Marketing’s Magic Bullet: Does It Exist?

One question I have heard many times over the years, particularly with start-up or second stage companies is “what marketing activity can our company do to get the best results?”

While there are many variations on this question, what these organizations are really asking is what one activity, what one type of marketing program is more effective than all the others? In other words, is there some “magic bullet” of marketing?

Apparently, many organizations think so.

Recently, I watched as an entrepreneurial software company spent $40,000 on an ad that ran only once. They were convinced it would increase their exposure exponentially and generate countless inbound leads. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. We see technology companies regularly spend on “one-up” initiatives like this.

While small to mid-sized organizations most often fall into this trap, established organizations are not immune from this mindset. We’ve seen plenty of big companies lop off a good chunk of their annual marketing budget for a single initiative, expecting miracles.

Branding is one area where this can occur, particularly if expectations about what branding can and

cannot do for your organization aren’t outlined at the onset of this undertaking.  Costly tradeshow booth space and sponsorships are another example. It’s not that these types of programs are wrong, it’s just that in and of themselves, without other supporting programs to supplement and reinforce them, these initiatives simply won’t elicit the longer term results companies need to grow.

Integration – Not Just for Software

Software developers, whether a core banking provider with 40+ individual applications in their product suite, or a niche solutions provider whose product must work seamlessly with a client’s existing technology, understand just how vital integration is to the functionality of their offering.

The same concept holds true in marketing. Successfully marketing your solutions and services in a highly competitive space requires an integrated marketing strategy, comprised of a series of focused initiatives that directly align with and support your organization’s sales and business goals. That strategy must be

consistent, it must be conducted and measured over time, and the programs and initiatives must effectively leverage each other to drive and support your sales and ultimately, your business objectives.

Marketing strategies are like fingerprints. No two companies’ marketing strategies will be identical. Company A may need to focus on a mix of aggressive editorial outreach, a national advertising program in the top trade journals and online/electronic marketing as some of its key programs. Company B may need to aggressively pursue speaking opportunities for their top executives. Company C may need to completely rethink its positioning and branding strategy before it even attempts to market itself, because no one can understand what they do, so their strategy will have a heavy emphasis on rebuilding their communications platform, then identifying the best marketing programs to carry their strengthened story to market.

The determination of what programs will constitute your integrated plan must tie back to your organization’s overall strategic direction. That’s why it’s important to conduct some sort of marketing audit before anything begins. This will help you pinpoint gaps in your current marketing and communications efforts, and enable you and your management team to take an honest look at where you are now in order to identify the path to get to the next level. It will also help squelch the impulse to react throughout the year to the ever-abundant selection of one-up marketing “opportunities” without first assessing whether or not this initiative even fits into the context of a more comprehensive approach.

The Good, the Bad and the Reality

The good news is you can forget the magic bullet theory. There’s really no benefit in expending time or dollars on “one-hit wonder” marketing efforts with results that may only be fleeting. This will save you countless wasted dollars.

The bad news is, you can forget the magic bullet theory. You therefore need to take the time to develop an integrated strategy that leverages and optimizes all your marketing programs together for maximum impact.

And now for the reality. When it comes to the level and sophistication of marketing necessary to fuel the growth of your organization, no single campaign, project or initiative will give you the results to truly

propel  your company forward and sustain it. Only a fully integrated approach will put you on a trajectory toward achieving your business objectives.