It’s a story we hear all of the time: A business grew rapidly in its first years by focusing on sales and pursuing whichever opportunities came its way. Eventually, growth leveled off. The company needed to do something to jumpstart its sales and fuel its next-level growth. Executives recognized it was time to invest in marketing.
The business didn’t have a marketing leader on staff, so it assigned its founder/CEO or sales leader to the function and maybe even hired a junior marketer or some agency partners. The stand-in marketing leader invested the budget across numerous tactics, channels, and audiences. They thought (and hoped): At least one of these should work, right?
At Authentic Brand, we call this spray-and-pray approach “random acts of marketing.” It happens when businesses try one marketing tactic after another, frequently gravitating toward the next shiny marketing object. Companies churn out these scattered tactics when they don’t have a strategic marketing plan and leader to ground and guide their efforts. Random acts of marketing are rarely, if ever, an effective approach.
Executives might know they need marketing, but they often don’t know how to structure or measure its effectiveness. Since businesses often see marketing as an overhead expense, they expect to see the impact of their investments quickly. This pressure to deliver a return, coupled with a lack of strategic leadership and time to prove efforts, often leads businesses to commit wasteful and ineffective random acts of marketing.
Random acts of marketing: When businesses activate marketing on a reactive, tactical, “shiny object” basis or with short-term, experimental bursts. Ultimately, random acts of marketing burn through resources without building meaningful brand value or delivering consistent revenue returns.
Telltale signs of random acts of marketing (signs 1-5)
We’ve had hundreds of conversations with business executives about their most pressing growth challenges. Through these discussions, we’ve uncovered 15 telltale signs that point to a business committing random acts of marketing. In this first post of the series, we’re sharing five of those signs.
Recognize your business in any of these signs? It might be time to consider what steps you can take to build a strategic and modern marketing organization to fuel your next-level growth and overcome random acts of marketing.
1. You’re not sure what healthy growth means for your organization.
For marketing to be strategic, the team needs to know what healthy growth looks like for your organization. Are you looking for a small, incremental increase over the previous year? Or maybe you aim to double your revenue or get acquired. Healthy growth is different for every organization. Define your growth vision and communicate it to your team.
Businesses that struggle to define healthy growth don’t typically have a clear vision of where they want to be in one, three, or ten years. This lack of clarity leads to reactive, scattered marketing tactics because the team doesn’t know what it’s working toward and how it can best support those objectives. You need a documented strategy that you update quarterly and annually, so departments — including marketing — can build execution plans that support your growth vision.
2. You’re not sure how much you should budget for marketing.
There is no silver bullet for how much a business should invest in its marketing resources and programs. The investment will depend on numerous factors, including whether you run a B2C transactional business or a B2B business with a multiple-year, complex sales cycle.
The most important investment you can make to build a strategic, vibrant brand is in a strategic marketing leader. This leader (whether part-time or full-time) can assess the market and the business’s objectives to provide recommendations on budget, where to direct it, why, and how much of a return to expect. In many cases, the marketing investments you make today to generate demand might not harvest revenue for a couple of years. You need a marketing leader who knows how to test, iterate, and refine to stay accountable and deliver long-term results.
3. Marketing is reporting to a sales leader or founder who is not a marketing leader.
Founders or sales leaders are often responsible for marketing in early-stage growth businesses. This responsibility typically makes sense for your first few years in business. Founders are the closest to your brand story and vision and often communicate it through pitch decks and other business strategy documents and presentations. Sales leaders are focused on net new client acquisition and know the type of information and sales collateral the team needs to close deals.
However, as your business continues to grow, it will likely reach a point when it needs a strategic, revenue-focused marketing partner at the table. Companies that don’t hire an experienced marketing leader get stuck because marketing continues to be an order-taker from sales. This sales-driven approach to marketing leads to scattered tactics that only generate short-term results (at best). Marketing leaders break companies out of this mold to help them shape and align teams and efforts toward future growth.
4. You’ve hired and fired multiple marketers.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates a bad hire costs 30% of that individual’s first-year expected earnings. This estimate doesn’t count all of the less tangible impacts, including the hit to morale, cost of onboarding a new leader, and decreased productivity. Plus, putting the wrong person in charge of your brand can damage it. Recovering from that can be costly and challenging.
We’ve also worked with numerous companies staffed with junior or mid-level marketers that wonder if they have the wrong people because they aren’t getting results. More often than not, these marketers are capable and committed, but they spend all of their time responding to a firehose of random acts of marketing requests. They can’t develop or demonstrate their strategic value because they spend all of their time just trying to keep up. Before you make the costly decision to fire your marketers, bring in a strategic marketing leader to assess your talent and determine whether you have a people issue or a strategy issue.
5. You’re trying to market everything to everyone because you think any revenue is good revenue.
Not all revenue is ideal revenue. It can be scary to let go of revenue opportunities, but long-term, sustainable growth requires you to make focused strategic investments. If you try to be everything to everyone to capture whatever revenue you can, you’ll likely end up not being anything to anyone. No buyer will choose your brand if you don’t reach them where they’re at or if you don’t know, specifically, what problem of theirs you solve.
Strategic marketing prevents the random spraying of marketing across channels, tactics, and audiences. It enables thoughtful and measured decisions about how best to use your limited resources to target your 1-3 ideal buyers. Your ability to narrow in and focus will help you better connect with these ideal buyers, differentiate you from your competitors, and fuel your growth. Focus requires you to make tough decisions about where — and perhaps more importantly, where not — to point your investments for the greatest impact.
Put the right marketers in place to overcome random acts
Random acts of marketing are common because marketing is hard. The fundamentals remain the same, but as the technology landscape expands and buyer expectations shift, strategic decisions about where to invest, how much, why, and to what end become increasingly difficult.
Many growing businesses would benefit from strategic marketing leadership and stronger overall execution but aren’t sure where to start. A full-time marketing leader is a big commitment. It’s a role that can be challenging to define and hire and costly to get wrong. A Fractional CMO is a great solution for businesses that need strategic guidance without a full-time commitment. At Authentic Brand, our Fractional CMOs not only eliminate the risk of a wrong hire but accelerate results through our proven Methodology and Mindshare community.