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.

He it's Mark Evans and you're.Listening to marketing sport marketers like being busy bus, he suggest thatwe're moving the ball forward and making the boss Hap but marketers wastea lot of time on things that don't matter it's too side projects channelthat are working and the list goes on. Michelle Tressamer is what I would calla marketing realist. A key part of her MO is helping companies focus on whatmatters welcome to Marcene Spark Michelle. Thank you so much. I'm reallyexcited to be here. Let's start with something, that's alittle bit of a twist or something that I haven't run across before, and thisis a topic that you suggested around compounding defects the idea of whathappens to be to be marketing tactics when the vision and leadership strategyaren't clear. I would love it if you could provide a definition ofcompounding defects, why you think it's such an important concept for marketersto understand an embrace and how you avoid this compacting defect, problem,load of question bots and moving parts. No, it's great. A few months ago I wastrying to come up with a term or look and research to find an industry termto describe what happens down in the weeds of be to be marketing, and I'mtalking tactics, I'm talking your so titles and descriptions, every singletweet I couldn't figure out what it was that was causing all of that businessfor the sake of being busy, and this obsession with the shiny objects and Ad-let's add tick, chocolates, add all of this stuff, and I couldn't figure outthe term for that and I actually came across a construction term and the termis compounding defects. So let me unpack that in terms of marketing,because it's it kind of fits perfectly so mark you are smo like you are way uphere right. If that is not clear and I'mgoing to use your podcast as an example, if you don't mind if that vision, if your purpose, thereason why you exist is not clear, so that's at the foundational level ofmarketing by the time you get all the way down to tactics. There are no guardrails. There is no direction. So everyone is just doing what they thinkis best and it doesn't work so the constructionterm compounding defects. Let me back it up. This is if you're building afoundation of a building so think of a skyscraper when you're doing thosefoundations. You might think. Oh I'm, just like a quarter of an inch off nobig deal well by the time you get to the thirtieth floor. That quarter of aninch has compounded with each and every floor. So by the time you get up thereyou're off by several feet, or you know, and it's going to lovel and go to fallapart. So when we talk marketing, if thatfoundation is not solid, when you get down to tactics, it all falls apart. SoI think I need you to elaborate. When you talk about the foundation, are youtalking about the vision? Are you talking about strategic plans? Are youtalking about goal setting? Are you shocking about all of those things interms of establishing a rock stolid foundation upon which typical executioncan happen? We actually consider there's twenty marketing foundations,but what you're talking about? Really it's? The leadership and managementlevel, so let's take your podcast and walk through that, if you don't mind soway up at the top, like you are clear, on Beta, be Sass right and you've gotall these podcast SESU episodes way down at the bottom in tacticalexecution right. So if you are not clear on B to be Sass, you know sixmonths from now, you might have topics all over the place, and it's going toconfuse your market and you're going to have a tone 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 hireyour vendors, your staff, your vas, whomever that is, they are all clear onyour key performance indicators like they know what you're trying toaccomplish. It's all be to be SASS right, this so no waste, but most companies wework with. They don't do that. They are not communicating the vision, the KPIS,the goals down stream, so they're hiring the wrong skill sets that arenot aligned with their core vision. Interesting. What are the symptoms ofcompounding defects? How can an organization, the CEO, the C, Morecognize that what they've been doing for the last three six nine monthsisn't working, because the foundation wasn't right? That leads are not asqualified all of a sudden or the numbers have dropped. That's a huge one.I am Verya tactical, so I like to be in the weeds. One of the things that COScan watch out for is if they have a whole bunch of drafts of contentsitting in their in box or on their desktop. This is a very specificexample, but I see it without fail at all of the Bataban es that don't havethe stuff together. So if the C ml, so your role, for example, if you don'tfeel good about approving a white paper or an e book- and you just think youknow technically, this is written really well, but something's not quiteright about it. It just sits there and it never gets approved. That's interesting because in somerespects it sounds like got feel like when you see con is a Mo and you needto approve it, and it doesn't doesn't like your spider. Sense. GOES OFF YES,yeah! 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 havea solid foundation in place, those decisions go or no go. Are A lotclearer because there's a there's a clear path forward in terms of how youshould do marketing absolutely. You just did that wonderful web in ourworkshop on Brand Messaging Right. If that is not in line the content teamhas no litmus test to understand. Is this going to resonate with the targetaudience? Am I hitting the key pain points they're not doing that sothey're, just writing it off of their gut feel. So by the time it gets to theC Mo you're right. Something is off, but you don't have that document tocheck it against. So then you just never approve itbecause you're busy doing other things right. It's like right, ill, rewrite it,but having those guidelines that foundation. So it's super clear. Itmakes it really easy to approve things. Here's a little question: If you the CMo- and you recognize that compounding defects is aproblem and 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, but what are the firststeps that a c Mo should take and their Marketing Organization for that matterin terms of making sure that the foundations right, so you can avoidcompounding defects? You know it's so funny. This is always the hardest thingto do. It's talking to the founder and the CEO. It starts with that vision forwhere the company is going. Everything else falls from that, and I know youwork with a lot of probably be to be startups. The SASS world, sometimes thefounders in CEOS, aren't sure, but let me give you an example that I'veexperienced a lot in the past year. It's in terms of acquisition, some CEOS and I've had them tell thisto my face. They don't have a big lofty vision. They just want to get acquiredtotally fine, but getting that honesty...

