Throwing Mud Against the Wall Is Not a Viable Marketing Approach

Andrew Stanten


Too often businesses jump right to tactics instead of plotting out the big picture. They create a brochure, send out a press release, launch a website, visit a tradeshow. It’s understandable why this happens—tactics are actions. They can produce tangible short-term results, giving the impression that something bigger is being accomplished.

Unfortunately, many businesses, especially small shops, hack away at tactics in haphazard, piecemeal fashion with no overarching plan or long-range goals. The result? Fractured marketing efforts that don’t work in synchronization—and which cost more and produce less as a result.

A frustrated sales manager was in my office last month complaining about all the failed tactics they had tried in 2009 to sell more product. Now, I am a huge believer in strategically testing marketing concepts, but this company wasted a ton of time and money basically throwing mud against the wall and hoping some of it stuck.

Guess what? The tactics were ineffective. Caused channel conflicts. Confused customers. Overworked the staff. Underwhelmed the customer base. And blew a budget that was strapped to begin with.

The short answer: In today’s hypercompetitive world of information overload and crappy economics, mud doesn’t stick. Businesses must use a strategic, integrated approach to marketing, or why even bother?

Businesses must use a strategic, integrated approach to marketing, or why even bother?

What Is Integrated Marketing?

Nowadays you can’t read an article or book on Marketing 101 without hearing the term “integrated marketing.” So what is it and why is it important to your efforts? You can Google a whole library of books on the subject—but the good folks at the Eastern PA Biz Journal only give me 850 words so I’ll try to keep it simple.

Integrated marketing is making sure everything your business communicates—both internal and external—is carried out according to an overall strategic plan, with a consistent visual and verbal identity. In other words, if your marketing efforts aren’t working together, they’re working against you.

From advertising and public relations to product packaging and in-store appearance, from radio and television to website and community sponsorships, integration means consistency. Consistency gives you more for your time and money. It strengthens your message and brings more customers, more frequently, to your product or service.

Earlier this year, a client came to us asking for national PR. They didn’t buy into the integrated approach. Their expectation was that within a few days we would kick a press release over the wire, land major national coverage and sales would follow. The short-sighted nature of this dated thinking fails to recognize that a press release is a miniscule part of a strategic plan. Like everything today, PR efforts need to be fully integrated with everything else you do.

Integrated Marketing in Action

For the sake of example, let’s assume that trade shows are important for your business. (Not everyone goes to trade shows, but the process is illuminating even if you never set foot in a convention center.) Many businesses assume the trade show itself is the climax of a bunch of nail-biting about location, carpeting, signage and air travel. In reality, a trade show is merely the mid-point of a bigger plan.

An integrated approach develops a strategy around trade shows to make the most of the investment. Five months prior to the show, pitch the trade publications on story ideas in the hopes of landing coverage in a pre-show issue. Before you make the pitch, your website better be up to date. Odds are members of the media and bloggers will hit your website to see what’s new and what you are thinking before they call you back. Four months prior to the show, make dinner and lunch reservations at the most coveted restaurants in the trade show city so you can entertain your best clients. Three months prior, create a compelling print ad to run in the show issue—an ad that includes a clear push to visit a customized, show-specific landing page on your website, which you’ll also create ahead of time.

Two months before, take a hard look at your trade show materials—including signage and handouts—and update as needed. Do they match in look and in messaging? They’d better. One month prior, send an email to prospects, emphasizing your key message for the show. At the same time, contact your media list and request a demo or briefing at the show—and plan to follow up afterward. Twice. You’ll also send personal invitations to top prospects, inviting them to dinner at that restaurant you booked two months ago.

Three weeks before the show, make sure that everyone who’ll be working the booth understands the process to capture contact information for viable leads. And don’t wait until you get there to figure out who is going to Tweet or Facebook updates from the floor.

Five days after the show, send out a press release (which is also posted on your website and Tweeted) highlighting the new customers you signed on as a result of the show. (Didn’t get any? Spin it another way. The point is to keep the buzz going.) Prep the design team to create a follow-up ad touting for the post-show issue of the key trade magazine. Within two months after the show, carve out the time to conduct a preliminary P&L to determine whether you should consider going next year.

Sound like a lot of work? You bet it is. But it’s a heck of a lot more effective than throwing mud against the wall and hoping it sticks. The plan leads—the tactics follow.

Andrew Stanten

Andrew Stanten co-founded Altitude Marketing in 2004. As CEO, he ensures the right people are on board, delivering world-class marketing services to Altitude’s global client base, and staying true to Altitude’s mission, vision and values.
Andrew possesses an innate ability to process, organize and summarize massive volumes of client and market information and turn it into actionable, strategic thinking. This enables Team Altitude to get smart about a company quickly—and develop winning, integrated approaches that vault clients into a position of prominence and strength.
Andrew graduated from Syracuse University and earned his MBA from Lehigh University.