Marketing Pitfalls of Small Brands

The most formidable challenges to our marketing lie in ourselves. They occur in how we think about and approach problems. It’s the cognitive pitfalls that hold us back, not the technology, the money, or the time. These are the most common barriers:

A Halt on Every Brink

The first, most powerful force for failure is getting right up to the river’s edge of actions that need to be taken and deciding to do something else. Once, even twice isn’t a pattern. Past that, and there’s some kind commitment to ideas and reticence to action. Ironically, inaction won’t diminish a desire for results, but the only solution is to get past the internal barrier that’s creating the external one. Committing is the actual purpose of coming to decisions. Commitment is the point.

Overnight Fame

A few months is absolutely nothing for newly minted marketing campaigns. It’s unrealistic to expect to legitimately & effectively get the phone ringing with little or no lead time and no history developing a brand following. This is where it gets obvious that even sheer number of followers isn’t a substitute for nurturing an audience over time. But the commitment to this concept of overnight success can send one trying something new every few weeks. Eventually, there’s a conclusion that nothing works. Every kid that played in a garage band wanted to be an overnight star; there’s only one trick, even for the Beatles; and that’s concerted serious work over time.

Temptation to Automation

Whether it’s continually looking for a new software program or virtual tool to deliver results, or it’s counting and tallying toward a certain threshold of likes and follows, the appeal is automated results. There are automation tools to help with marketing, but there’s no automated marketing, and there are no automated results. The belief that the right ritual – inserting the right key – will trigger an outcome commits us to simulating and replacing the work that’s really required. There’s no automatic solution; software can’t do it for us. Tools aren’t the job; they’re just tools.

Skipping to the End

Marketing isn’t sales. Sales is a pitch – a straight up proposition. Marketing is wooing, and wooing is circuitous. A belief that blogging or Twitter posting will directly make the phones ring doesn’t take into account how *we ourselves* make buying decisions. Building brand awareness, reputation, and loyalty takes time. Those are the goals of a lot of marketing efforts. If we’re committed to the notion that only a direct route to clients will prevail, we’ll end up treating our audience like a salivary buying impulse – a process, not full-fleshed human beings. The more we spend treating our audience like real people, the more successful we’ll be. Real people need some wooing to love us.


Opportunities arise continually and, if we say yes to them all, they can distract from completing any one thing. All opportunities might be good, but taking them all means a lot of boat switching. We’ll end up doing a lot of great things partially or poorly and produce precisely nothing. Getting a few things done, and well, is wiser.

The Illusion of Perfection

Perfection is a unicorn – it doesn’t exist. Spending disproportionate time on looking good is fear – fear of looking bad. The problem with that is that, the safest course is always to do nothing. That’s the natural evolution: feeding that fear of looking bad leads eventually to doing nothing. Weeks spent polishing content or tweaking the look and feel of a marketing venue ensure that we look good, but also that no one is looking at us. Instead, go live with the MVP of your marketing – the minimum viable product, meaning the level of quality needed to achieve the marketing goal. In the case of videos, for example, short pieces with modest production values are likely to do *better* than polished pieces that look official and button-up.

Starving the Process

Something always intrudes on our best intentions. We don’t do our marketing homework, because we really believe it’s less of a priority than service delivery. We believe that until our clientele begins to drop off, and suddenly we want instant results, and so one cognitive pitfall sets up another. It’s neither maximum quality of time, nor quantity of time, that makes marketing effective; it’s consistency in both. We might intend to put our best foot forward but, if we save marketing for last, and continually pull away the time and attention needed to do it properly, a part of the company starves. It’s better to set up designated times on designated days, and fixed numbers of deliverables, and then treat that as a routine process of running a business.

Underestimating the Audience

There’s a little part of our consciousness that, past a certain number of people, begins to treat them as automatons or extensions of the self. It’s a temptation to dehumanize. People aren’t standing by, ready to jump on command, when we decide to reach out to them. Instant delight is rare, and most excitement is fleeting. What builds a sustainable response is consistency, rapport, and being utterly genuine and fully available. For example, we can’t expect great results from asking questions of a social audience (e.g. a survey or poll) that we haven’t established consistent rapport with in the first place. Processes get us part of the way, but the rest is nurturing an audience continually. There’s no substitute, and no shortcut for this. If we want our audience to engage, we can’t demonstrate that we’re just using them – which we do by just using them. We need to assume the audience is smart, emotionally sentient, and rewarding of those who treat them well.

All campaigns require significant and prolonged effort. A sales campaign requires training, coaching, a compensation program, and a good script. An ad campaign requires continual optimization for content and audience behavior. E-mail campaigns need a well segmented and maintained list, and a strategy for delivering value. All of these need committed people, willing to be decisive and real. To the degree that’s true, those who lead the marketing need the same traits.

Getting MadPipe involved means someone is there to call out the cognitive biases and put the marketing effort back on track. Trust the process, we like to say, more than we trust our own temptations. Contact MadPipe to plow through the barriers that are stopping your marketing.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.

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