Over the years, I've listened to hundreds of marketing pitches and participated in thousands of conversations among marketers. I've then watched how well the subsequent marketing campaigns actually performed.
Based on that experience, I've identified eight phrases that almost always mean that a marketing group is on the wrong track and will probably fail. Here they are, along with comparable phrases that reflect a more likely-to-succeed approach:
1. "Marketing drives sales."
Marketers use this phrase to communicate their belief that sales is just the tail end of the marketing effort. They have it backwards. Selling is the entire reason any company exists.
Say instead: "Marketing is trying to help make sales happen."
2. "We've been talking to our customers."
Marketers have a tendency to think about marketing as a process of pushing information out, hence talking to customers is a good thing. In fact, effective marketing is the other way around; it draws customers in.
Say instead: "We've been listening to our customers."
3. "We have a worldwide focus."
This phrase is just the worst example of the misuse of the word focus. Because it's impossible to focus on more than one thing at the same time, any marketing effort that has too wide a focus will inevitably fall flat.
Say instead: "Today we are focusing on the following specific objective..."
4. "Shock and awe"
Any marketing metaphor that uses military imagery is inherently absurd and awkward. Warfare is all about killing the enemy; marketing is all about persuading customers to buy. There's really no common ground.
Say instead: Nothing.
5. "Sales doesn't follow up on our hot leads."
Many is the time I've heard marketers complain that they find hot leads that the sales team is incapable of closing. But a hot sales lead is, by definition, one that the current sales team can easily close. If it can't, it's not a hot lead.
Say instead: "Sales team: Please tell us what kinds of leads you can easily close."
6. "Everyone must use this standard presentation."
This ominous phrase comes out when marketing groups want to present a consistent brand image to the world. Only one problem: Every customer is different, which is why salespeople (the good ones anyway) always customize their presentations.
Say instead: "Here are some slides that might be useful."
7. "We are rebranding."
The concept of rebranding assumes that the brand consists of the exterior elements that express the brand, like the logo, font, tag line, and so forth. Brand actually reflects the customer's experience, so the only way to rebrand is to change that experience.
Say instead: "Let's improve our products and services while making them easier to buy."
8. "I am a market strategist."
Strategy, by definition, is long term. Employing somebody specifically to strategize virtually guarantees that your strategy will change frequently, making it impossible to execute tactically.
Say instead: "We've got a strategy; now, let's make it happen."