Something smells…

Several months ago, we¬†attended a Tulsa Regional Chamber legislative update. Among the many topics discussed by the speakers, the one that stuck with me most was the desperate need for updates at the State Capitol. Something had been a little smelly…and after much searching, it turned out to be a collapsing sewage pipe deep in the (ahem) bowels of the Capitol.

Several months later, I’m still thinking about the irony of that statement. We see this come up with businesses all the time, regardless of the literal stature of your sewage pipes.

No matter how hard it works, a company’s financial goals aren’t being met. Or it’s getting numerous hits on the website, but the phone’s not ringing. Or it has a ton of leads in the hopper, but nobody’s moving. It’s easy to blame the sales guy, a slow season or the economy. But have you looked at what might be going on below the surface? That’s a tough step to take, because more often than not, it’s the stinky, expensive, game changing poo pipe that nobody wants to address. From a marketing perspective, I have some common culprits.

Bad branding
If you put your own sweat and tears into starting a company, you know the brand means more to you than just a logo, and it should. But don’t let yourself get so attached to the brand that you miss out on bigger opportunities. Think from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about you or your company. Does the branding really reflect the business and where you want to go? Are potential customers seeing you as a proactive, market-leading partner? Or are you going to be perceived as dated and slow to the table?

Bad marketing
I’ve seen this go two ways:

  1. “We’ve done this for years, and we think it’s working for us.” Customer behaviors change, vendors get lazy and the realm of marketing possibilities is ever morphing. Make sure your existing strategy is driving you to achieve results.
  2. “Nothing seems to be working, and I have to do something to survive. This seems cheap, so I’m giving it a shot.” Be thoughtful. Get advice. Bite the bullet a little bit longer so you can have a plan of attack. I promise your marketing dollars will go a lot further if you do.

Bad strategy
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a successful business that wasn’t constantly evolving. Whether it’s looking for new markets, adding service areas or abandoning non-producing revenue streams, these are the healthy conversations we need to have with ourselves to continually take things to the next level. Sometimes you just have to admit you’ve hit a dead end or you’ll continue trying to squeeze lemonade from a walnut. Move on to where the opportunity is.

Bad business
This isn’t really a marketing mistake, but it can have a devastating effect to your reputation. Treat people fairly. Stay true to your word. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And work with those who hold those same values. If not, you might end up being someone else’s poo pipe.