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'relistening to marketing spark. Marketers like being busy. Busy suggest that we're movingthe ball forward and making the boss happy, but marketers waste a lot of timeon things that don't matter. It's tool side projects, channels that aren'tworking, and the list goes on. Michelle trusseumer is what it would calla marketing realist. A key part of her M is helping companies focus onwhat 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 bitof a twist or something that I haven't run across before, and this isa topic that you suggested around compounding defects is the idea of what happens tobe, 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, whyyou think it's such an important concept for marketers to understand and embrace, andhow you avoid this compacting defects problem. Load a question, lots and movingparts. No, it's great. A few months ago I was trying tocome up with a term or look in research to find an industry term todescribe what happens down in the weeds of be to be marketing, and I'mtalking 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 busynessfor 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 Icouldn't figure out the term for that and I actually came across a construction termand the term is compounding defects. So let me unpack that in terms ofmarketing, because it's it kind of fits perfectly. So, Mark, youare Cmo, like you were way up here right. If that is notclear, and I'm going to use your podcast as an example, if youdon't mind, if that vision, if your purpose, the reason why youexist, 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 noguard rails, there is no direction, so everyone is just doing what theythink 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 ofa building. So think of a skyscraper. When you're doing those foundations you mightthink, 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. Soby 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 wetalk marketing, if that foundation is not solid, when you get down totactics, 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? Areyou talking about all of those things in terms of establishing a rock stylard foundationupon 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'stake 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 tacticalexecution. 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 andit's going to confuse your market and you're going to have a ton of wastedtime and energy and it's going to kind...

...of destroy your brand. But becauseyou're clear, your message is clear. Who you hire, your vendors,your staff, your Va's, whoever that is, they are all clear onyour key performance indicators, like they know what you're trying to accomplish. It'sall be TOB SASS right. So no waste. But most companies we workwith 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 arenot aligned with their core vision. Interesting. What are the symptoms of compounding defects? How can an organization, the CEO, the CMO, recognize thatwhat they've been doing for the last three, six, nine months isn't working becausethe foundation wasn't right? That leads are not as qualified all of asudden or the numbers have dropped. That's a huge one. I am verytactical, so I like to be in the weeds. One of the thingsthat CMOS can watch out for is if they have a whole bunch of draftsof content sitting in their inbox or on their desktop. This is a veryspecific example, but I see it without fail at all of the BAB companiesthat 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 anebook 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 nevergets 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 itdoesn'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 thatif you have a solid foundation in place, those decisions go or no go area lot clearer because there's A. There's a clear path forward in termsof how you should do marketing. Absolutely, you just did that wonderful the Webinarworkshop on brand messaging. Right. If that is not in line,the content team has no litmus test to understand is this going to resonate withthe target audience? Am I hitting the key pain points? They're not doingthat, so they're just writing it off of their gut feel so by thetime it gets to the CMO, you're right, something is off, butyou don't have that document to check it against. So then you just neverapprove it because you're busy doing other things. Right, it's like right, sorewrite it. But having those guidelines, that foundation, so it's super clear, it makes it really easy to approve things. Here's a lot ofquestion. If you're the CMO and you recognize that compounding defects is a problemand you don't want to be there because that's a waste of people, timeand money, where do you start? It is a loaded question, butwhat are the first steps that a CMO should take, and their Marketing Organizationfor that matter, in terms of making sure that the foundations right so youcan avoid compounding defects? You know, it's so funny. This is alwaysthe 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 fallsfrom that. And I know you work with a lot of probably be tobe startups the SASS world. Sometimes the founders and CEOS aren't sure. Butlet 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 tellthis to my face, they don't have a big, lofty vision. Theyjust want to get acquired. Totally fine,...

...but getting that honesty out of themup 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'regoing 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'sjust 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 endof the day, all they matter about is leads and sales. So you'redealing with a little bit of information to tackle a big problem, and there'slots of different variables that are involved. How do you build a foundation whenthe 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 morningand decided, you know what, I'm going to solve this problem in ourindustry. There is a reason deep in there. I Save Your your Webinarand your information and send it to people because it's amazing. Like they needto dig in and figure out why they exist and what they want for theircompany. If they're just thinking in terms of leads, which is not theend of the world. It's good to track those things, obviously, butthey want to be somewhere in five years, and sometimes it is takes a littlebit of digging to figure out do you want to get acquired? Doyou want to IPO, do you want to be something very lofty like Microsoft? I was just looking at their original vision. When they started. Theywanted a desktop to computer in every home. There is some sort of vision likethat 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 abdb digital marketing like a toolbox. I mean, we talk a lot thesedays about marketing stacks and there are thousands of tools out there that can seducemarketers and distract him at the same time. Can you define what a marketing toolback toolbox looks like, what's in it and how many tools should marketersbe 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 aboutthose in a second, but I love the tool box analogy more than anythingelse. I always use the example. If you're a hammer, all yousee as nails. If you are a social media specialist, you are goingto 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 tosolve 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 andknow 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 whento 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 atool. Seo, PPC, social media, email marketing, in your cram usage, those kinds of things. Content Marketing, obviously, one of thethings 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 tryit and before long we've got, you know, accounts with dozens of differentservices and there's an overlap between many of them. A lot of them wetry once and we never use again. And then I think what happens isthat we get away from using three or...

