Internet Strategy

Six Signs That You’re an Immature Marketer

Steve Wolgemuth | Sep 23, 2013


You can probably fantasize about working at an Internet marketing company and how cool it would be to work with amazing people, and you’d be right. It really keeps us motivated. But you might not realize how inspiring and informative it is to serve smart clients who involve us in marketing approaches that are destined to succeed. We love it, and we’ve learned so much by watching great approaches to business and brand development. We also learned a lot from working with clients that by contrast, are immature marketers.

Some of our clients market like pros and they achieve amazing success over time. It’s interesting to me that the size or age of the organization doesn’t necessarily correlate with their marketing savvy. Even established, long-standing organizations may use wrong thinking, ask the wrong questions, and use flawed approaches in the digital age. These immature marketers don’t seem to arrive at the same great results as our more successful clients, and that’s disappointing to everyone. Over the years, I’ve made mental notes and seen patterns that I have come to associate with poor digital marketing approaches and behaviors. There are more, but here’s my list of 6 things that separate companies from the smart successful ones, and betray them as immature marketers.

You might be an immature marketer if…

1. Tactical trial and error is your strategy

Strategy is difficult work. It involves understanding your unique advantages, and how, when, and where you might exploit them in your market landscape better than others could. It’s about leverage. If you haven’t already figured out your business development game, you’ll probably be tempted to try this and try that. We ran a radio spot. Did the phone ring? If that sounds like you, you might be an immature marketer.

2. You’re looking for a single channel for marketing success on which to build your business for years to come

In the 1970s, a company could expect 1.7 to 2 times return on every dollar spent on television advertising. There have been periods of time when print, radio, and television advertising brought good returns. Even with crude feedback mechanisms (eg, focus groups), businesses could reliably buy media in specific marketing channels that grew their top line. Marketing was all about producing high quality ads, strategic media purchasing, and measuring effectiveness annually with 50% reliability (according to John Wanamaker).

Immature marketers operate in denial of today’s reality. Today, as audiences are intensely resistant to being sold to, trust marketing messages less and less, and prefer to discover trustworthy information about your business on their own, I’ll still hear the question “Should we use radio?” or “Why don’t we try direct mail?” or “What about a newspaper ad?” in the absence of a broader strategic discussion. Immature marketers don’t realize how fiscally impossible it has become to influence the world without an effective strategy.

3. You use the word “strategy” interchangeably with the word “approach” or “tactic”

Have you ever heard someone say, they’re going to use an email strategy? Ask them more, and they’ll tell you they’re going to collect names in various ways and stay in touch with people using this technology. There’s nothing strategic about sending email. That’s a tactic.

If your Web strategy is to build a user-friendly website that looks great and to optimize it for search so people find it, you don’t have a strategy. You have an approach (at best) or a plan for a tactical accomplishment. If your plan is to intersect with strangers to your brand by capturing interest of wealthy homeowners, drive them to your website, and convert them into newsletter subscribers (for a later conversion), you might be getting there. Or if you are increasing the celebrity status of your company’s brand representative, building a fan base of interested dog trainers to receive your innovative pet products newsletter, you may be on the right track. Strategy solves the problem that your business objective creates. Good strategies build on ways that your business may be better, faster, smarter, or even cuter. Good strategies exploit opportunities that competitors may not have yet leveraged in your marketplace.

Strategy solves the problem that your business objective creates

4. Your strategy and tactical approaches aren’t directed by your brand identity

If you’re looking to your competition for marketing direction, you might be an immature marketer. Smart marketers look to their own brand identity and allow that to direct them. For example, people at my company hate to be interrupted. We loathe being cold called, or worse, “visited” by sales people. Part of our culture is that we put others first, and that permeates the way we approach marketing. We don’t market in ways we don’t like to be marketed to. Given that, making cold calls would be off-brand for us.

Likewise, we’re not a wildly creative, crazy, “push the envelope” type of agency (we outsource that). Our clients want to trust us, not filter us. So even if our competition makes a fun video of a pie fight in their office and posts it on their website and it goes viral and gets them business leads, that doesn’t mean we should do it. That would be off-brand for us.

5. Price discounting is your best tactic for business development

Anyone can give something away. It takes a marketer and a sales person to communicate value and command a good price. There may be a time, a place, and particular industries where a lower price is part of the plan. But if price lowering is your marketing strategy, it may be a sign that you don’t actually have a strategy. It may even mean that you’ve been without a marketing strategy for so long that  you’re marginally desperate. You should become more curious about brands like Apple, Starbucks, and Herman Miller and try to understand how they keep their audience from focusing on price.

6. You only use approaches that bring immediate, measurable, short-term results

Immature marketers overestimate what they will accomplish in their digital marketing in 1 year, and they underestimate what they could accomplish in 3–5 years. Immature marketers don’t reach that strong online marketing position long term because they grow weak in their resolve early on. They don’t understand which parts of their marketing (specific campaigns) are appropriate to silo and evaluate in the short term, which parts of the plan require a longer-term commitment, and which parts are simply a cost of doing business.

How can I use LinkedIn to get leads? Is SEO dead? Will mobile marketing get me more business? I’ve come to loathe these questions. Why? Because marketers who believe they’ll find marketing success by answering those questions will still be asking the same questions 3 years from now. Meanwhile, those who do the difficult work of strategy are more likely to become the envy of the immature.

Do your vendors, your competition, and your customers admire your approach to marketing, or are you showing signs of being an immature marketer? In 3 to 5 years from now, will you still be asking the wrong questions and taking the wrong approaches, or will you have learned, matured, and eventually built a solid marketing platform that is untouchable by your competition?

What lessons have you learned from your own marketing or from the good and bad marketing of other businesses? Let me know in the comments!