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January 30, 2014
Five Personal Fouls of Marketing
 
Recently, a couple of different people asked me what the biggest marketing mistake they could make was. What a great question! In my many years of consulting and providing marketing advice to clients, an answer didn’t come to mind immediately as I hadn’t been asked that question so blatantly.
 
After some additional consideration, I decided that my definition of a severe marketing mistake is one that can permanently damage your brand and/or put a company out of business. Since we are now in the exciting part of football season in America, I thought it only fitting to draft a list of the top “personal fouls” in marketing. So borrowing a term from one of the worst penalties in football, here are my top five marketing mistakes:
 
1. POOR PLANNING
As either a new or established brand, up-front planning is essential. Before embarking on the development of a marketing plan (including product and/or service development), you must do some research to determine the narrow niche of people that will most benefit from using your brand. It also helps to evaluate the market conditions and review the competitive situation. Taking these steps will allow you to create a brand playbook that will meet the exact needs and wants of your target customers.
 
2. IGNORING THE CUSTOMER
Many companies get so caught up in running the business and meeting the needs of shareholders and/or employees, they lose sight of the most important asset: The Customer. To see success in marketing and business, it’s imperative to always keep the prospective and existing customers clearly in your line of sight. If your brand loses focus on the target, you won’t be able to easily march your business down the field to score those all-important touchdowns.
 
3. LACK OF AUTHENTICITY
Despite what I say in point #2 above, focusing on the customer should NOT prevent you from being true to what you stand for as a company.  In fact, the heart of your brand belief system should mesh nicely with the belief system of the consumer. This harmony will allow your brand to effortlessly be authentic, genuine, and completely honest with your customers. And we, as consumers, have the utmost respect for and ultimately reward those brands that exhibit good sportsmanship. 
 
4. CHANGING DIRECTIONS
Consistency and continuity are crucial to building successful brands and businesses. In today’s disjointed and evolving marketing landscape, it’s easy to be tempted by the latest technologies or tactics. Acting on these temptations can easily pull brands away from marketing channels that have worked well for them in the past and adequately reached their targets. So as a brand, try not to get distracted by the newest “play of the day” and stay centered on utilizing the tactics and messaging that work best.
 
5. NOT DOING ANY
From my perspective, everything a business does is marketing — including designing new products, hiring frontline employees, and communicating with investors. However, here when I say, “marketing,” I mean promotion — how a brand goes to market with its products and/or services. A start-up business may be successful in the very short term via word-of-mouth alone, but eventually executing paid marketing techniques becomes essential. So not doing any marketing over the long-term will eventually keep you out of the game and kill your business. Even if you invest in one smart, proven promotional tactic to retain loyal customers or reach new ones, you will reap the benefits over the long haul.
 
So keep these five “personal fouls” in mind when deciding how to launch a new marketing program. If you can avoid committing these penalties and can execute a solid offensive and defensive plan for your brand, you might just win the big game. 

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Emily K. Howarda marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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