Even experienced CMOs make marketing mistakes. It’s inevitable . . . but it’s also aggravating. After all the time and research you’ve put into developing a brilliant marketing strategy, it’s disheartening to see minimal growth.

We’ve seen many chief marketing officers grapple with less-than-desirable results and disappointing ROIs. And many times, we’ve seen these same CMOs try to fix the situation by focusing on the wrong problem. Is the tagline too boring? Is the logo forgettable? Should we be spending more on PPC advertising?

While details like these are important to review with a critical eye, big improvement only comes from asking big questions. Here are five of the most common marketing mistakes CMOs make without realizing it. These are the errors that could tank your best promotional efforts and waste precious resources. If anything on this list sounds familiar, it may be time to make a big change.

Marketing Mistake #1: Failing to Focus on the Buyers’ Needs

All too often, CMOs and other marketing professionals fall into the trap of focusing on the product. All promotional copy and strategies revolve around the message that this product is really cool or really advanced or super high quality. While this instinct makes logical sense, it’s not in line with the psychological purchasing process.

Customers don’t buy anything just because it’s a good product. They make purchases that fulfill a need, whether that need is emotional or practical. Most likely, your company has already done the research and product testing necessary to determine that your product or service fills a gap for buyers. That’s great. It means you have a solid product. Now your job is to make sure your marketing helps customers recognize your brand as the solution to their problem.

Kaiser Permanente is a great example of this. Their video and radio advertising often shares a couple bullet points about their services. However, they never make the marketing mistake of placing Kaiser at the center of the message. The greater emphasis is always on customer needs.

Marketing Mistake #2: Insufficient Market Research

If you have a marketing strategy in place, you’ve probably already done extensive marketing research. You know what your competitors are up to, you know which marketing channels are best for connecting with buyers, and you know what keywords to use. But have you also done enough market research?

Market research focuses on a target group of buyers. This includes testing methods such as:

This type of research allows you to determine the potential success of a marketing campaign or promotion before you throw all your resources behind it. Perhaps you want to find out if a specific package deal or promotion is more appealing to your target market than another. Or maybe you need to find out if your marketing accurately justifies your prices to the buyer.

Not only does market research help you avoid a major marketing mistake; it also helps you get to know the buyer better. This drives more productive communication and inspires new ideas for connection.

Marketing Mistake #3: Failing to Identify a USP

Your USP is your Unique Selling Proposition. This is not a bullet pointed list of why you’re better than the competition. It is the single, simple statement that communicates what sets you apart from everyone else in your market. And it should be at the heart of every single marketing decision you make.

Now, you may think that identifying a USP is an obvious “must do.” In reality, the biggest marketing mistake here is not that CMOs don’t name a USP at all. It’s that they do it incorrectly. 

Your unique selling proposition should be specific and factual. Consider the famous jeweler, De Beers. Before diamond rings were considered an almost mandatory matrimonial tradition, Da Beers struggled to guide buyers toward diamonds over other gems and gestures of affection. Their solution did not come with the vague pronouncement that “Diamonds are just prettier.” Instead, they came up with the legendary USP: “A diamond is forever.” A single accurate statement that makes a psychologically compelling argument for the diamond as a symbol of commitment.

Marketing Mistake #4: Inconsistent Market Positioning

Your overall marketing strategy should include specifics on how you want buyers to compare you to competitors. These specifics define your market positioning—the gap you fill within your industry.

For example, are you a luxury brand? The sustainable option? User friendly?

Consider how Whole Foods has become a massive national chain through smart positioning strategies. Rather than trying to convince you that this pricier market is another friendly neighborhood grocer, they lean into what sets them apart from the cheaper place down the road. Organic produce, all natural hygiene products, and a resource for anyone who wants to prioritize wellness.

Losing sight of your market positioning is among the top marketing mistakes for a few reasons. For one, it slows down your branding if each new campaign promotes a different angle. It also discourages buyer loyalty as customers don’t know how to make you their go-to resource for natural cleaning products or refurbished electronics.  

Marketing Mistake #5: Failure to Build Customer Loyalty

Never forget this essential statistic:

Most businesses get around 80% of their sales and profits from returning customers.

If you’re focusing all your efforts on attracting new customers, you’re investing 100% of your marketing in 20% of your potential buyers.

While you should put thought and energy into ushering new clients through the marketing funnel, never neglect retargeting. Build loyalty with referral promotions, exclusive deals, email marketing, and targeted social media ad campaigns. Not only do these efforts generate repeat business, but they can turn loyal customers into brand advocates.

What Now?

If any of these five marketing mistakes sound familiar, make fixing them a top priority. Every one of these errors is too big to ignore.

And because these are big-picture mistakes, you may discover that there is a problem somewhere in your overall marketing strategy. Maybe you went a little too light on the research or you targeted the wrong demographic. If so, it’s not too late to go back to the drawing board. Any effective marketing strategy is a cycle of monitoring, learning, and optimizing, anyway. Your adaptability as a CMO is what makes or breaks your advertising efforts.

If there’s anything we can do to help, let us know. We love seeing brilliant businesses shine, and we’re always here to help you steer clear of those troubling marketing mistakes.