Your marketing sucks. No? wait…


Your marketing sucks. No? Wait… yes it does. I’ve seen it.

In the twenty-five years I’ve been working with services businesses, I’ve heard countless variations on the central theme of: “why aren’t we attracting more new customers? We’re doing the right things so why isn’t our marketing working?”

Here’s why. You’re doing it wrong.

You think you’re doing the right things, but you’re not. I’ve seen the Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn accounts; the blog posts and the monthly newsletter; the webinars and the networking groups and trust me, your marketing sucks.

Now before anyone gets their knickers in a twist thinking, “my marketing doesn’t suck at all. How dare he…” I ask you to read through the very brief list. If you are a service-based business and your marketing doesn’t suffer from at least one of the following faults, send me a sample, or post a link in the comments below. I’d love to see it, if only to say “…except for {name} firm.”

Here are 12 of the most common reasons that marketing fails for many accountants, lawyers, financial advisors, consultants and professional services firms.

1. Activity in a strategic vacuum
1000 Likes on your Facebook page means nothing if you don’t know what to do with them or why you’re collecting them.

2. Activity without measurement
What is your revenue goal and what will you do to accomplish it? How many leads per month do you currently generate and how many of those do you convert to clients? Make your goals measurable and track your results. 

3. Message with no meaning
If your message lacks substance, your cut-through is nil. Clearly state your benefits. Choose your words and images carefully.

4. Wide spread of expertise
All things to all people actually translates as nothing to no-one. Identify your market. Specialise.

5. Me-too positioning
Failure to differentiate consigns you as a commodity where lowest price is the only factor of consideration. Define your offering with the 4 - stage engagement system.

6. Blinded by the light, or, Shiny Object Syndrome
The latest thing is simply one in a long line of potential magic bullets. Magic bullets don't exist. Don't confuse them with silver bullets, which work perfectly well. Just ask the Lone Ranger.

7. Mistaking a mirror for a window
If you haven’t walked in your prospect’s shoes, how will you know what’s important to him?

8. Hogging the conversation
When your marketing is all about you or your services and how good they are, people just don’t care. It’s not about what you DO, it’s about what they GET.

9. Aiming for the hole-in-one
How many of your target market are wandering around with pockets full of money, ready to drop it on the first services provider who walks up to them? I’ve never met one. That’s the expectation of running one ad in a magazine and waiting for the deluge of orders.

10. Confusing enquiry with a sale
Nothing dulls a prospect’s ardour quicker than your assumption it’s a done deal. Heck, she may not even be a prospect yet. If you misread her position within her own sales cycle, you’ll lose her. Qualify the enquiry. 

11. Believing the myth of brand awareness
Convincing people to love your brand so they will try your service is a complete waste of time, effort and money. Your resources are better spent convincing people to try the service. Give them enough reasons to return and then they will love your brand.

12. Signs over substance or, mistaking SM engagement for buying intention 
As more studies emerge showing the impact of social media on actual sales to be somewhere between very little and non-existent, those same 1000 Likes are looking even more misleading. Prospects must actually get to know and trust you before they will buy from you.

Recognise yourself in any of these? If so, you’re not alone. Everyone has at one time or another sucked at marketing. And that includes we marketing professionals!


Steve Osborne

director at Stephen Roger Osborne

Marketing, advertising and design consultant with many years experience in small business marketing strategy; brand advertising; packaging and identity design. Expert in developing creative campaigns to attract new prospects for professional and service-based businesses. Deep and broad experience with digital and traditional media channels; sales and general business acumen

Comments (6)
Steven Freeman

Steven Freeman at

Qualify the enquiry is a fantastic point. From the very beginning you need to best match the enquiry / lead against your offering and determine if they will fit well as your ideal customer too.

Steve Osborne

Steve Osborne, director at Stephen Roger Osborne

Wendy – yes there's a world of difference between "engagement" (oh how I have come to loathe the context) and an actual sale. Unless there is a clear path from engaged enquiry to qualified prospect to confirmed sale, we can easily keep "engaging" forever.  Rebecca – do you feel you're providing/revealing too much information in your initial consultation and that the prospect is leaving before you've had a chance to make the sale? If so, the first part is a positioning problem and the second part a sales process issue. You're welcome to contact me if you need to discuss further.

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