How Marketing Success is Ruined by a Rotten Foundation


When marketing fails to perform, a frenzy of fixes happens.

It’s about tactical optimization and doing things differently.

But often marketers are addressing symptoms, not root problems.

Sometimes, bad marketing is caused by a rotten foundation.

Marketing execution stumbles when it’s not underpinned properly.

Michelle Tresemer describes this problem as “compounding defects”, a term that she borrowed from the construction industry.

Compounding defects happen when there is no strategic vision or purpose.

This leads to marketing that isn’t focused, structured, or aligned.

Michelle says that “by the time you to tactics, there are no guardrails or no direction. Everyone is just doing what they think is best and it doesn't work”. 

In the physical world, compounding defects is what happens when a skyscraper’s foundations are slightly off. 

As the building is constructed the foundational flaws are magnified and exacerbated.

In the marketing world, compounding defects can involve a lack of leads or sales, or content that a CMO finds difficult to approve because it’s somehow off the mark.

Hey, it's Mark Evans and you're listening to marketing spark. Marketers like being busy. Busy suggest that we're moving the ball forward and making the boss happy, but marketers waste a lot of time on things that don't matter. It's tool side projects, channels that aren't working, and the list goes on. Michelle trusseumer is what it would call a marketing realist. A key part of her M is helping companies focus on what matters. Welcome to marketing spark, Michelle. Thank you so much. I'm really excited to be here. Let's start with something that's a little bit of a twist or something that I haven't run across before, and this is a topic that you suggested around compounding defects is the idea of what happens to be, to be marketing tactics when the vision and leadership strategy aren't clear. I would love it if you could provide a definition of compounding defects, why you think it's such an important concept for marketers to understand and embrace, and how you avoid this compacting defects problem. Load a question, lots and moving parts. No, it's great. A few months ago I was trying to come up with a term or look in research to find an industry term to describe what happens down in the weeds of be to be marketing, and I'm talking tactics, I'm talking your Seo titles and descriptions. Every single will tweet. I couldn't figure out what it was that was causing all of that busyness for the sake of being busy and this obsession with the shiny objects in added. Let's add tick Tock, let's add all of this stuff, and I couldn't figure out the term for that and I actually came across a construction term and the term is compounding defects. So let me unpack that in terms of marketing, because it's it kind of fits perfectly. So, Mark, you are Cmo, like you were way up here right. If that is not clear, and I'm going to use your podcast as an example, if you don't mind, if that vision, if your purpose, the reason why you exist, is not clear. So that's at the foundational level of marketing. By the time you get all the way down to tactics, there are no guard rails, there is no direction, so everyone is just doing what they think is best. And it doesn't work. So the construction term compounding defects. Let me back it up. This is if you're building a foundation of a building. So think of a skyscraper. When you're doing those foundations you might think, oh, I'm just like a quarter of an inch off, no big deal. Well, by the time you get to the thirty floor, that quarter of an inch has compounded with each and every floor. So by the time you get up there you're off by several feet or you know, and it's going to wobble and go to fall apart. So when we talk marketing, if that foundation is not solid, when you get down to tactics, it all falls apart. So I think I need do to elaborate. When you talk about the foundation, are you talking about the vision? Are you talking about strategic plans? Are you talking about goal setting? Are you talking about all of those things in terms of establishing a rock stylard foundation upon which tactical execution can happen? We actually consider there's twenty marketing foundations, but what you're talking about really it's the leadership and management levels. So let's take your podcast and walk through that, if you don't mind. So, way up at the topic. You are clear on be Tob Sass, right, and you've got all these podcasts episodes way down at the bottom in tactical execution. Right. So if you are not clear on be tob SASS, you know six months from now you might have topics all over the place and it's going to confuse your market and you're going to have a ton of wasted time and energy and it's going to kind...

