two people drawing on whiteboard

5 Reasons People Underestimate Business Marketing

For over a decade, I’ve watched many business owners, managers, and young startups think they know marketing and can deliver good outcomes that would equal the level of success if they had partnered with a AAA class marketing company. A startup that self-manages its social media channel is a great example. Young companies who cannot afford a big budget and prefer to execute on their own struggle to get their lead customers via their social media. Why? The answer is simple: marketing isn’t easy as they think it is. Usually, the individuals involved haven’t done any of the work or study necessary to help them achieve their desired outcomes. Often they have no experience at all. Mastering marketing is no different from any other role. It takes years of study, execution, and experience.

white labeled bottle lot during daytime close-up photography

The cosmetics business is a multibillion-dollar behemoth that is frequently propelled by dynamic trends and well-executed marketing campaigns. While many shops have embraced this tactic hardly, Aesop demonstrates how it should be executed.

The following are the biggest 5 reasons why and how people think they understand marketing but are totally wrong:

1. Business marketing isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago

Marketing refers to activities a company undertakes to promote the buying or selling of a product or service. Most people know this but the definition is continually updated. According to the American Marketing Association, marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. – https://www.ama.org/the-definition-of-marketing-what-is-marketing/

These definitions are essentially the same; however, the AMA definition has a clearer scope and description than the first definition. Human communication has fundamentally changed, especially after the iPhone came to market. Since communication is the foundation of marketing, you can’t simply stick to what you know from your past knowledge, especially information you may have learned in school.

 

2. Many business owners, entrepreneurs, and managers don’t take the time to understand the latest business marketing

They are extremely busy people, but this excuse doesn’t work when a key pillar of business is being ignored. It doesn’t make sense to keep using outdated marketing knowledge to manage necessary marketing tasks. To do so is to get stuck on the idea that Brand is Marketing or Advertising is Marketing and that is enough to succeed. It isn’t.

Email marketing is outdated but many brands still put a lot of their efforts. Why?

3. Markert experiences a gap in time and location

This can be the biggest obstacle to effective market engagement. Marketing is the perception of what you have experienced, where, and when. Business markets weren’t connected globally before the internet. Every market (country) was domestically dominant through the use of local communication channels. But look at online marketing now! There is no border, and everyone can connect to each other with astounding ease.

Imagine a person who developed their business career in the 80’s 90’s when online marketing activities didn’t exist. Could they discuss marketing activities with Millennials or Generation Z with the same level of understanding? In addition, think of a person who has experienced only local market conditions with little diversity. Can they grasp how to market more widely?

man standing on road infront of high-rise buildi

What if you were raised in a big metropolitan city where is full of competition?

4. Social media is the biggest problem

Almost everyone uses social media, both privately and commercially. There, stories abound of countless successes, which convince people that they can succeed using the same method(s). The online edited version of success makes execution seem easy and reasonable. Indeed, many stories are distilled down to the barest of details and include little content craft. But the people seeking the success they read about on social media don’t have the same expertise in media or content crafting as the people they want to emulate. Also, they aren’t famous. It’s just a wrong perception many people have with far too much confidence.

5. Many people get caught up in marketing fads

If you are curious about marketing, you’re not going back to school again. You’re going to pick up the latest, best-selling marketing book or simply ask someone who has more marketing background for tips. Unfortunately, most of these books are just repurposed philosophies turned into clickbait catchphrases and sold as sensationalized tips to fix whatever ails you. And tips won’t make you a marketing expert in 1 minute.

Do “growth sales strategy”, “emotional storytelling”, or “the best SEO marketing” ring any bells? These concepts are marketing that someone wants to sell to you; when you buy in you become trapped in a vicious cycle. These notions provide a woefully incomplete picture of marketing and diminish its strategic core and the potential positive impact on your business.

Though there are more reasons people underestimate marketing, these 5 are the most impactful I have seen across all generations from East to West from small scale to large.


man in blue crew neck t-shirt holding bottle

Difference between "Strategy" and "Tactics"

Why is “Strategy” being left out?

All companies, no matter how big or small, now have to think like publishers. Not only has media, products and consumer behaviour changed, but also the business model has evolved drastically over the last decades and continues to change.

Many people are aware of this, but many businesses still fail. Why? It’s a strategy and communication gap and the following business case illustrates the gap between employees.

When I worked at Adidas Headquarters, I was assigned to design the user experience of a new Adidas global service. The project had already been in development for a year when I joined the team, but there was still no prototype or even a visual design output. Everyone on the team was still working on finalizing a service concept. Eventually the team couldn’t bring the service to the market and the project was completely killed by overspending.

