Marketing: Expectations vs. Reality

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

In the world of marketing, there are expectations. Then there is reality. Frustration is usually found where these two meet. I’ve seen many get frustrated over the years when expectations skewed from what really happens with marketing. So today, as public service to all, we are going to realign or re-set some expectations.


Expectation: “I can track my ad campaign by asking my customers where they heard about us.”


Reality: Customers don’t really care about your marketing efforts and they certainly don’t keep track of how they found you. When asked, most will say the last touch point they made, and that is usually Google. Is this how they heard about you? Maybe. But maybe not. Asking a customer where they found you is far too subjective to be reliable and leads to misattribution. Misattribution leads to marketing mistakes. Marketing mistakes lead to wasted dollars. I've seen some business owners say, "I have a person on my staff ask our customers how they heard about us. They are very detailed and is good at it." This doesn't work either. The most detailed, friendliest person is still human and this often leads to unreliable responses and is subject unconscious bias from those collecting this data. They may even lead your customers to answers, much like leading a witness on trial. Campaigns should always be tracked using data, reducing as much human-influence as possible. Digital marketing platforms were first with data that could provide straight-line attribution, reporting clicks and calls. Tactics have evolved to now be able to track an ad delivered on a mobile device to foot-traffic in a store. That it is good data. Traditional media like TV and Radio have also developed tools that can measure traffic to websites and foot-traffic to your location. Some will argue that data is not perfect. However, even using data just as a guideline will be better than relying on humans.


Expectation: “My business can live on word-of-mouth. I’ve been in business a long time and have a good reputation.”


Reality: Word-of-mouth works only if your core customers never die, move, and for no observable reason, just go away. No business is impervious to attrition. Sometimes the environment in which you operate has changed. What happens if a new competitor moves into your space that is better, faster, cheaper? Or your supply-chain is disrupted for you core service line? Things happen beyond your control that could lead to bad word of mouth with you current customers. Another example is your customer experiences could suffer due to bad management or a bad hire. Any number of factors could erode your core customer base that provides you this “word-of-mouth” pipeline. Continuously growing your customer base is a must. Not marketing your company is living dangerously and probably not sustainable in today's market.


Expectation: “My marketing budget is the same every year, no need to change.”


Reality: That is fine if your goals never change, never have any new offerings, or never have competition. Do you think McDonald's marketing budget stays flat every year? Yours shouldn't either. Your marketing budget should fluctuate yearly based on the goals of the business for the year. Not adjusting, or worse...under budgeting, can leave your marketing efforts “too thin” with not enough to drive results.


Expectation: “I can run an ad campaign and my phone starts ringing.”


Reality: Not so much. Tracking an ad campaign via phone calls died with the yellow pages. It takes time to build awareness. Today, most consumers respond to an ad by searching the web first. Then they engage with a business. That engagement could be in-person, ecommerce, socially, checking reviews, or the proverbial phone call. However, it usually is not a straight line from ad to phone call. The results of a campaign should be tracked over multiple data points; web traffic, customer engagement socially, form-fills, sales, foot-traffic, and then maybe phone calls.


These are just a few that I’ve come across over the years. Take these lessons that others have learned the hard way to plan, track, and generate results for your business.


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