© 2004 Alfred Lautenslager
In many marketing discussions, one of the first things you hear
about is the marketing plan. A lot of marketing plans are written for
businesses that are starting out or that have done no marketing at
all. What about those companies who understand marketing, who have a
marketing plan and who implement different marketing initiatives for
the purposes of growing their businesses? A plan is not what is really
needed. What is needed is an understanding of why the marketing that
has been tried is not producing satisfactory results and a solution
for positive contribution.
Troubleshooting marketing is almost the reverse of planning
marketing. Think of all those things you would do in marketing your
business, products or services, itemize them and analyze each one to
see whether they are working or not. Once you understand these
components, they can be isolated, changed if necessary and re-tested
for contribution significance.
Usually when you feel that marketing is not providing some results
or the results you had hoped for, it is due to one of 4 primary
marketing components, and guess what? It is not one of the 4 Pís.
The 4 components of the troubleshooting formula, that follow, are
those items to isolate, analyze, fix and test:
ē The message
ē The vehicle
ē The consistency of the message
ē The target audience
Letís review each component.
Although sometimes subjective, the marketing message must be clear,
concise and attention getting for your audience. Does the message
create interest, desire and is there a call to action? Does the
message relate to you, your company, product or service or does it
relate to the challenge that you are offering a solution for? If all
is in order and the message is convincing or purposeful, consider one
of the other components. Sometimes more than one message can be ideal
for a respective marketing situation. It is still ok to test messages.
Testing always is a tradeoff to whatís working now. If the message you
have is working now, it may be effective for your target market and
you may decide to leave it unchanged.
The definition of a vehicle is something that takes you somewhere.
If it is not taking you where you want to go, you need to change
vehicles. The same thing applies to marketing. You may be using a nice
letter in an envelope that appears as promotional in nature and is
automatically discarded by the receiver when a postcard would do the
job more effectively. You might be trying to use television
advertising when radio would be better. This is common in the business
to business market. Another vehicle that sometimes is ineffective is a
sales person with poor appearance, poor demeanor or poor selling
skills. That would be the wrong vehicle to carry your marketing
message to your customer/prospect. In todayís world of technology,
different audiences require different medium as compared to marketing
of yesterday. This all has to be considered. If itís not working and
you know you have the right message for the right audience but its not
getting communicated, change the vehicle, test its effectiveness and
make the necessary corrections to optimize your marketing.
The Consistency of the Message
How frequent a message gets to a target market can make or break a
marketing campaign. Someone once said, ďI tried direct mail once and
didnít get any business.Ē There are all kinds of statistics out on how
many times someone must be exposed to you or your message before they
take action. Once is certainly not ideal. Most will say 6-8 times
while others have said even higher. This being the case, have you
given your message a chance before you stop or change it? Usually the
person that tires of the message first is the marketer him/herself.
Usually the target audience doesnít remember as well as the sender and
still can be impacted when receiving the message. Does this mean once
a day, you communicate your marketing message? Usually not, but
sometimes you see or hear something related to consumer brands daily,
e.g. Coca-Cola. This must be measured against audiences tiring of your
contacts and effectiveness. In the case of direct mail, once per month
is probably optimal. In the case of direct sales, it depends on the
sales cycle, the stage of the relationship and the magnitude of the
sale. Different audiences will require different frequencies of
messages. Each must be evaluated as to the optimum effectiveness. If
itís not enough, change it. If itís too much, change it. Consistency
and frequency is just one more component to be evaluated when
troubleshooting your marketing.
The Target Audience
Weíve all heard the saying about what is heard if a tree falls in a
forest and no one is there to hear it. The same anecdote can apply to
marketing when it comes to the target audience. You could have the
best marketing message ever, the best vehicle over and over and if the
right potential buyer doesnít receive your message, nothing gets
marketed; no one acts. Putting yourself in front of a potential buyer
is the key to marketing and selling. No potential buyers? No selling.
The right target audience might be the right segment, the right niche
within a segment or the right people within a niche. If you are
marketing to banks, are you marketing to the bank President or the
branch manager? If you are marketing to manufacturers are you
marketing to the operations department or the purchasing department?
All this has to do with having the right target audience for your
marketing. Just as a side note, donít forget about current customers
as part of your target audience. Even breaking up current customer
segments into different targets may be more effective for your
marketing. Find the people to populate the forest and let the trees
If all of the above is in order and deemed to be effective, donít
fix anything. If all of the above is in order and marketing is still
not being effective, then we need to revisit the 4 Pís of marketing.
Hopefully before any campaign you have evaluated strategically your
product, distribution, pricing and promotion and advertising.
Troubleshooting is not only trying to find out what the problem is,
but what the problem is not. With these four components outlined, you
can differentiate what is working and what is not.
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Al Lautenslager is a speaker, author, business owner, consultant, a
certified guerrilla marketing coach and also the author of The
Networking Workbook, How to Instantly Add People to Your Network. It
is available at
as an immediate download. Al also is the featured PR expert for
entrepreneur.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or
through his website,