I saw the team developing a very clear “strategy,” but their strategy was merely tactics: action ideas such as persona & user insight, sales campaign ideas, content details and so on. There was no single clarified a roadmap to detail the required human resources and team structure. The team kept driving (working) on an unclear roadmap. Many employees have likely had a similar experience.

strat·e·gy/ˈstratəjē

Strategy is when you have a plan to accomplish something. From beginning to end if you are prepared and focus on your plan that’s having a strategy

  1. A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
  2. The art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements.

So “Strategy” is a scenario as well as a roadmap where you go. But “Tactics” is

tac·tics /ˈtaktiks/

Tactics are the specific actions, sequences of actions, and schedules you use to fulfill your strategy. If you have more than one strategy you will have different tactics for each.

  1. An action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end.
  2. How you will achieve your strategy and when.

So “Tactics” is a detailed implementation of how you make it.

When we are asked to present a product idea, we often start by describing how we implement rather than how we move forward. This is in part because we do business from the inside out. We are supposed to start by clarifying how we make business with what product idea. We don’t start making a business plan without an idea that makes money. But when you execute, you need to know your goal(s), resources(s) and when different actions must be taken, in addition to having a handle on various management issues. Strategy is a plan to accomplish something. If you are prepared from beginning to end and focus on your plan, that’s having a strategy. It isn’t just a simple implementation of an idea; it’s a comprehensive plan with a very clear goal.

In the Adidas case, the service concept and idea were very clear. I knew what I needed to design and what we needed to develop. However, I didn’t know when the service was supposed to launch and when various milestones needed to be met – this was incredibly frustrating. Also, there was a huge knowledge gap between the teams. I was then only team member who came from the vendor side who understood detailed executions. This knowledge gap just kept growing bigger and bigger as the project progressed.

Communication

Why was the strategy left out? I have seen many similar cases around the world through my clients, no matter what industry or market, eventually the same tragedy plays out. The project runs out of cash, the team evaporates and the business fails. There is a myriad of individual reasons for failure, but the fault can usually be traced back to management and leadership gaps. I often see clients try to see the entire picture at once, but it’s too complex. Conversely, sometimes clients only examine and employ tactics without taking in the big picture. The business owner and management team shouldn’t be alone in knowing how to achieve a business goal; the whole team and entire company must understand the path to success.

In the dynamic environment of business, especially during the launch of new projects, there is a keen emphasis on proactively discussing ideas and tactics for information dissemination. This proactive approach is vital to effectively market and sell newly developed products or services; after all, effective communication is a cornerstone of sales success. Thus, professionals often prioritize discussions around communication methodologies early in the project lifecycle.

However, without a clear, strategic plan detailing who will sell the product, how, and when, even the most innovative ideas risk being sidelined by leadership or sparking disagreements among team members. These challenges are not uncommon and highlight the intricate dynamics of internal business processes.

For business communication to be truly effective, there must be a mutual understanding of the objectives and challenges at hand. This understanding isn’t just beneficial—it’s essential for fostering efficient operations and robust team collaboration.

Yet, many organizations falter when it comes to clearly distinguishing between strategy and tactics. This lack of clarity can obscure the company’s vision and objectives, leading to pervasive communication breakdowns across the workplace. It is imperative for organizations to articulate and disseminate their strategic goals clearly and compellingly to prevent these pitfalls and enhance internal communication. This strategic clarity will not only bridge communication gaps but also empower teams to drive business success more effectively.

As illustrated in the above diagram, when vision, information priorities, and clear goals are effectively shared among all stakeholders, the pathway towards achieving these objectives becomes more streamlined. This shared clarity enables everyone involved to strategize and navigate towards common goals more efficiently.

This distinction between strategy and tactics is crucial. Maintaining a strategic focus ensures that our efforts are goal-oriented and do not merely become means to an end. This principle is applicable not only in business settings but also in everyday life. By keeping strategy at the forefront, we ensure that our actions are always aligned with our broader objectives, leading to more coherent and successful outcomes.

Human communication is undergoing a fundamental change. Gaps between generational knowledge and communication styles are everywhere in the world. These gaps make formulating strategy difficult. However, we’ll probably never need to develop a perfect strategy at once. It’s more likely that we will develop strategy for each small step along the way so we can succeed in the coming months or weeks. Knowing which step we’re trying to accomplish will help us prioritize our business action plan.