Why Your Marketing Doesn’t Work

If marketing has been around since the 1960’s, why is it still so hard to get it right?

For decades a lot of very smart people have been trying to work out how to market a business.  And yet despite all that work, we’re still no clearer.  Our efforts are no more effective. Results and return on investment are still out of reach for the majority of business owners.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.

— John Wanamaker


In my experience the problem lies in the fact that we think of marketing like speed dating – we try something, it doesn’t work.  We try something else – that doesn’t work either…and so on.

Like speed dating, you might stumble across someone interesting (but if you do, it will be by accident).  Like speed dating, it might lead somewhere…but probably won’t!

Instead of trying to find a partner through a series of one night stands, we need to plan a courtship and to do that, we need to think broader than the stand alone marketing activities that most businesses engage in.


We all have our favourite marketing tactics and that’s ok.  For some it’s events, for others it’s adwords.  Networking and social media are other popular tactics at the moment.

The common mistake however, is that these tactics stand alone like an island at sea.  There’s no bridge to, or from them.  And this is the problem with most marketing plans.  It’s not that the tactics are bad – it’s just that they lack something upstream to feed them and something downstream to follow them.  In most marketing plans this doesn’t exist.


The opportunity is to design a marketing pipeline that sits above your sales pipeline.  One that engages your target market and takes them on a journey before you start a sales conversation.

It might sound harder or less direct than a calendar of stand-alone marketing tactics but there are a number of advantages to doing it this way:

  1. Clarity: In defining your marketing waterfall, you’re defining the demand generation model for your business. Once you know what it is, you know how to grow the business.
  2. Efficiency: Now that you’re not switching from one tactic to another, you can focus your budget and efforts for best effect.  Your marketing becomes a streamlined set of connected activities rather than a children’s lucky dip.
  3. A healthier pipeline. By focusing your efforts in the right places and at the right times, the results start to flow in a more consistent manner. Done well, you end up with a pipeline of prospects who are prequalified and presold.
  4. Return on Investment:  With a designed marketing waterfall in place, you’re now able to track the key metrics of acquisition and conversion at each stage.  This allows you to make informed decisions about which tactics are working, which need to be rethought and a measure of your marketing ROI.


One of the great things I love about this approach is that it can be right sized to all businesses.  I used this model at Microsoft when I ran a team of marketing managers, but I’ve also implemented it for sole-operators. It works at a scale of one, but the sophistication can grow with the resources available in the organisation.

(Marketing Waterfall design is a core component of our “Strategies for Growth” Workshops – a popular series we run for leadership teams, entrepreneurs and marketing managers – you can read more about them here).

So take a fresh look at your marketing efforts.  Are you courting your prospects or are you trying to sleep with them on the first date?  Is your marketing producing results or like most, are you randomly engaging the market and hoping that if you make enough noise it will pay off?

For most, there’s a great opportunity to design a better growth strategy. One which is easier to implement, is a better experience for your prospects and which has a more positive and direct impact on your bottom line.