...four core tools that deliver a lotof value because we're just checking stuff up and maybe not at getting as muchvalue from the tools that we have. So why do marketers suffer from ShinyObject Syndrome and how do you counter that? How do you get discipline and structureso 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 atthe upper levels. It's a fear of all, we're missing out. Everybodyelse is doing this thing or competitors are trying this thing. We should bedoing 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 confidenceto 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 goingdown that rabbit hole. This is really difficult, you know, down inthe weeds, because it's usually the higher ups that are asking about the newthing that they heard about it at a networking event. No joke. I'vehad 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'slike no, no, our target market isn't there, but if you don'thave it documented, you can't refer to it, so I wouldn't have powerto tell them no. But when you have that target market you can sayhey, CEO, here's our target market. This is why that tool is nota good fit. Right. If you don't do what your end upwith marketing bloat. And when covid hit, when the pandemic hit, the companiesthat were bloated kind of got screwed a bit because they don't know whatto cut first. They know they have to cut budget because they're just bloatit. So you got to get back to that lean team. Having inthat target market, the vision, everything clear. It prevents that bloat fromhappening. I think one of the biggest issues that I run into is thatcompanies guess when it comes to who their customers are. They build these buyerpersonas or these ideal customer profiles and in some respects they may be fictional becausethey 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 recentlywas 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 isthat maybe in some ways it's a subconscious admission that they're not doing the gruntwork 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 checkin. There there is this hesitation and fear and I'm not sure exactly whereit comes from, but I mean I've hesitated to get testimonials from people beforeand it's ridiculous. I know I'm awesome, you know you're awesome. So whydo we hesitate? So there's ways around that, to find meaningful waysto still add value to the customer and also get that feedback. It's justkind 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 youadvise your clients on when it comes to really connecting with customers and getting thefeedback and the direction that you need? Yeah, it all comes down tothat relationship building and I gotta admit I am a huge introvert, so itis incredibly difficult for me. But what has worked is processing. It Ihave a very strict calendar and I make sure to, you know, Pingmy my customers every couple months, with no ask just to hey, checkingin. I saw you did ABC. Thought that was super cool. Sowhen I go to ask for feedback, there's that relationship built. It istough. HMM. The other really one... cover is and it. Thisis an interesting conversation because in many interviews that I do were focus on thingsyou should do right, no best practices, and and that's great. It doesprovide people with prescriptive and tangible guidance. But the interesting about this conversation it'salmost the flip side. Is that how to tell when things are goingwrong or yeah, you know when things are going wrong. But I guessone of the ways that we got connected as I downloaded a knee book fromyour website looking at the five common cracks and BB marketing foundations and how toavoid them. Great Ebook, very prescriptive. It's a little bit of Click Baitbecause you see that. You know I got to read that. Obviouslygood marketing by a marketer. But let what do you look at some ofthese cracks? What are the cracks and, as important, how do you identifythem. Thank you for referencing that Ebook. It was super fun towrite. It is probably the top five things that we have seen in workingwith over a hundred and twenty companies over the last ten years, and it'sthings you wouldn't consider that painful until it happens so often you start seeing moraletank and a marketing department you see a lot of turnover and sometimes it's difficultfor a CMO or CEO to identify what is going on in the marketing departmentbecause it's death by a thousand cuts. Hmm Right. So yeah, ifyou have I don't know if you have the ebook handy, because I'm tryingto remember all the five cracks. Why don't you give me the highlights interms of the cracks? What are some of the biggest cracks that marketers shouldbe able to recognize and then go about fixing them? Busy, for busynesssakes, is a huge on. It's your marketing team running around doing tacticsand it's all at the last minute. So if anybody's listening to this andthey are on the marketing team kind of lower like junior or specialist, forsure you've heard it happen and your boss will come in on a Friday afternoonat four o'clock and say, Hey, we have a board meeting on Monday, I need these stats. There is absolutely no reason for that. Withmodern marketing, you know when those meetings are coming up. You know whatyou need to present. So why are these lastminute things all run it's everyonejust running around like chickens with their heads cut off, scrambling, and that'sscattered tactics right. There is no strategy, there's no team meeting every quarter whereyou all decide this is our focus for the quarter. It lends itselfto another topic that came up when we were arranging this podcast, is whenand how to turn off marketing tactics, because as marketers we like to bebusy, 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'respinning your wheels. You're doing marking, but it's not going anywhere. Howdo you stop marketing tactic, specially when those tactics are seen? Isa key part of the marketing mix. It's sent you. What you're doingis your in some respects admitting defeat, saying this isn't working, but it'shard to do. Who really is hard, for example, to stop blogging becauseyour 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 oneand I pick on it a lot because a lot of bee to be companiesare just using it badly. They are using it as quote unquote, freeadvertising, 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 isthe cost of that thing? Once we get that established, which sometimes theydon't know right away, great, how much is coming in right? Areyou getting leads? Are you getting traffic? Are you getting anything tangible from thiseffort? And I know there's ghost...

