipped class on mardi gras to attend a sorority party.)

Later, when I lost my job as a marketing professional, I reached into my marketing toolbox, found that homework assignment and used it to develop a personal marketing plan for my own job search.

Read the rest of this entry »


Questions I Asked Myself During a Career Transition

September 3, 2009

Everyone approaches a job search differently. Several years ago when I lost my job as a marketing professional, I looked at my career transition as a marketing opportunity.

I had watched others in similar circumstances as they obsessed on finding the right answers. I took the opposite approach. Rather than seeking answers, I began by asking myself a series of questions, recalling the wise words of James Thurber who once said, “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”

Only after developing what I felt were the right questions did I begin wrestling with the answers. The questions were incredibly easy to ask but excruciatingly difficult to answer. To my amazement, however, this turned into a most insightful and even invigorating process. I’ll share with you the questions, but first let me explain my process.

For a couple hours each day, I went to a local coffee shop and found a secluded table where I could engage myself in a private conversation. I left my laptop at home because I wanted to drill deeper. I used an old-fashioned method of communicating—handwriting on blank sheets of paper. I purchased a leather-bound book containing only blank pages and on the first page I wrote the title:  Journal for the Journey—A personal assessment, a scrapbook of ideas, and a map for navigating an important career transition.

Read the rest of this entry »


10 Marketing Tips for an Effective Job Search

September 1, 2009

In these tough economic times, I know too many good people who are between jobs. It’s a noisy, competitive job market and as I observe the chaos, two things become apparent:

  1. Too many people are clamoring for the same few jobs.
  2. Only a small minority of those people are doing a good job of marketing themselves.

Having been in a job search myself, I feel great empathy for job seekers. From my personal experience, I’ve learned more about career transitions than I ever cared to know. Therefore, I’m often asked to network with job seekers to help them brainstorm strategies for a job search.

I’m always willing to share what I’ve learned if it can help someone else along the path. Most of my advice, though, can be summarized in the following 10 items:

  1. Think of yourself as a “product” to be marketed in a noisy, competitive marketplace.
  2. Have a personal marketing plan.
  3. Differentiate yourself. I can’t stress this enough. Be memorable. Be unique.
  4. Be findable. Create a large digital footprint by using sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Profiles.
  5. Know who you are. Develop an effective “elevator speech” or “30-second commercial.”
  6. Know where you are you going. Describe your destination so others can visualize you once you’ve reached your destination.
  7. Let people know how they can help. Be specific. Generalities usually do not generate the desired results.
  8. Use stories to describe your achievements.
  9. Talk about the benefits you offer, not the features described in your resume.
  10. Believe in yourself (or no one else will).

Okay, I’ve shared lessons I learned along the pathway, and I’d like to hear from someone who has navigated a career transition. If you’ve successfully emerged from a job search, what did you learn? What worked for you? What advice would you share?

On the other hand, if you have recently hired someone, what additional wisdom would you share with a job seeker?


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