4 Steps to Avoid the Most Common Marketing Pitfall

October 2, 2018

By Nancie McDonnell Ruder, ANA Faculty


Even the most well-intentioned marketers are sometimes guilty of pushing their product or service at their customer. I call it leading with the WHAT. This "product push" is the great temptation of our profession: to tout all the wonderful attributes our offering provides without first pausing to understand the true audience need. This is not only a prevalent pitfall for both B2C and B2B marketers, but also a costly one. When we fail to first learn in great detail who our audience is and generate a strong insight about them, our efforts fail to resonate, and ultimately, waste dollars.

If this sounds familiar, don't lose hope. All marketers, no matter how senior, must diligently work to remain customer-centric and hold themselves back from leading with their WHAT. Since we are required to be experts in our product offerings, there is a natural pull to assuming others will be as interested as we are. When we stop to think about our audiences, though, we will easily remember that they are far more concerned with meeting their own needs than waiting for our next product promise. Here are a few tried and true ways to develop this discipline to inform strong, effective marketing campaigns:

  1. Always start with your target audience. Knowing your audience and generating powerful insights about them is the first step to equally powerful campaigns. Ensure you have a true insight and not, what I call, a THINsight.
  2. Let your insight drive you to the right message. When you know your audience and have articulated that powerful insight, you'll know which product benefit will resonate most. To ensure you find that perfect match, first diverge and list out a whole slew of product benefits. Then converge on the one that will best deliver on the want or need of your audience. Diverging first ensures that you are thinking deeply and creatively about what product benefit best fits what your audience needs.
  3. Choose effective channels. When you understand your audience and the right product message to share with them, it is vital to distribute that message on channels that resonate. Think about your target audience and how they spend their time and their days. Then, choose channels that meet them when they are in the right place and the right mindset.
  4. Put it all together in a powerful brief. Succinctly capture all this strategic thinking in a brief format to inform your campaign and generate powerful creative!

To learn how to develop these skills in greater depth, take my new ANA on-demand training course, Strategic Customer-Centered Marketing. In this course, you will be given proven tools to guide your strategic thinking toward powerful — and customer-centric — marketing results. This complimentary course is available exclusively for client-side marketer members.


Nancie McDonnell Ruder is the president and founder of Noetic Consulting LLC, and ANA Faculty. She is the author of Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science and has more than 25 years' of marketing experience. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

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