...audiences, people are going to seeit, 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'sso fun to watch because I used to get more pushback when I would sayshut it off for a month, see if you lose anything. Most ofthe 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'sopening this, like look, go look at your data. They hate toshut it off. I mean the panic that goes over these founder spaces whenI say no one wants to hear you gas on about yourself in the companynews letter, like knock it off. It's fear. But when I putsome stats to it, bring it back to that target market, all ofa sudden they're doing less. So they're using less of those tools. They'regetting way more from it because they know which ones are giving them a higherreturn. 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'svery simplistic. It has nothing to do with data. It's more qualitative thananything else. And I'll ask them to list all their marketing activities and thenscore 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 toplevel perspective, when they get a sense of the whole landscape, then itreally is an eye opener many ways, because they understand that they're doing lotsof things and some of them aren't working, some of them are. But Ithink what happens is that no one wants to be seen is doing somethingdifferent. But used to be that you never made a mistake if you boughtIBM. Then it said what, you never made a buy mistake if youbought 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 doinga podcast, we're going to do webinars, because every other BDB SASS company's doingthat and to do something different, to go against the grain, isalmost is almost seen as making a mistake and I think maybe that's the lessonfor any marketers. You can carve out your own path that's unique to yourbrand and your customers, and that's okay. But to your point, it takesa lot of courage to do that. It does. And you brought upthe toolbox earlier. What you're talking about is being that general contractor andsaying what tools are we going to use to accomplish this thing? But mostof 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, wegotta be on Tick Tock, we have to be doing emails and webinars andwhite papers. Maybe not like it's okay, and there's different ways to get tothat 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, giventhe 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 forlunch or coffee, the normal things that were used to. I'm curious aboutyour take on the BEDB landscape. How do you see it different from whathappened 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 orfrom what you're seeing our companies going to do? I think they're going todo it differently. I think they're going to ask why a lot more andI've seen my clients do it as conferences start to open back up. They'refinally asking, wait, why are we going to this again? Are weonly going because our competitor is going to be there? Are there other waysto invest in that trade show or conference without requiring us to send our salesteam there? So they really are getting...

...really lean and being really careful wherethey're putting their time and energy. And I think because they were forced tocut and forced to go lean, they're not gonna go crazy on that marketingblow to. They're going to be a little more careful when they add newtools. One of the things that's struck me this morning when I was doingsome reading, is that there's a marketer French market name Louis Grenyer, andhe was talking about conferences and the fact that most content, most programming aconferences is pretty at best okay, but what he loves is the connections andrelationships. Yep, and I would love to see a conference that places aheavy 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 thecontent 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 otherpeople 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. Imean, when I used to go all the time, I would skip mostof the sessions, no offense to any conference speakers, but I would havemeetings during that time and build those relationships. So you've got to have some sortof framework for that, but I agree it's got to be about thoserelationship building. Thanks for all the great insight, Michelle. Where can peoplelearn more about you? And foundations first marketing. You can go to foundationsfirst marketingcom download that ebook that mark recommended. Definitely hit me up on Linkedin aswell. I love to nerd out about marketing strategy. Thanks for allyour time and thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If youenjoyed the conversation, leave a review, subscribe by Itunes, spotify or yourfavorite podcast APP, and Shure by social media. To learn more about howI 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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