Five Marketing Mistakes

Paul NealThe CACE RoundtableLeave a Comment

We all make mistakes. They’re unavoidable but not always easy to explain—especially when others have made the same mistakes in the past and share their learning experiences. Maybe that is why lists of “top 5” or “top 7” mistakes to avoid are everywhere—the lists always seem to odd numbered, right? Well, here are 5 marketing mistakes to avoid.

  1. Believing we are misunderstood

Have you ever met the person who believes that they are always misunderstood? They usually mean well but are convinced that if people just understood them better, others would feel differently toward them. In reality though, there are very few people who are misunderstood. We don’t always like how people view us, but that doesn’t mean we are misunderstood. In fact, others may know us better than we actually know ourselves—and in awareness and perception research this is also true.

When we find out we are perceived a certain way, we can consider those perceptions and work at exploring their accuracy and the impact of them. This can be a great growing experience. We can also simply dismiss these perceptions and decide that others just need to get to know us better. So instead of reflection, we set out to win over or convince. We try to change what we think are misperceptions when in reality they are accurate. In the end, we find out that the previous perceptions are confirmed and, indeed, strengthened. Instead, we can listen, respond and improve. That is the right response to bad news in marketing research.

2.  Not giving others what they want

At the root of this mistake is our insistence that we know what is best. Not willing to hear the voice of the customer, we decide that their expectations are too great and in fact, unreasonable. But it doesn’t usually end there. Unwilling to accommodate the expectations of others, we sometimes decide that certain customers just need to be “fired”—that is popular in some leadership literature.  The problem is, while this is true in some cases, we can usually learn from every element of customer feedback. When we listen, we will often find that in most cases we can really give customers what they want. Good customer service comes from solving people’s problems.

3.  Doing what’s easiest

It’s a very common temptation to try to accomplish tasks with limited resources and as little energy as possible. Faced with a list of things that need our attention, we can easily choose to simply get them done and move on. As a reluctant home repairman, I am the poster child for this way of thinking–on a ladder and needing one tool, I decide to use the handle of the cordless drill as a hammer. It never ends well for me! This concept also applies to marketing research when we give an assignment to someone who is not well suited to complete the task or doing our own research when we don’t have the correct tools.

4. Talking about ourselves

It’s amazing that, even though most people know that others prefer to talk about themselves, how easy it is for us to go ahead and talk too much about ourselves. In fact, we are the evidence that proves the rule. However, when we pursue our goals at the expense of others or talk about ourselves excessively, we don’t ask questions and we don’t listen—two keys to learning—and marketing research is about learning answers to our business questions. When it comes to marketing a school, if we are talking about ourselves (i.e. “how qualified our teachers are”) we probably haven’t been listening to all of the research that says we should never talk about ourselves unless it is tied to something that matters to our customers. The only reason to talk about ourselves is to show how much we matter to them (i.e. “this teacher’s expertise results in his student’s love of science…”).

5. Not having a plan

Most people are, by and large, planners. We have planned our educational trajectory. We have planned our career path. We plan for summer vacations. Certainly some of us plan details more than others, but planning is the way we make things happen. No planning means we have no expectations. Planning communicates our expectations and sets out a path to achieve our goals. All of our actions—even those in the four areas above should be part of some plan. Why perform well as a school? Why provide good customer service, why listen, why conduct the best research possible? All of these questions should be tied back to a plan. As we carry out a plan, we assess, provide feedback and make adjustments. We aren’t static. Instead we are dynamic and that makes us more effective.

David Urban and Paul Neal, of Charter Oak Research discussed these marketing mistakes in a CACE Innovation Lab Webinar on October 6.



  • Paul Neal

    Paul T. Neal serves as the Director of Operations at CACE. Paul brings years of experience in marketing research and enrollment management expertise to the team. Paul has presented and been published on the use of normative data in analysis, respondent motives, trends in education and online communities, and respondent quality. Paul joined the team after serving as Senior Vice President for Advancement and Communications at Cairn University. Prior to founding research firm Charter Oak Research (now part of CACE), Paul was a Principal at Olson Research Group for 15 years as well as serving as the Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University responsible for qualitative research on political culture and U.S. Public Policy. Paul has served as an adjunct faculty member at several Philadelphia area universities. Paul is a graduate of Eastern (B.A.) and Villanova (M.A.) Universities and attended Temple University for further graduate study.

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