...out of them up front completely changeshow we build that marketing infrastructure. We know. Okay, we gotto push it hard for twelve to eighteen months, because we're going to getacquired, that's a very different strategy than thinking okay, five yearsfrom now, we need to be in. You know this position, it's just different, howyou market, you're thinking more long term instead of short term, we need tolook like big deals to our. Our price goes up right. What about when you run into anentrepreneur or co founder who, when you ask them about their goals, theysay more leads. That's it. We maybe they're not sophisticated from a salesand marketing perspective. At the end of the day, all they matter about isleads and sales, so you're dealing with a little bit of information to tackle abig problem and there's lots of different variables that are involved.How do you build a foundation when the entrepreneur or CO founder doesn't giveyou much guidance? Sometimes it's like pulling teeth not going to lie. Thereis a reason that founder woke up one morning and decided you know what I'mgoing to solve this problem in our industry. There is a reason deep in there. I SaveYour Rebana and your information and send it to people, because it's amazinglike they need to dig in and figure out why they exist and what they want fortheir company if they're, just thinking in terms of leads which is not the endof the world, it's good to track those things. Obviously, but they want to besomewhere in five years, and sometimes it is takes a little bit of digging tofigure out. Do you want to get acquired? Do YOU WANT TO IPO? Do you want to besomething very lofty? Like Microsoft, I was just looking at their originalvision when they started they wanted a desktop computer in every home. There is some sort of vision like thatthat the founder has they may be just haven't articulated it. Yet if you've got a foundation in place andyou've got a strategic and tactical vision, I one of the things I do wonderabout is the idea of building a B TB digital marketing. Like a tool box, Imean we talk a lot these days about marketing stacks and there arethousands of tools out there that can seduce marketers and distract him at the sametime, can you define what a marketing tool back to box looks like what's init and how many tools should marketers be using realistically there's dozenswe can have in our our portfolio? But how big is it? I guess? That's thethat's the basic question sure in my brain there are eightdigital marketing tools and I'll talk about those in a second. But I love thetool box analogy more than anything else. I always use the example. If YourHammer, all you see, is nails. If you are a social media specialist, you weregoing to try to use social media to solve all of your leg generationproblems, if you're in so you're, going to look for organic search and so tosolve the problem as marketers and I've seen this happen with companies. Weneed to take that step back and be more like the general contractor and knowwhen to use each of those tools. It's really difficult because you knowas c Mos, 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 so P, pc social media, email marketing and yourcra usage, those kinds of things content marketing. Obviously, one of the things that a lot ofmarketers battle is what we would call Shiny Object Syndrome. We see somethingwe get enchanted by it. We try it and beforelong we've got, you know, accounts with dozens of different services andthere's an overlap between many of them, a lot of them. We try once and we neveruse again and then I think what happens is that...