...of destroy your brand. But because you're clear, your message is clear. Who you hire, your vendors, your staff, your Va's, whoever that is, they are all clear on your key performance indicators, like they know what you're trying to accomplish. It's all be TOB SASS right. So no waste. But most companies we work with they don't do that. They are not communicating the vision, the KPI's, the goals down stream. So they're hiring the wrong skill sets that are not aligned with their core vision. Interesting. What are the symptoms of compounding defects? How can an organization, the CEO, the CMO, recognize that what they've been doing for the last three, six, nine months isn't working because the foundation wasn't right? That leads are not as qualified all of a sudden or the numbers have dropped. That's a huge one. I am very tactical, so I like to be in the weeds. One of the things that CMOS can watch out for is if they have a whole bunch of drafts of content sitting in their inbox or on their desktop. This is a very specific example, but I see it without fail at all of the BAB companies that don't have the stuff together. So if the CML so your role. For example, if you don't feel good about approving a white paper or an ebook and you just think you know, technically this is written really well, but something's not quite right about it, it just sits there and it never gets approved. That's interesting because in some respect it sounds like gut feel, like when you see coatings is themo and you need to approve it and it doesn't. Doesn't like your spider sense goes off. Yeah, US, yes, there's no data involved because you haven't released it in the wild yet, but it's more like a feel. And I guess what you're saying is that if you have a solid foundation in place, those decisions go or no go are a lot clearer because there's A. There's a clear path forward in terms of how you should do marketing. Absolutely, you just did that wonderful the Webinar workshop on brand messaging. Right. If that is not in line, the content team has no litmus test to understand is this going to resonate with the target audience? Am I hitting the key pain points? They're not doing that, so they're just writing it off of their gut feel so by the time it gets to the CMO, you're right, something is off, but you don't have that document to check it against. So then you just never approve it because you're busy doing other things. Right, it's like right, so rewrite it. But having those guidelines, that foundation, so it's super clear, it makes it really easy to approve things. Here's a lot of question. If you're the CMO and you recognize that compounding defects is a problem and you don't want to be there because that's a waste of people, time and money, where do you start? It is a loaded question, but what are the first steps that a CMO should take, and their Marketing Organization for that matter, in terms of making sure that the foundations right so you can avoid compounding defects? You know, it's so funny. This is always the hardest thing to do. It's talking to the founder and the CEO. It starts with that vision for where the company is going. Everything else falls from that. And I know you work with a lot of probably be to be startups the SASS world. Sometimes the founders and CEOS aren't sure. But let me give you an example that I've experienced a lot in the past year. It's in terms of acquisition. Some CEOS, and I've had them tell this to my face, they don't have a big, lofty vision. They just want to get acquired. Totally fine,...

...but getting that honesty out of them up front completely changes how we build that marketing infrastructure. We know, okay, we got to push it hard for twelve to eighteen months because we're going to get acquired. That's a very different strategy than thinking, okay, five years from now we need to be in you know this position. It's just different how you market. You're thinking more long term instead of short term. We need to look like big deals, so are our price goes up right. What about when you run into an entrepreneur or COO founder who, when you ask them about their goals, they say more leads. That's it. Maybe they're not sophisticated from a sales and marking perspective, at the end of the day, all they matter about is leads and sales. So you're dealing with a little bit of information to tackle a big problem, and there's lots of different variables that are involved. How do you build a foundation when the entrepreneur or cofounder doesn't give you much guidance? Sometimes it's like pulling teeth. Not gonna lie. There is a reason that founder woke up one morning and decided, you know what, I'm going to solve this problem in our industry. There is a reason deep in there. I Save Your your Webinar and your information and send it to people because it's amazing. Like they need to dig in and figure out why they exist and what they want for their company. If they're just thinking in terms of leads, which is not the end of the world. It's good to track those things, obviously, but they want to be somewhere in five years, and sometimes it is takes a little bit of digging to figure out do you want to get acquired? Do you want to IPO, do you want to be something very lofty like Microsoft? I was just looking at their original vision. When they started. They wanted a desktop to computer in every home. There is some sort of vision like that that the founder has. They maybe just haven't articulated it yet. If you've got a foundation in place and you've got a strategic and tactical vision. One of the things I do wonder about is the idea of building a bdb digital marketing like a toolbox. I mean, we talk a lot these days about marketing stacks and there are thousands of tools out there that can seduce marketers and distract him at the same time. Can you define what a marketing tool back toolbox looks like, what's in it and how many tools should marketers be using? Realistically, there's dozens we can have in our our portfolio. But how big is it? I guess that's the that's the basic question. Sure, in my brain there are eight digital marketing tools and I'll talk about those in a second, but I love the tool box analogy more than anything else. I always use the example. If you're a hammer, all you see as nails. If you are a social media specialist, you are going to try to use social media to solve all of your lead generation problems. If you're in SEO, you're going to look for organic search and Seo to solve the problem. As marketers, and I've seen this happen with companies, we need to take that step back and be more like the general contractor and know when to use each of those tools. It's really difficult because, you know, as CMOS, we have to understand how they all work and when to use each one. What mix of tools are we going to use? So it's the you know, the basic ones. DIGITAL PR I consider a tool. Seo, PPC, social media, email marketing, in your cram usage, those kinds of things. Content Marketing, obviously, one of the things that a lot of marketers battle is what we would call Shiny Object Syndrome. We see something, we get in Chan anted by it, we try it and before long we've got, you know, accounts with dozens of different services and there's an overlap between many of them. A lot of them we try once and we never use again. And then I think what happens is that we get away from using three or...

