The Challenges of Being a Marketing Professional

Being a marketer often feels like living in a Holiday Inn Express commercial.  An employee you’ve never seen before walks up to your desk and offers some advice:

“I think you should make the logo bigger and use some glitter.”

“I’m sorry, you don’t look familiar.  Are you new in the marketing department?”

“No, I’m a chemical engineer.  But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”

Before marketing programs can be judged by customers, they are dissected by everyone in the office.  In fairness, this is not a unique challenge for marketers.  Chefs, doctors, coaches, and other professionals are scrutinized and told by others they could do the job better.  We should all remember blowing into the Super Mario Brothers cartridge doesn’t qualify us to design a video game system.

Here are some friendly reminders to keep in mind when it comes to the challenges faced by marketers:

Building critical mass

Before a product can be advertised and promoted, it must first be proven that the marketplace will care about its introduction.  History is full of failed products, from the Ford Edsel to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7.  Testing a product’s functionality and its likelihood for adoption in the marketplace are not a guarantee for success, but without them, the risk of failure grows exponentially.  At the same time, no product will appeal to everyone.

A marketer’s job is to strike the right balance of features and price points to profitably advance a new product or service.  Those supporting marketing projects must look for behaviors and trends that go beyond their own personal experiences.  Recognize that a given product or service may not appeal to everyone around the water cooler; this should not inhibit the team’s ability to see it as a benefit to the company or society to progress.

7.5 billion audiences of one

Marketing efforts continue to focus on the use of data and technology to reach consumers through personalized messaging and offers, such as an invitation for a free meal on one’s birthday, or a discount at the big box store after a move.  While traditional target segments based on age, gender, location and more continue to serve an important role in helping marketers identify groups with similar interests and buying patterns, they are no longer sufficient by themselves.  Every individual in a segment has their own unique qualities, life experiences, wants and needs.

Marketers with a plethora of data will fall short without the ability to process and understand that data, and must have tools in place to effectively leverage the insights gained to reach consumers within their target segments.  Marketing organizations require support from data analysts, researchers, and technology experts to reach their potential.

Loyalty programs move the needle

Having a meaningful product and making an ideal user aware of its existence may not be enough to turn that person into a customer.  People are loyal to brands and products for myriad reasons.  Some because they associate it with their grandparents’ house, others because they believe it just works best.  But almost everyone has a price, and that’s where loyalty programs can make a difference.

The challenge for marketers advocating for loyalty programs can often be greater internally than convincing a consumer to enroll.  Organizations must take a broad view when considering if a loyalty program can be useful.  It is not fair to expect that an executive making $250k/year to sign up for a program that saves a member a few dollars per month.  However, those few dollars could significantly influence many target segments.  A loyalty program that can generate sales at least equivalent to the cost of operation is well worth the investment, and depending on the competitive landscape, might be necessary even at a loss to fend off competitors’ programs.  Marketers must make a persuasive case to make a loyalty program an everyday part of doing business, and that takes more than staying at a Holiday Inn Express.

For further discussion, contact Zach at zpastko@wcapra.com.