The Top 4 Misconceptions Marketers Must Face in 2014

There are 4 powerful misconceptions that suck the energy out of potentially effective marketing strategies.

Be on the lookout for these because they also represent opportunities once you recognize and disarm them.

Here is the first misconception.

Misconception #1 -- Traditional media no longer works

Some would have us believe that outbound marketing is unworthy of consideration in today's world. People only read and respond to inbound marketing offered by search marketing and social media. They no longer read more than 13 words in a single setting and do not want to be sold.

Guess what, both clients and some marketers preached certain aspects of this to us over 20 years ago! People do not respond to long sales copy. They don't have the time. And besides, we all know that people don't want to be sold.

The truth is the opposite. People still respond to long sales copy and they buy billions of dollars of products and services because someone sold them something.

Dealers still hire thousands of sales people (some Internet only sales specialists) and retailers still run large inbound and outbound telemarketing groups to handle the sales coming from traditional and non-traditional media.

Social media and search-only mavens want to persuade us that outbound marketing no longer works. Reality belies this assumption.

Direct mail is still growing and response rates for well-done mail are climbing.

In fact, the Internet is filled with e-commerce web sites that sell products with detailed specifications and strong sales copy. Furthermore, many of these sites would die without some form of outbound advertising.

Web sites work best when they ask for a lead or sale or some form of direct response. This builds email lists and other contact information for ongoing sales activity. Probably 90% of the digital world uses direct marketing (that is, direct response) tactics and strategies to generate sales or leads.

Misconception #2 -- Content marketing is a NEW concept

To put it bluntly, content marketing began with the age of advertising. It is not a new concept by any stretch.

Let's first agree on what content marketing is. Wikipedia does a pretty good job of defining this in my opinion.

Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Assuming this definition fits the current understanding of content marketing, then I contend that it defines the content marketing concept as it has existed from the dawn of advertising. The tools have evolved and become more potent. But the principle of "content Marketing" lived in the minds of marketers for many years before the advent of the Internet.

Few companies did this well in the past and only a few more do it well now. All effective communications always meant message consistency, database marketing engagement and CRM.  

The essence of this "content marketing" strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, must deliver consistent, valuable information to buyers. These buyers will ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

I admit that the advent of digital marketing with its highly efficient social platforms has magnified the engagement piece. But database marketers have always known about the importance of one-to-one engagement and relevant messaging based on historical prospect and customer behavior.

So to say that this is something new puzzles direct marketing strategists.

Some social media evangelists abuse the concept of content marketing by redefining it to support their credo of "don't sell." Just provide relevant information and prospects will eventually come running to buy your product or service. If only this were true.

Misconception #3 -- True marketers are specialty tacticians instead of strategists

Over-specialization has created an army of digital practitioners instead of marketing strategists who wield all available marketing tools.

Just look at today's marketing titles that contain a channel rather than a role. Email Marketing Manager, Digital Marketing Director, Social Media VP, Mobile Media Director and so on.

These channels are tools and media. True marketers use every available channel to sell their services.

This focus produces "channel vision" with little or no exposure to all that marketing entails.

Marketers must recognize that the Internet is a channel. Or to use an older term, it represents another medium like TV, radio, print advertising, telesales or direct mail.

Misconception #4 -- The most challenging of all misconceptions is that marketing success relies on something other than ROI

This pipe dream gained its zenith during the reign of positioning or general advertising. Unaided awareness, number of impressions and Cost per Thousand (CPM) evaluations never seem to translate into a Cost Per Sale or Cost Per Customer.

Companies need to know what they are getting in return for every marketing dollar they spend.

Thankfully, the rise of the Internet changed this for a while.

Unfortunately, the rise of social media has engendered similar non-ROI Driven measurements such as clicks, likes, unique visits and so forth that imply a return on investment.

These measurements fall short of the need to know how they contribute to sales. In fact, these measurement schemes give the appearance of quantifying financial return. But they actually require a high dose of subjective analysis to translate into incremental sales.

Relying on these KPIs will lead many organizations down a blind alley with little to show for the effort and expense. Somehow, these indicators must convert reliably and scientifically to a Return On Investment evaluation.

In my opinion, poorly constructed KPIs weaken marketers' influence in the C-suite. Measurement is everything, unless it's not.

The other part of evaluation is the channel. In other words, what channel gets credit for the sale. This problem will likely take awhile to resolve, if ever.

My own position is that attribution is not a single channel attribution but an integrated attribution.

In other words, what blend and balance of channels yield the lowest Cost Per Sale or Cost Per Customer?

This requires merging multichannel budgets testing them for the best ROI.

But even this presents considerable problems.

For example, how do you set up test cells that include the omnipresence of the Internet? How can you isolate any outbound marketing activity without social media or a response driven website?

So the analytics behind attribution continues to challenge the best minds.

The bottom line for marketers is that the C-suite will continue to demand an ROI for their marketing budgets. This never will, nor should it ever change. 

These are my top 4 misconceptions that I address in one form or another almost every day.

Professional marketers must possess discipline, creativity, breadth of knowledge and experience to plan and implement effective marketing programs. My advice is to take the broad road and develop the required strategic skills using every tool available to marketers everywhere.

Where am I wrong? Or what other misconceptions must you deal with?