...four core tools that deliver a lot of value because we're just checking stuff up and maybe not at getting as much value from the tools that we have. So why do marketers suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome and how do you counter that? How do you get discipline and structure so that you can focus on the tools that matter? It's bizarre. We have analyzed this for years and I think it comes down to fear at the upper levels. It's a fear of all, we're missing out. Everybody else is doing this thing or competitors are trying this thing. We should be doing the thing. It's all fear. But if your data you're tracking, is hooked up and you are leaders, are focused on your target markets, that fixes all of that fear. You know, you can have the confidence to say, you know what our target market is. It ready for that? They're not using it. We are not going to spend our time going down that rabbit hole. This is really difficult, you know, down in the weeds, because it's usually the higher ups that are asking about the new thing that they heard about it at a networking event. No joke. I've had CEO's come into my office and say, Hey, my niece just graduated college. See she said we absolutely have to be on instagram right. It's like no, no, our target market isn't there, but if you don't have it documented, you can't refer to it, so I wouldn't have power to tell them no. But when you have that target market you can say hey, CEO, here's our target market. This is why that tool is not a good fit. Right. If you don't do what your end up with marketing bloat. And when covid hit, when the pandemic hit, the companies that were bloated kind of got screwed a bit because they don't know what to cut first. They know they have to cut budget because they're just bloat it. So you got to get back to that lean team. Having in that target market, the vision, everything clear. It prevents that bloat from happening. I think one of the biggest issues that I run into is that companies guess when it comes to who their customers are. They build these buyer personas or these ideal customer profiles and in some respects they may be fictional because they haven't talked to their customers enough and more things that meant or at all, for that matter. And one of the things I mentioned on Linkedin recently was why are so many marketers talking about the value of knowing your customers? Is it marking one on one that they want everyone to know, or is that maybe in some ways it's a subconscious admission that they're not doing the grunt work that they need to do to do better marketing? Yeah, yeah, it's amazing how many of our clients even haven't called customers recently just to check in. There there is this hesitation and fear and I'm not sure exactly where it comes from, but I mean I've hesitated to get testimonials from people before and it's ridiculous. I know I'm awesome, you know you're awesome. So why do we hesitate? So there's ways around that, to find meaningful ways to still add value to the customer and also get that feedback. It's just kind of tricky to navigate any best practices in terms of talking to customers, because I see that a lot. What do you use? What do you advise your clients on when it comes to really connecting with customers and getting the feedback and the direction that you need? Yeah, it all comes down to that relationship building and I gotta admit I am a huge introvert, so it is incredibly difficult for me. But what has worked is processing. It I have a very strict calendar and I make sure to, you know, Ping my my customers every couple months, with no ask just to hey, checking in. I saw you did ABC. Thought that was super cool. So when I go to ask for feedback, there's that relationship built. It is tough. HMM. The other really one... cover is and it. This is an interesting conversation because in many interviews that I do were focus on things you should do right, no best practices, and and that's great. It does provide people with prescriptive and tangible guidance. But the interesting about this conversation it's almost the flip side. Is that how to tell when things are going wrong or yeah, you know when things are going wrong. But I guess one of the ways that we got connected as I downloaded a knee book from your website looking at the five common cracks and BB marketing foundations and how to avoid them. Great Ebook, very prescriptive. It's a little bit of Click Bait because you see that. You know I got to read that. Obviously good marketing by a marketer. But let what do you look at some of these cracks? What are the cracks and, as important, how do you identify them. Thank you for referencing that Ebook. It was super fun to write. It is probably the top five things that we have seen in working with over a hundred and twenty companies over the last ten years, and it's things you wouldn't consider that painful until it happens so often you start seeing morale tank and a marketing department you see a lot of turnover and sometimes it's difficult for a CMO or CEO to identify what is going on in the marketing department because it's death by a thousand cuts. Hmm Right. So yeah, if you have I don't know if you have the ebook handy, because I'm trying to remember all the five cracks. Why don't you give me the highlights in terms of the cracks? What are some of the biggest cracks that marketers should be able to recognize and then go about fixing them? Busy, for busyness sakes, is a huge on. It's your marketing team running around doing tactics and it's all at the last minute. So if anybody's listening to this and they are on the marketing team kind of lower like junior or specialist, for sure you've heard it happen and your boss will come in on a Friday afternoon at four o'clock and say, Hey, we have a board meeting on Monday, I need these stats. There is absolutely no reason for that. With modern marketing, you know when those meetings are coming up. You know what you need to present. So why are these lastminute things all run it's everyone just running around like chickens with their heads cut off, scrambling, and that's scattered tactics right. There is no strategy, there's no team meeting every quarter where you all decide this is our focus for the quarter. It lends itself to another topic that came up when we were arranging this podcast, is when and how to turn off marketing tactics, because as marketers we like to be busy, we like to be seen is doing stuff and, as important, our bosses, the CMO, the CEO, wants to see us doing stuff. busyness means that we're getting stuff done. In theory, sometimes it's like you're spinning your wheels. You're doing marking, but it's not going anywhere. How do you stop marketing tactic, specially when those tactics are seen? Is a key part of the marketing mix. It's sent you. What you're doing is your in some respects admitting defeat, saying this isn't working, but it's hard to do. Who really is hard, for example, to stop blogging because your blog doesn't generate in traffics? What are the steps to saying, Whoo, Whoa, we got to stop doing this and do something different? On the emotional side, again, it does come back to that fear. There is a fear of just stopping social media. That is a big one and I pick on it a lot because a lot of bee to be companies are just using it badly. They are using it as quote unquote, free advertising, where they're just spamming people with their calls to action and that's it. They're not actually engaging. So generally when I meet with clients I'll ask, okay, how much time are you spending on social media? What is the cost of that thing? Once we get that established, which sometimes they don't know right away, great, how much is coming in right? Are you getting leads? Are you getting traffic? Are you getting anything tangible from this effort? And I know there's ghost...