...we get away from using three or fourcore tools that deliver a lot of value because we're just checking stuff upand maybe not getting as much value 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 andstructure so that you can focus on the tools that matter? It's bizarre. Wehave analyzed this for years and I think it comes down to fear at theupper levels. It's a fear of a we're missing out. Everybody else is doingthis thing. Our competitors are trying this thing. We should be doing thething. It's all fear, but if your data you'retracking, is hooked up and you are lars- are focused on your target markets thatfixes all of that fear. You know you can have the confidence to say you knowwhat our target market is it ready for that they're not using it. We are notgoing 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 askingabout the new thing they heard about it at a networking event, no joke I've hadcos come into my office and say: Hey my niece, just graduated college see saidwe absolutely have to be on instagram right. It's like no! No our targetmarket isn't there, but if you don't have it documented, you can't refer toit, so I wouldn't have power to tell them no. But when you have that targetmarket you can say hey, so here's our target market. This is why that tool isnot a good fit right. If you don't do what you end upwith marketing bloat and when coid hit, when the pandemic hit the companiesthat were bloated kind of got screwed a bit because they don't know what to cutfirst, they know they have to cut budget because they're just blowed it s. Yougot to get back to that lean team. Having an that target market, thevision, everything clear it prevents that bloat from happening. I think oneof the biggest issues that I run into is that companies guess when it comesto who their customers are. They build these bier personas or these idealcustomer profiles and in some respects they may be fictional because theyhaven't talked to their customers enough and one of the things Imentioned or at all for that me, and one of the things I mentioned on Linkinrecently was: why are so many marketers talking about the value of knowing yourcustomers? Is it marking a one o one that they want everyone to know, or isit maybe in some ways it's a subconscious admission that they're notdoing the grunt work that they need to do to do better marketing yeah? It'samazing how many of our clients even haven't called customers recently justto check in there? There is this hesitation and fear and I'm not sureexactly where it comes from, but I mean I've hesitated to get testimonials frompeople before and it's ridiculous. Like I know, I'm awesome, you know you'reawesome, so why do we hesitate so there's ways around that to findmeaningful 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 talkingto customers, because I see that a lot. What do you use? What do you adviseyour clients on when it comes to really connecting with customers and gettingthe feedback and the direction that you need? Yeah? It all comes down to thatrelationship building and I got to admit I am a huge introvert, so it isincredibly difficult for me, but what has worked is processing it. I have avery strict calendar and I make sure to you know Ping, my my customers everycouple months with no ask just a hey checking in I saw you did ABC thoughtthat was super cool. So when I go to ask for feedback there's thatrelationship built,... is tough m. The other day I want to cover is- and II this is an interesting conversation, because I'm in many interviews that Ido were focused on things- you should do right, know best practices and andthat's great it does provide people with prescriptive and tangible guidance.But the interest thing about this conversation. It's almost the flip sideis that how to tell when things are going wrong, or you know when thingsare going wrong, but I guess one of the ways that we got connected is Idownloaded a neebor from your website, looking at the five common cracks and BB marketing foundations and how to avoid them great e book veryprescriptive. It's a little bit of Click Bait because you see that you goin. I got to read that obviously good marketing by your marketer. But what doyou look at some of these cracks? What are the cracks and as important? How doyou identify them? Thank you for referencing that e book.It was super fun to write. It is probably the top five things that wehave seen in working with over a hundred and twenty companies over thelast ten years, and it's things you wouldn't consider that painful until ithappens so often you start seeing morale tank and a marketing department.You see a lot of turnover and sometimes it's difficult for a c Mo or CEO toidentify what is going on in the marketing department, because it'sdeath by a thousand cuts m right. So yeah, if you have, I don't know if youhave the Bok Candy, because I'm trying to remember all the five cracks. Whydon't you give me? The highlights in terms of the cracks on are some of thebiggest cracks that marketers should be able to recognizeand then go about fixing them busy for business. Sakes is a huge one. It'syour marketing team running around doing tactics, and it's all at the lastminute. So, if anybody's listening to this- and they are on the marketingteam kind of lower, like junior or specialist for sure you've heard ithappen- your boss will come in on a Friday afternoon at four o'clock andsay: Hey. We have a board meeting on Monday. I need these stats. There is absolutely no reason for thatwith modern marketing. You know when those meetings are coming up. You knowwhat you need to present. So why are these last minute things all right?It's everyone just running around like chickens with their heads, cut offscrambling and that's scattered tactics right. There is no strategy, there's noteam meeting every quarter where you all decide. This is our focus for thequarter. It lends itself to another topic that came up when we were arranging thispodcast is when and how to turn off marketing tactics because, as marketerswe like to be busy, we like C is doing stuff and as important our bosses, thec Mo the CO, wants to see us doing stuff business means that we're gettingstuff done in theory. Sometimes it's like you're spinning your wheels you'redoing marketing, but is not going anywhere. How do you stop marketingtactic, especially when those tactics are seen is a key part ofthe marketing mix. Essentially, what you're doing is your in some respectsadmitting defeat saying this isn't working, but it's hard to do. It reallyis hard, for example, to stop blocking because your blood doesn't generate intraffic. What are the steps to saying Ho wo? We got to stop doing this and dosomething different on the emotional side. Again, it does come back to thatfear. There is a fear of just stopping social media. That is a big one, and Ipick on it a lot because a lot of bebb companies are just using it badly. Theyare using it, as quote unquote, free advertising where they're just spammingpeople with their calls to action, and that's it they're, not actuallyengaging so generally. When I meet with clients I'll ask okay: How much timeare you spending on social media? What is the cost of that thing once we get that established, whichsometimes they don't know right away great? How much is coming in right? Areyou getting leads? Are you getting traffic? Are you getting anythingtangible from this effort and I know...

