Most marketers think FUD—fear, uncertainty, and doubt—is a defensive tactic to scare customers away from a competitive option. It is, but marketers themselves become victims of the same dynamic when rapid change creates an environment where the old ways no longer work but the path forward isn't clear.

The pace of change within marketing is accelerating along two vectors: better choices, and many more options. Ironically, more and better choices all too often result in paralyzing indecision that can cripple your marketing and business development. It can also drain your budget.

Consider the example of Kim. Her small marketing group hummed along for many years, supporting executives and business development professionals. Everyone considered the firm she worked for a market leader, but when the market hiccuped, its sales dropped and concern mounted. Colleagues and friends asked whether Kim had a social media strategy ("everyone does"). Her CFO sent her articles, copying the CEO, about marketing analytics software used by major consumer brands (Kim's firm sells B2B). Even Kim's 16-year-old son piled on, saying that the company website was not optimized for SEO. Lunch with a business school classmate turned social media consultant left Kim overwhelmed by what needed to be done. Of course, with uncertainty in the industry, budgets were tight.

Barry Schwartz's research on the paradox of choice demonstrates how too many choices degrade people's ability to make decisions. Retailers like Costco recognize that phenomenon and deliberately limit the number of sizes and brands.

For B2B companies, simultaneous changes in technology, marketing channels, and customer behavior challenge a lot of tried and true tactics that worked in the past. The drumbeat that "everything is changing" implies Marketing faces fundamentally different challenges than in the past. The result is fear, uncertainty, and doubt about what will work. For organizations with a track record of past success, that kind of FUD often stands in the way of necessary action.

Many consultants benefit from FUD

Many consultants are happy to fan the flames of FUD, because it conditions CMOs to sales pitches promising a solution to "The Next Big Thing." Executives are told they "have to" get their company on Facebook and they should be tweeting up a storm. Or maybe it's Google+ they're supposed to be using. It's hard to keep up. One thing that's certain: A lot of consultants are benefiting from misdirected urgency.

As marketing departments fill up with highly focused skill sets, such as SEO, social media, and marketing automation, the typical marketing department knows more and more about less and less. It goes unnoticed that the fundamentals of good marketing are not changing. The central mission of marketing remains addressing customer needs via the innovation that your company brings to market.

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image of Bruce La Fetra

Bruce La Fetra converts limited resources into better business outcomes, such as higher revenue, profit, and customer loyalty, via strategic marketing plans that establish lasting competitive advantage.

LinkedIn: Bruce La Fetra