...audiences, people are going to see it, there's some awareness. They're absolutely but at the end of the day, if you're really not getting anything from it, shut it off. It's so fun to watch because I used to get more pushback when I would say shut it off for a month, see if you lose anything. Most of the time they lose nothing because they weren't using it correctly to begin with. Company newsletters another one. Why are you spending time on this? No one's opening this, like look, go look at your data. They hate to shut it off. I mean the panic that goes over these founder spaces when I say no one wants to hear you gas on about yourself in the company news letter, like knock it off. It's fear. But when I put some stats to it, bring it back to that target market, all of a sudden they're doing less. So they're using less of those tools. They're getting way more from it because they know which ones are giving them a higher return. So we're realocating resources. So it's pretty magical once it happens, but you got to get over that fear. to do a marketing audit and it's very simplistic. It has nothing to do with data. It's more qualitative than anything else. And I'll ask them to list all their marketing activities and then score them from a scale of one to twenty five. So be honest. They have to be honest in terms of how they're doing, and they'll say, well, it's for okay. So what's going on? What's going well, what's not going well? And when they look at it from a top level perspective, when they get a sense of the whole landscape, then it really is an eye opener many ways, because they understand that they're doing lots of things and some of them aren't working, some of them are. But I think what happens is that no one wants to be seen is doing something different. But used to be that you never made a mistake if you bought IBM. Then it said what, you never made a buy mistake if you bought Microsoft. But with that lends itself as we're going to use Linkedin, we're you use a newsletter, we're going to use a blog, we're doing a podcast, we're going to do webinars, because every other BDB SASS company's doing that and to do something different, to go against the grain, is almost is almost seen as making a mistake and I think maybe that's the lesson for any marketers. You can carve out your own path that's unique to your brand and your customers, and that's okay. But to your point, it takes a lot of courage to do that. It does. And you brought up the toolbox earlier. What you're talking about is being that general contractor and saying what tools are we going to use to accomplish this thing? But most of the time no one even thinks about what are we trying to accomplish? They're more worried about, oh, we got to be on Linkedin, we gotta be on Tick Tock, we have to be doing emails and webinars and white papers. Maybe not like it's okay, and there's different ways to get to that end, but people forget that an end exists. A year ago, when I had people on the PODCAST, I would ask them, so, what's your take on the BDB Sass landscape or the bdb landscape, given the fact that you're in the midst of a pandemic and we're locked down? Now conferences starting to happen, people are starting to get together and meet for lunch or coffee, the normal things that were used to. I'm curious about your take on the BEDB landscape. How do you see it different from what happened a year ago? Are Year and a half ago for that matter? Do you think we're just going to go back to what we did before or from what you're seeing our companies going to do? I think they're going to do it differently. I think they're going to ask why a lot more and I've seen my clients do it as conferences start to open back up. They're finally asking, wait, why are we going to this again? Are we only going because our competitor is going to be there? Are there other ways to invest in that trade show or conference without requiring us to send our sales team there? So they really are getting...

