Are you hiding from flaws in your marketing programs?


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Marketers are “eternal optimists”.  While salespeople are always one call away from their next deal, marketers are convinced that they are on the edge of a breakthrough that will revolutionize the entire company.  I am guilty of this tendency myself.

And we remain positive when evaluating customer feedback and results from our efforts, always working to pull the good news out.  But I wonder if we are missing something critical by striving to review our efforts in a non-critical way.

Are we hearing the bad news too?

Sometimes, the most valuable gems are inside from most ugly looking rocks.  You just have to work to get to them.

In marketing, the “ugly looking rocks” are the flaws in your marketing pilots — disaffected customers and grumpy salespeople at the conclusion. They have an awful lot to tell you, you can count on that, but the trouble is that most marketers don’t want to hear it. They are looking for insight that can be turned into fancy looking charts to be presented around the organization. Sometimes they even hire consultants (like me ) to help them find and package up such results. Then, as those results make their way around the company, the people who are “in the know” just look at themselves and shake their heads. It’s another case of marketing being out of touch with the rest of the organization.

Now the issue is not just with marketing–it’s with the entire organization. Many companies boldly proclaim that they reward failure as much as success, but we all know that in most cases that’s not really true. Failure by definition  costs money and does not provide returns–at least financial rewards.   And in these challenging economic times, we are often being encouraged to fail profitably (as if that is always possible).

So what do we do? We search in our marketing programs in order to be able to pull out any success stories we can.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have not suffered from a case of personality disorder, where my evil twin is now speaking to you in my body. Nor am I confessing my sins to gain some extra brownie points for Yom Kippur.

Rather, I believe that when you only take learnings from the successes and ignore the flaws — the bad news, the failures, the miscommunications, the grumpy team members – you lose sometimes more than just a few corrective actions. You may inadvertently cause  the failure you are striving to avoid.

When successful pilot programs turn into poor performing rollouts, you are seeing the impact of failing to consider “bad news.”  It means that in the pilot you didn’t hear about what went wrong.   If you don’t take into account flaws that led to sales and consumer confusion, led to delays in deliveries or the impact on customer service or revenue during your pilot, you will miss an critical part of the entire picture.

Then when you roll your program and expect great success — it just doesn’t happen.

So how do you make sure that you find out the real, unvarnished truth?  Here are three strategies that help:

1. Use the tools you have already. Do you have a customer advisory council?  Do you survey customers for a Voice of Customer program?  Can you leverage any sales feedback mechanisms that are scheduled for the same time as your pilot program?  Work with the owners of those research tools to see if you can add some questions to their survey, or at least be able to read the verbatims (the open-ended questions) to see if you find anything worthwhile.

2. Build feedback into your program. Offer consumers additional value if they complete a 5-question web survey.  Offer the same to salespeople who are involved in the program as well (and make sure the survey is anonymous).

3. Show up. I know this may seem like a radical solution — go out into the markets where the program is running and see what is happening yourself.  Show up at training; spend time in stores; go on sales calls with your salespeople.  ONly in this way will you experience the impact of your decisions in a real, visceral way.

None of these recommendations are terribly radical or expensive.  But they will expose you to the unvarnished truth — what is really happening during and after the programs you create.  Only in this way can you see what is lying underneath the numbers in your pilot programs, and find the gems within.

How have you positioned “bad news” from your marketing efforts?  What happened when you did?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Price
Mark Price is the managing partner and founder of LiftPoint Consulting (, a consulting firm that specializes in customer analysis and relationship marketing. He is responsible for leading client engagements, e-commerce and database marketing, and talent acquisition. Mark is also a RetailWire Brain Trust Panelist, a blogger at and a monthly contributor to the blog of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Marketing Association.


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