In the opening session for CUNA’s 2013 Marketing Management School, Barry Callen shared his “Top 10 Mistakes Marketers Make.” Callen is a renowned marketing consultant, author, teacher and speaker. His insights were both inspiring and informative. While Callen is certainly an expert, his presentation took the “anti-consultant” approach, where he shared more from his failures than his successes.Marketing mistakes - 1

Below are Callen’s top 10 mistakes marketers make:

(1) Use the word “member” without qualification. Callen was speaking to a credit union audience and he got in their faces. “Non-members assume they can’t be members, unless you tell them otherwise,” he said. “Most non-members don’t know what being a member is.” He noted that several associations with the word member are negative: gang member, club member, etc.” Callen recommended emphasizing tangible benefits of membership.

(2) Do what everyone else is doing. “Demonstrate what makes you different in every way,” Callen said. This includes ads, brand personality, dress, office, product names, hiring, etc. He
also suggested identifying the differences your prospects value the most, such as fees, rates, local, philanthropy, etc.

(3) Get approval from everyone. It seems like everyone is a marketing expert these days. That thought process leads to too many people signing off on your pieces. Callen suggested never approving your ads through more than two levels or five people. The words “committee” and “marketing” do not work well together.

(4) Don’t track results. As marketers, we sometimes stray from tracking our results. Callen
challenged the audience to measure everything: specific campaigns, net promoter scores, etc. Remember the old adage, “what isn’t measured isn’t managed.” 

(5) Think like a marketing professional. Yes, Callen told a room full of marketers to stop thinking like marketers. His message: zig when others zag. “Don’t worry about what fellow professionals think,” he said. “They are probably wrong.” Instead of thinking like a marketer, he encouraged the audience to think like a prospect; in other words, outside looking in.

(6) Use B.S. words and B.S. taglines. We use too much jargon in our copy. Think about your tagline: does it resonate; is it real? Or is it just a bunch of lame and generic words? The best
way to test your tagline or copy: say it out loud to a prospect’s face. If they laugh at you, you know you have some work to do.

(7) Use generic descriptions instead of names. “Your name is the single most important creative decision you will ever make,” Callen said. He noted that a good name can actually charge 20 to 50% more. He even encouraged naming specific products. For example, develop a name better than “checking,” “free checking” or “better than free checking.”

(8) Be too expert or too equal. “You must balance expertise and equality,” Callen commented. In other words, don’t position yourself as such an expert that you are not personable. And don’t
position yourself just like everyone else and thus have no distinction.

(9) Do one-off ads instead of campaign ideas. By this, Callen means we go from promotion to promotion or product to product. Rather than taking this approach, answer this question: what is the big idea you are trying to communicate?

(10) Try to be all things to all people. “Your target audience is NOT men and women
between 18 and 80,” Callen joked. The sad reality is that most credit unions and banks think that wide range is their target audience. The best step you can take with marketing is to refine the bulls-eye at which you are aiming.

Those are Callen’s top 10 mistakes. What about you? What mistakes have you made in marketing or do you think marketers make?

And if you didn’t have the opportunity to attend this year’s Marketing Management School, make plans to attend next year’s school in Hollywood, CA May 19-23, 2014.