...there's ghost audiences people aregoing to see it. There's some awareness there absolutely, but at the end of theday, 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 amonth, see if you lose anything most of thetime they lose nothing because they weren't using it correctly to beginwith company newsletters another one. Why are you spending time on this? No one's opening this like look, golook at your data. They hate to shut it off. I mean the panic that goes overthese founders faces. When I say no one wants to hear you gas on about yourselfin the company newsletter like knock it off. It's fear, but when I put somestats to it, bring it back to that target market, all of a sudden, they'redoing less so they're using less of those tools they're getting way morefrom it because they know which ones are giving them a higher return. Sowe're relocating resources. So it's pretty magical once it happens, but yougot to get over that fear. One of the things that I do when I have a newcline to do a marketing audit and it's very simplistic- it has nothing to dowith data, it's more qualitative than anything else and I'll ask them to listall their marketing activities and then score them from a scale of one to five.So be honest, they have to be honest in terms of how they're doing and they'llsay. Well, it's four okay! So, what's going on? What's going well, what's notgoing well and when they look at it from a top level perspective when theyget a sense of the whole landscape, then it really is an eye opener manyways, because I understand that they're doing lots of things and some of themaren't working. Some of them are, but I think what happens is that no one wants to beseen as doing something different. It used to be that you never made amistake if you bought IBM Ben, it said well, you never made it by mistake ifyou bought Microsoft, but what that lends itself is we're going to uselinked in where you nees and newsletter we're going to use a blog, we're doingdo a podcast we're going to do webinars, because every other Btbai is doing thatand to do something different to go against. The grain is almost is almostseen as making a mistake, and I think maybe that's the lesson for anymarketers. You can carve out your own path, that's unique to your brand andyour customers and that's okay, but to your point it takes a lot of courage todo that. It does and you brought up the tool box earlier. What you're talkingabout is being that general contractor and saying what tools are we going touse to accomplish this thing, but most of the time, no one even thinks aboutwhat are we trying to accomplish? They're more worried about: Oh, we gotto be on Linton. We got to be on Tick Tock. We have to be doing emails andwebinars and white papers, maybe not like it's okay and there's differentways to get to that end. But people forget that an end exists. A year ago, when I had people in thePODCAST, I would ask them so: what's your take on the BB SASS landscape orthe BB landscape, given the fact that you're in the midst of a pandemic andwe're locked down now conference is starting to happen,people are starting to get together and meet for lunch or coffee, the thenormal things that we're used to I'm curious about your take on the BB landscape. How doyou see it different from what happened a year ago, a year and a half ago, forthat matter? Do you think we're just going to go back to what we did beforeor from what you're seeing are companiesgoing to do? I think they're going to do it differently. I think they'regoing to ask why a lot more and I've seen my clients do it as conferencesstart to open back up they're. Finally, asking wait: why are we going to thisagain? Are we only going because our competitor is going to be there? Arethere other ways to invest in that Trasho or conference without requiringus to send our sales team there?...

So they really are getting really leanand being really careful where they're putting their time and energy, and Ithink because they were forced to cut and forced to go lean, they're notgoing to go crazy on that marketing, bloat to they're going to be a littlemore careful when they add new tools. One of the things that's struck me thismorning, when I was doing some reading, is that there's a marketer Frenchmarker named Louis Grenier, and he was talking about conferences and the factthat most content, most parem conferences, is pretty at best okay.But what he loves is the connections and Relationships Yep, and I would loveto see a conference that places a heavy am emphasis on helping people meet witheach other. Connect with like minded people facilitating places where we cancompare, notes and establish new connections and the content could besecondary. I really don't go to a conference with the content, anythoughts Aboutt, how that might happen, how you might want to meet other peopleat conferences. That would be amazing if someone pulls that off. It's really tough to sell that forwhoever's in charge of the budget right pens, your you're totally rightconferences are all about the networking I mean when I used to go allthe time. I would skip most of the sessions no offense to any conferencespeakers, but I would have meetings during that time and build thoserelationships, so you've got to have some sort of framework for that, but Iagree: it's got to be about this relationship building thanks for thegreat insight Michelle. Where can people learn more about you andfoundations? First Marketing. You can go to foundations first marketing comdownload that e book. That mark recommended definitely hit me up on Lindon as well.I love to nerd out about marketing strategy thanks for all your time and thanks forlistening to another episode of marketing spark if you enjoyed theconversation, leave a review subscribe by Itunes, spotify or your favoritepodcast, APP and sure by social meeting, to learn more about how I help TV SAScompanies as a fractional cm strategic advisor and coach send an email to marka marketing spark occo or connect with me in, like that I'll talk to you later, I.

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