...really lean and being really careful where they're putting their time and energy. And I think because they were forced to cut and forced to go lean, they're not gonna go crazy on that marketing blow to. They're going to be a little more careful when they add new tools. One of the things that's struck me this morning when I was doing some reading, is that there's a marketer French market name Louis Grenyer, and he was talking about conferences and the fact that most content, most programming a conferences is pretty at best okay, but what he loves is the connections and relationships. Yep, and I would love to see a conference that places a heavy am emphasis on helping people meet with each other, connect with likeminded people, facilitating places where we can compare notes and establish new connections, and the content could be secondary. I really don't go to a conference for the content. Any thoughts about how that might happen, how you might want to meet other people at conferences? That would be amazing if someone pulls that off. It's really tough to sell that for whoever's in charge of the budget. Right, because you're you're totally right. Conferences are all about the networking. I mean, when I used to go all the time, I would skip most of the sessions, no offense to any conference speakers, but I would have meetings during that time and build those relationships. So you've got to have some sort of framework for that, but I agree it's got to be about those relationship building. Thanks for all the great insight, Michelle. Where can people learn more about you? And foundations first marketing. You can go to foundations first marketingcom download that ebook that mark recommended. Definitely hit me up on Linkedin as well. I love to nerd out about marketing strategy. Thanks for all your time and thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review, subscribe by Itunes, spotify or your favorite podcast APP, and Shure by social media. To learn more about how I help bb SAS companies as a fractional CMO, strategic advisor and coach, send an email to mark and marketing spark dotcom or connect with me on Linkedin. I'll talk to you laer.

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