Is Your Marketing Strategy Just Fluff?

Seventeen priorities. Twelve things due yesterday. An endless task list. Does that sound familiar?

Let’s face it. Companies are doing a lot of marketing, but is it working? John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Does that sound like your firm? You can be doing a lot of “marketing,” but is it working?

The problem is that many marketing strategies are the equivalent of lofty goals and dreams held together with vanity metrics that don’t mean much. You know — big ideas, lots of money, but they don’t actually have any substance.

Richard Rumelt, author of Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, calls this type of marketing “fluff.”

“Fluff,” writes Rumelt, “is superficial restatement of the obvious combined with a generous sprinkling of buzzwords. Fluff masquerades as expertise, thought, and analysis.”

Unfortunately too many marketing strategies are just pure fluff:

  • Get more Likes
  • Get more social media followers
  • Post more content

The theory goes, “If we get enough people to Like us we’ll get sales.” Ha! It never works out that way!

So, how do you know if your marketing strategy is fluff? Look for these four things.

A Marketing Strategy Requires Real Insights and Data

Your marketing strategy should be grounded in data, not best guesses.

For instance, A/B testing is a useful way to figure out what’s working. Marketing is no longer a guessing game. You don’t have to gamble like John Wanamaker. Effective marketing strategies are data-driven and validated.

A Marketing Strategy Provides Clarity

The #1 warning sign of a bad marketing strategy is puffy, marketing jargon. Look out for words like customer-centric, customer-experience, and innovative solutions.

These terms may sound good, but what do you really mean? Replace the jargon with real, disciplined words that state exactly what you want, how you will get there, and how you will measure performance.

A Marketing Strategy Is Accountable to Results

The members of your sales department shouldn’t be the only ones interested in ROI. Thanks to Google Analytics, social media analytics, and sales data (most likely from your CRM system) — your entire team has the data to make smart decisions. Use the numbers to gain a better understanding of what is and is not working.

By consistently watching and analyzing how your tactics move the numbers you can continually improve performance. This helps your marketing department answer:

  • Why did this email outperform that email?
  • Why is website traffic up or down?
  • Which keywords are performing well?
  • What times of day do our social posts do best?
  • What types of campaigns generate the best leads?

This information can then be used to grow inbound sales leads and conversion rates. You’re not sitting on the sidelines. The data shows you clearly how your behaviors are working to achieve your marketing strategy.

An Effective Marketing Strategy Supports Iteration

No organization is born with a crystal ball. You define a strategy based on what you know today, and then you have to learn and adapt.

The most effective marketing strategies aren’t just asking the right questions — they’re filling in answers as you pivot and iterate.

In fact, the most effective marketing strategies employ evolution as an overriding objective. This provides space to brainstorm new ideas, test theories, measure the results, learn and grow. This is what makes the strategy work: it’s a living, breathing document of how you will grow your business.

The most successful companies understand that their marketing strategy is a primary driver of growth. And the more clearly it articulates the what and the how, the more likely they will be able to achieve their objectives. And that doesn’t sound too fluffy, now does it?

As a leader, you can prevent a fluffy marketing strategy by encouraging your colleagues to hold your strategy to a higher standard. Fluffy strategies don’t provide direction or motivation for employees. Rather, they just create confusion and cause people to spin their tires.

This isn’t a marketing puff piece; it’s a strategy! A good strategy focuses energy on intentional goals and clearly articulates the resources and steps that are required to achieve them. Fluff does not equal growth.