Distractions can ruin your marketingWith so many items demanding your attention–selling, delivering for clients, keeping the office running–one doesn’t have to have Rube Waddell’s penchant for puppies and shiny objects to have your marketing get disastrously sidetracked.

As with any type of distraction, knowing what you are looking for vastly improves your ability to keep distractions in check. Rooting out common distractions when reviewing your marketing (you regularly review your marketing against strategic objectives, right?) will put you way ahead in the game.

Here are three distractions to watch for that will ruin your firm’s marketing.

1. Focusing on the media rather than the message

Regardless of what anyone tells you, your marketing success is not determined by the tools or media used; it’s about value and message. Communicating a great message less effectively is always better than communicating a mediocre message spectacularly. A laser-like focus on communicating why you bring more value to your target clients creates a foundation for improved marketing that resonates across your entire company. By knowing your message and audience exceptionally well, you can focus resources where they work best. If your ideal client spends a lot of time on Facebook, you’d better have a quality presence there. If not, spending scarce resources on Facebook is a waste. If they are on LinkedIn or at a certain conference, you should be there. Regardless, you need a compelling message. Re-focusing and pruning away no longer effective activities frees up the resources you need to do new things.

2. Trying to project value rather than reflecting it

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously quipped on defining pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Your clients are no different when it comes to recognizing quality. Your job is to help them see it so they can recognize it rather than trying to force a definition on them that works for you, but not for them. You’ll find facts more convincing to your team than to a skeptical customer. Of course, if you can put a dollar figure on the value you provide, by all means do so. However, how your client perceives value emotionally often carries the day.

A more productive approach is to help clients feel the value you provide. If your firm offers expert project management (and maybe charges more as a result), encourage clients to think about the peace of mind that comes from well-managed projects with fewer surprises. The building that results or the legal or technical guidance in the end may be very similar to other firms, but the process getting there makes your firm the best choice to work with. The client’s perception of quality reflects their entire experience with your firm, not just end deliverables and how you choose to project quality. When your clients says, “I trust you to have my best interests at heart,” you are delivering quality that is hard to resist.

Your entire organization needs to step up and ensure a quality client experience not because it is the enlightened thing to do, but because reality demands it.

3. Phantom value & the danger of commoditization

When sales reps don’t understand and believe in the value of your offer, they focus on the one lever they do understand: price. Frequent discounting is a sign that your sales reps are not communicating the value you bring, and there is no way to market around this situation. Perhaps your firm is full of poor communicators, but more often than not, they don’t communicate value because deep down they don’t believe it they way they understand it. It’s really hard for senior leadership to come to grips with this one, especially in a time of change.

I’ve met many excellent leaders who are masters at avoiding this topic. Their response is to “add more value” in the form of bundles of products and services that are difficult to sell on their own.  Adding more stuff to your offer is only “added value” if the client sees it that way. Many such bundles end up being give-aways of phantom value because clients don’t see value in the extras.  Unless you consistently win business at higher prices, you are in danger of commoditization.

Retreating to a highly specialized niche with sufficient barriers to entry may help you, but this type of strategy is inherently growth-limiting. If you are too successful or your niche is too large, competitors will flock to the same opportunity and mainstream your niche, leaving you back where you began, competing on price.

Distractions are everywhere

I’m the father of a teenager, so I know how easy it is to get distracted. Distractions can destroy your marketing and leave your firm without the new business it needs to thrive–and too often, even survive.

During marketing reviews, determine that you:

  1. Are focused first on getting the right message out.
  2. Accept that your customers define value, not you.
  3. Are not letting your value be commoditized.

If in doubt, focus on having the right message rather than how many bases you’re trying to cover until you are sure you are firing on all cylinders.