Bad Marketing... Good Company: Should You Shoot The Messenger Or The Message?

By Andrew J. Birol, President, Birol Growth Consulting, Inc.

The signs are clear: Your sales force is confused, your CFO is anxious, customer service problems are mounting and manufacturing is angry. All fingers point blame at your marketing department.

But is it their fault? After all, the department whose job it is to make sense out of confusion and spend money without proof makes a great company piñata. Yet, when you start asking some basic questions about how your marketing department is doing, their answers wear on your nerves.

If you are like most business owners, you've probably grown tired of hearing complaints about too small a budget, too high expectations, too slow an economy, too aggressive competitors or a high cost of products. All companies face similar challenges and use the marketing departments to overcome them. So why is it that your company seems to have bad marketing?

Unless you happen to be a marketing expert, it's hard to tell the difference between good and bad marketing. Most likely, your marketing problem has two causes: either a poor plan or a poor leader. Either is deadly to your business. Here is how you can tell which is the culprit and what is the solution.

Lay Out Expectations For Your Marketing Investment

Any company's marketing plan has three basic goals:

  1. Clarify and convey your company's best and highest use so it meets the needs of a specific target market.

  2. Become your organization's blueprint for pricing, product development, promotion, packaging, distribution and targeting decisions and activities.

  3. Give your executive committee (including the marketing executive) a framework for making decisions and allocating resources.

The role and responsibility of your marketing executive is to execute the plan. His job is also three-pronged:

  1. Interpret the needs of your firm's marketplace. Create a practical marketing plan and sell it through your executive committee for the rest of your company to complete.
  2. Implement approved programs and tactics through inside and outside resources.
  3. Resolve threats to completing the marketing plan.

How And Why Efforts Break Down

No plan is foolproof, but you know when you have the wrong marketing plan in place when:
  • Your organization is not focused on leveraging its best and highest use.
  • The company cannot profitably find, keep and grow customers.
  • And your last three marketing executives have failed in their jobs.

You know you have the wrong marketing executive in place when after two years:
  • He or she still doesn't understand your business or implement your vision.
  • Cannot adapt their skills and experience to meet the challenges of your business.
  • And he or she has not efficiently used staff, budgets and time to generate reasonable results.

Fixing The Marketing Problem

Once you determine whether the problem is your plan or executive, the next step is to act.
  • If it is your marketing plan, then with your executive committee and other experts audit and refocus your firm's best and highest use, the target market it serves and the customer needs your company meets.
  • Also, retool the marketing strategy so that your company is better able to find, keep and grow customers in your business.
  • Finally, take a close look at how your company is organized and resourced so profitable products and services are sold to your customers.

If the problem is your marketing executive, then replace him or her with someone who has executed a marketing plan like the good one you already have or need. Also consider an individual who understands your marketplace, distribution, products and technology and can better fit into your existing organization and its way of doing things.

Keeping Marketing Fixed

Good marketing programs and executives are a lot like fine Chardonnay wine. Both seem pretty good right at the start but are best after two to four years. After that, they don't improve and usually grow stale. Even if your marketing executive and plan seem on the ball, your firm's changing capabilities, customers and competition usually call for new approaches to pricing, promotion, packaging, distribution and targeting.

The bottom line is that if you sense that your marketing is out of touch, ask your company and your customers. They will tell you. And, if the answers are not comforting, then decide if it is your plan or your executive. And fix the right problem.


Articles by Birol Growth Consulting are © copyrighted and all rights are reserved. However, articles may be reprinted with prior written consent if attribution is included as follows:

© Copyrighted by Andrew J. Birol, President of Birol Growth Consulting, who helps owners grow their businesses by growing their Best and Highest Use ®. Andy can be reached at (412) 973-2080 , by email at, or on the web at

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