4 Dangerous Marketing Myths
Learn how these common misconceptions can hurt your marketing strategy
by Sue Silva

The field of marketing has the perceived image of being fun—all viral YouTube videos and Super Bowl ads. But when business executives get into the weeds of marketing, they quickly discover it’s not as fun or easy as it might seem. When efforts are guided by misconceptions about marketing, the result is often disappearing dollars with little to show. If you suspect you are harboring some misguided notions about marketing, take comfort in the fact that you’re in good company. Even the most experienced CEOs are susceptible to these common marketing myths.

Myth 1: Marketing is about great pictures & clever copy.

Research and strategy drive effective marketing. Marketing materials are essential, to be sure, but without research and strategy behind them, they only amount to shots in the dark. That’s because most companies focus on what they are selling when they really should focus on what the customer is buying. Research uncovers what people are really buying when they purchase a product or service. Strategic positioning then nails down why they should purchase the product from you.

Auto manufacturers understand this concept well. Every vehicle is a chassis and four wheels to get you from point A to point B. But a look at positioning and taglines shows that’s not what carmakers sell; rather they all promote the experience that the customer wants. For example, Ford’s positioning says “Ford trucks can handle anything.” Ford’s tagline for their line of trucks is “Built Ford Tough.” This tagline came from strategic positioning developed by seeing the product through customers’ eyes. Another way to frame this is: “What do you have that your prospects want and your competitors either don’t have or are perceived not to have?”

An example from a roofing company illustrates this nicely. The company has two advantages most others do not: a registered roof consultant and an engineer who improves on architectural specifications. Research showed that customers felt they were getting solutions that made the roof better. The company’s positioning became “Brains & Brawn—The intelligent approach to roofing.” From that came the tagline “Smarter Approach. Stronger Roof.”

The same concepts apply to your business. So, before diving into the fun, creative stuff like images and copy, you need to nail down positioning that is:

  • Ownable—It should be difficult for other companies in your industry to duplicate or emulate.
  • Emotional—It should focus on what the customer is buying, not on the benefits and value of your industry category.
  • Clear—It should be easily understood by anyone.

Myth 2: The vice president of sales can handle it.

It’s safe to say that 90% of sales vice presidents have no marketing experience. You wouldn’t hand finances over to an information technology staff member or give human resources to a customer service representative—for good reason. Likewise, it’s not a good idea to expect your vice president of sales to develop and execute a marketing plan. Though marketing and sales are related, they each use very different skillsets.

Even if your vice president of sales does have a marketing background, taking on two roles prevents him or her from doing either well. Marketing is a lot more complex than it used to be, and it typically requires a team of professionals in graphic design, writing, web development and account management. A good marketing director knows how to recruit and coordinate this talent. You might not be in the position to hire a full-time marketing director or an advertising agency. The good news is that you probably don’t need to. A part-time or freelance marketing director could be a good fit for your company.

Myth 3: If you build it (a website), they will come.

There are over 1 billion websites. How will business prospects find yours? Every company needs a website. It’s your online brochure, and it may be where you sell your products or services. So many companies fall short in providing ways for prospects find them. Some approaches include:

  • Customer referrals—Encourage satisfied customers to spread the word, even if it means offering incentives. Customer referrals are one of the most cost-effective sources of new business.
  • Get your URL in front of prospects—This could entail print ads, pay-per-click campaigns or email blasts, to name a few methods. It’s a good idea to work with a marketer who can test different tactics and determine which offer the best return on investment.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)—SEO is about increasing the chances that your website appears when someone searches online for a vendor in your category. It can get pretty technical and best practices change fast, but here are some SEO basics:
    • Add relevant content often and make sure your web developer uses a site map that updates automatically with new content.
    • Use strong metatags and image names. These are snippets of text that are invisible to website visitors but influence how and where you show up in search results.
    • Use descriptions for every page of your site. These are the snippets of text that show up in search results.

Myth 4: You need a new ad.

Actually, the first thing you need is a marketing strategy. Without a strategy, it’s impossible to know whether a new advertisement will accomplish what the company needs. It might work—or it might be a waste of time and money. Developing a strategy always starts with specifying the result you want, then identifying ways to achieve that result.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to increase sales by 8%. Now, what are some of the ways you could increase sales? Let’s break it down:

  • Targeting new customers—75% of sales will come from new customers, and 25% from increased business from existing customers.
  • Targeting existing customers—75% of sales will come from increased business from existing customers, and 25% from gaining new customers.

Although the desired result is the same, these two scenarios have different primary targets and objectives, and because of that, they require different approaches. When your primary target is new customers, you will want to increase awareness of your product or service. Appropriate communications would be advertisements, public relations efforts, direct mail and email blasts that speak to this audience.

A second objective could be to encourage customer referrals. In this case, your target is still new customers, but you would be communicating with existing customers about your referral program. When your primary target is current customers, you will see why you need a different approach: This group already knows you. Your communication objectives could be to educate the audience about new products and services, or to promote add-ons and upgrades. Direct mail, enewsletters and your customer portal are all great vehicles for reaching this audience.

Marketing is a mix of science, art and trial and error. It’s also an important part of any growing company, and doing it right takes knowledge and experience. To increase your knowledge, these three marketing classics are a great place to start: “Guerilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad Levinson and “Positioning” and “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing,” both by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

Sue Silva is the owner of Superus Marketing, a marketing firm that provides part-time marketing director support and staff to companies that need help with marketing, but don’t need a full-time director and prefer not to work with an advertising agency. They work on a project basis or develop marketing plans and execute them. Visit superusmarketing.com.