Why is marketing so hard?

Why is marketing so difficult? Everything else seems to be getting easier. Exams – they get easier every year (so we hear). Researching information – the Internet (obviously). Even shopping – delivered right to your door. Everything’s getting easier.

Except. Marketing. And, especially B2B marketing.

In the ‘old days’ you would advertise in trade mags, generate PR in trade mags, attend trade exhibitions and seminars, and use direct mail (through the post). You might even do a bit of cold calling over the telephone.

They were your choices.

Today, however, that landscape has changed. There are hundreds of options.

Where are your customers looking?

You’ve still got the traditional channels, but now you also have to consider web-based publications, email marketing, your own website, blogs, virtual seminars/webinars, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Instagram, YouTube…).

They all have an audience for your business. The issue you face is how to use you resources (time and money) to best effect (this is the same as it ever was – it’s just that the sum is a bit more difficult).

You’ll also have a million different voices telling you, categorically, what you should or shouldn’t be doing (each with their own vested interest, naturally).

Coinciding with the digital explosion that’s brought all of this unsettling change, we’ve been through one the worst recessions for eighty years. Many sectors still haven’t fully recovered. Yours might be one of them. This will naturally affect the response you get to your marketing.

It all makes for a confusing picture.

Cutting through the confusion

Except for some companies. That’s not what they’re seeing.

We have clients who are flying; increasing business, hugely, year-on-year. To them, marketing is easy. It always is when you’re being successful.

This makes it even more confusing for companies who are not seeing this kind of growth.

The obvious thing to do is copy what successful businesses are doing. But this carries a real danger.

At best you can only ever hope to be a ‘me too’ company. At worst you will be throwing money down the drain, implementing a marketing campaign that has no hope of producing anything like a return on investment.

So, what to do?

Eight things successful clients are doing

This is what we’ve learned from working with our clients who have come through the recession unscathed and are reaping the benefits of their strategy:

  • Look at your product offer. Is it really smashing your competitors’ into the ground. How do you improve it and make it more appealing? Why should anybody buy from you? And we’re not talking about simply dropping the price here, but offering something that is better value. And be honest. Is what you are offering still what the market wants. If the answer’s ‘yes’, then you can’t fail if you market it properly.
  • Where do your customers look or who do they talk to when they want to know what’s happening in the market or find out which products are the ones to have? Do they value being your friend on Facebook? Can they easily find the information they want about your products and easily/quickly get hold of your products? How do they like to get this information? If you don’t know, ask them – you don’t need to ask all of them, just a sample – you’ll quickly see a pattern emerging. And if you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, get someone to do it on your behalf (in fact your customers might be more open with a third party).
  • Armed with this information, create a strategy that presents your company and products in the right way in the right places to be seen.
  • Ignore siren voices (often in the media) telling you you’re wrong. Back yourself and stick with it.
  • Take an outsider’s view on how you present yourself as a company to a prospective new customer. Would you buy from you if you didn’t know you? First impressions (and ongoing impressions) count.
  • Be consistent.
  • If you use external agencies (advertising, PR, digital) to help you implement your strategy, use the right ones. Be honest and open with them. Do they ‘get’ what you’re trying to do? Does what they advise agree with your strategy? If not, ask why? It needs to make sense. Sometimes external agencies can come up with something you’ve missed, Sometimes they just want to sell their services come what may. If it’s not clear how they are going to achieve their promises or they can’t define your audience (i.e. prospective customers) within a particular channel (very common with social media), you’re taking a risk.
  • Monitor and evaluate your success – but give it time. Things won’t change overnight, people have to recognise and begin to ‘trust’ the company they have been introduced to.

Set a strategy and stick to it

Another reason that marketing is so difficult is that there is never any guarantee that what you are doing is the optimum solution and you can’t always tell which bits of your marketing will work the best.

However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that if you do the right things, you’ll get the right results – just not always precisely as and when you expect it. On the flip side, we’ve also seen, many times, that if you start chasing rainbows, you’ve got no chance.