10 Deadly Sins of Marketing and how to Avoid them

by Maximilian Claessens
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There are many things that can go wrong in marketing. You should be aware of the deadly sins of marketing to avoid them. If they happen, however, it is not all over. Let’s take a look at what can happen and what you can do to fix it.

The 10 Deadly Sins of Marketing

In the following, we will take a look at the 10 deadly sins of marketing that indicate that the marketing program you are running is in trouble. Along every deadly sin, we will consider how to recognize them, and of course how to approach potential solutions.

Deadly Sin 1: The company is mal-focused: it is not sufficiently market focused and customer driven.

Signs: There are signs of poor identification of market segments, inappropriate prioritization of market segments, lack of market segment managers, employees who think it is the job of marketing and sales to deal with customers, and no incentives to treat customers well.

Solutions: The firm should use advanced market segmentation techniques, prioritize relevant segments, specialize the sales force, develop a clear system of company values, and foster more customer-focused thinking in employees. Also, it should make it as easy as possible for customers to reach the company and respond quickly to any inquiry.

Deadly Sin 2: The company does not understand its target customers.

Signs: The firm does not really know who the target customer is. The latest study of customers is a few years old. Customers are not buying the product like they once did, and competitors’ products are selling better. There are many customer returns and complaints.

Solutions: The firm should conduct more sophisticated and more frequent consumer research, use advanced analytical techniques, establish customer panels, use professional customer relationship software, and do data mining. Big data analysis should be used.

Deadly Sin 3: The company does not monitor its competitors.

Signs: Nobody actually knows who the true competitors are. The firm focuses on near competitors, misses distant competitors and disruptive technologies, and lacks a professional system for gathering and managing competitive intelligence.

Solutions: The company should establish a dedicated department for competitive intelligence, hire competitors’ people, monitor technological advancements that might affect the company, and prepare offerings like those of competitors.

Deadly Sin 4: The company does not properly manage stakeholder relationships.

Signs: Employees, dealers, investors and other stakeholders are not happy; and good suppliers do not approach the firm.

Solutions: The company should move from zero-sum thinking to positive-sum thinking; and do better in managing employees, supplier relations, distributors, dealers, and investors.

Deadly Sin 5: The company is poor at finding new opportunities.

Signs: The firm’s success relies on a product that was developed long ago and there is little innovation. It has not identified any exciting new opportunities for years, and any or most new ideas it has launched have failed.

Solutions: The firm should set up a system for stimulating the flow of new ideas, for instance by inviting employees to participate in idea generation.

Deadly Sin 6: The company’s marketing planning process is inefficient.

Signs: The marketing plan does not have the right components. The firm is not able to estimate the financial implications of strategies, and there is no contingency planning.

Solutions: The company should establish a standard format including a situational analysis, SWOT, objectives, strategies, budgets, and controls. In addition, it may help to run an annual marketing awards program with prizes for best plans and performance.

Deadly Sin 7: Product and service policies are not specific enough.

Signs: There are too many products and some of them are not profitable, and the company is poor at cross-selling products and services.

Solutions: The firm should establish a system to track weak products and drop them. It should introduce an offer and prices at different levels; and improve processes for cross-selling.

Deadly Sin 8: Brand-building and communications skills are weak.

Signs: The company is rather unknown to the target market. The brand is not perceived as distinctive. The company allocates budgets to the same marketing tools it has been using for year, and there is little evaluation of the ROI impact of these tools.

Solutions: The firm needs to improve brand-building strategies and the measurement of results, then shift money into the most effective marketing instruments. Marketers should be required to estimate the ROI impact in advance of implementing marketing tactics.

Deadly Sin 9: The company is not organized for effective and efficient marketing.

Signs: Marketing staff is not familiar with up-to-date marketing strategies (e.g. social media marketing), and there is insufficient communication between marketing, sales and other departments.

Solutions: The firm should appoint a strong leader and build new skills in the marketing department. In addition, it is necessary to improve relationships between marketing and other departments.

Deadly Sin 10: The company is not using technology right.

Signs: There is little use of the internet, an outdated sales system, no decision-support models, and no marketing dashboards.

Solutions: The firm needs to use the internet more, improve the sales system, and try to automate routine decisions. In addition, it should develop a formal marketing decision process and implement marketing dashboards.

As you can see, the presence of one or more of these deadly sins of marketing does not mean that it is all over. However, early detection is key to implement powerful solutions and avoid the sins in the future.

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