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Mistakes Happen

By Nancy Drexler
Here's How to Get Back on Track

Have you ever heard the expression "Hope for the best, expect the worst"? I believe it was meant for marketers. In even the most perfect marketing campaigns, mistakes happen. It's not always your fault, but it's your job to correct them as quickly and effectively as possible.

In this column, I'll describe some of the most common mistakes marketers make and explain how to face them head-on so you end up smelling like a rose. Mistake: Rushing Into a Long-term Relationship With a Bad Idea You come up with a marketing message that's so brilliant, creative and original that you're absolutely certain it will drive sales sky-high.

You spread your new message everywhere: full-page ads, direct mail, your Web site and maybe even in a new corporate tagline. You wait for accolades, but they don't come. No one calls. No one writes. No one cares.

You double check to make sure that your office phone is still plugged in and that your e-mail account is still active.

Unfortunately, it's clear the message that initially thrilled you and seemed like such a great idea simply isn't working. It happens all the time. Brilliant creativity doesn't necessarily move product off the shelves. In the best advertising, the product is the hero, not the Creative Director.

To recover, use caution next time. Start out with a single ad, promotion or mailer that ties in to a new message. Test the waters very carefully before embarking on a full-blown campaign, or prepare for spectacular disappointment.

Mistake: Blowing Half the Budget on One Media Buy

It happens to everyone. Maybe an ad salesperson has a persuasive pitch. Maybe a new publication or media outlet seems like a perfect fit. Maybe a list broker convinces you that she has the names and addresses to deliver major results on a direct-mail promotion.

Before you know it, you've signed a contract that eats up half your marketing budget for the year and, worse yet, doesn't produce.

Now is the time to get creative. If you can't get out of the contract, start thinking about low-cost ways to supplement those purchased ads.

Kick the public relations machine into high gear, and get free press for your company. People believe what they read in the editorial sections of publications more than the marketing materials anyway.

Work the phones and start reaching sweet-spot prospects directly with your company's message. You're a great communicator, so you can handle marketing, right?

Take a long, hard look at your Web site; look for ways to update it to get new messages out for free. Look into low-cost or no-cost blast e-mail services to reach the right people without over-spending.

Companies with no marketing budgets manage to get results all the time. If you've overspent your budget, it's time to get reacquainted with the basics of free marketing.

Mistake: The Marketing Contains Conflicting Messages

Have you ever set out by car to a place you haven't been in awhile, hoping to rely on your keen navigational skills and photographic memory to get there?

If you're anything like me, you probably arrived at your destination two hours late because you stopped to ask practically every service station attendant along the way for directions.

The same thing applies in marketing. Don't begin a marketing plan without a clear map. This will not only eliminate budget headaches, it will help unify efforts to spread the same essential message everywhere.

For example, you place an ad in a publication touting your company as a boutique sales organization that provides individual, customized service, the kind of place where everybody knows the customers by name.

Meanwhile, you've been working for a few weeks with an editor at the same publication to get a story printed about your company's runaway success: It tripled in size, added 200 staff members and now processes for eight times as many merchants as it did only a few years ago.

If potential clients read the article and look at the ad, which message will they get? You have an enormous, successful company that's raking in cash and adding staff as quickly as it can set up new cubicles?

Or, you have a small, personalized mom-and-pop operation where clients have personal relationships with every employee?

Neither. They will get the message that, at best, you have no idea who you are. Go back, plan carefully and emphasize the same messages in every marketing channel.

Mistake: Thinking You Can Do Too Much on Your Own

Do you believe that you are personally responsible for every marketing decision made? Do you single handedly create, write, design and produce every piece of collateral that leaves your office?

If you're the boss, it's easy to start thinking this way, but hold up, Lone Ranger. I'm here to tell you that you can't do it alone.

I'm not saying that you need to hire additional staff (or any staff at all). What you do need to do, in order to prevent mistakes, is solicit outside opinions and put more sets of eyes on your work as often as possible.

It's all too easy to read, reread, edit and re-edit a piece of writing a dozen times and never catch an error that an outside reader will notice in seconds.

Co-workers and contacts serve as valuable sources of ideas and feedback in almost every situation. Make use of them. It's as easy as walking down the hall and asking someone to take five minutes to proofread.

Mistake: Still Moping About the Last Mistake

Apologies will only get you so far. The quickest way to make people forget your failures is to give them successes to remember.

If you've made a mistake, quickly explain you are accountable (this is not the time to dramatically vow that you'll never mess up again or send a company-wide e-mail explaining your failures and how very sorry you are) and immediately start working on a new project that will succeed.

Do something for which others will praise you, and you'll be shocked how quickly they forget your slip-ups. Try to learn from your mistake and move on to the next great marketing campaign.

Nancy Drexler is the Marketing Director of Cynergy Data, a merchant acquirer that distinguishes itself by relying on creativity and technology to maximize service. Cynergy offers its ISOs VIMAS, a cutting edge back-office management software application; TrackIt, a ticketing system that makes responses to customers fast, accurate and efficient; Brand Central Station, a Web site of free marketing tools; plus state-of-the-art training, products, services and value-added programs. Cynergy designed all of these to take its ISO partners from where they are to where they want to be. For more information on Cynergy, e-mail Nancy at .

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