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An Easy Way to Sabotage Your Marketing Strategy

And lose customers without knowing it.


“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.”— Kakuzo Okakaura

We all know what it’s like to be ignored — feeling unimportant, unhappy and frustrated. That feeling sticks.

And it’s literally the opposite of what we want our marketing strategy to do. Think about all the creative ways we try to get attention. Even pay for it.

So would anyone really ignore customers? Not anyone that wants to survive. And definitely not anyone that wants to thrive. But it still happens all the time.


The world around our companies and customers moves at lightning speed. While we’re spending countless hours on killer features, irresistible ads and disciplined pricing, subtle shifts are always happening, which cause can cause big problems if our execution doesn’t adapt.

By the time we notice, the damage has usually piled up.

I found an example of one of those shifts hiding in plain sight at a place we might not expect it.

Last week, I went to a shopping mall for the first time in several months. And I was a little excited. I know, only my teenagers are supposed to love going to the mall. But it’d been awhile and I wanted to see the newest of everything and feel the energy.

The parking lot was still mostly painful; smells and characters were the same.

It was about everything I expected except for one thing — lines. Not at checkout; but outside the stores. There weren’t any exciting new launches or exclusive giveaways going on so it was a different picture than what I was used to seeing on a routine day.

It didn’t seem like a big deal until, of course, I had to wait in one to get a birthday gift I had my eye on. Then another for some shoes I wanted to try out.

Then, after going in three or four stores, something stood out.

A few of the stores and brands were ignoring people. The lines (now required because of new capacity and sanitation protocols) had created an influence opportunity and they were missing it. A disruption in the way we interacted with their storefront that changed an interruption to an exchange.

Their marketing strategy wasn’t making it to the customer. Here’s what it looked like.


The Blind Side

Outside the entrance of one of my favorite athletic gear brands, a tall, fit greeter was wearing the type of gear we’d expect them to. On brand so far.

Since I’d already been through several other lines, I was conditioned to pay attention when I got to the front. Ready for the go-ahead to enter, to hear about new instructions, new products and new deals. I was listening. A key moment.

And then, nothing. Leaning forward, elbows on a podium, slumping— they flatly said, “Come on in” — Without looking up from their iPhone. Staring straight ahead. Opportunity missed. I was literally at the point of sale. There to see, touch, trial, try on. So we’d expect to see the best of everything — products, branding, messaging. The storefront equivalent of our formal interview outfit; not the Zoom meeting outfit.

Which is exactly what I got. It wasn’t the worst thing imaginable and didn’t ruin my day. But, that’s low bar to clear. Especially for a storefront when nobody can agree if malls are dying or making a comeback. And especially when getting attention is so hard.

We can reverse engineer their marketing strategy from the storefront — priority products in prime locations with promotions and incentives, look and feel, culture, clear messaging that makes it to the sales team.

There’s almost zero chance the marketing team or executive leadership knew this was happening. Which is exactly the point.

If they actually saw how the new capacity and sanitation protocols were changing the shopping experience, it would’ve been a top company priority to understand and make adjustments.

Making it more obvious that it was an oversight and not an accident — the next store I went through nailed it.

They knew it wasn’t an interruption now, but a valuable exchange.

Some caught the subtle shift. The change. And they dug in to adapt. They knew, not only what we’re shopping for, but how were shopping for it. Every step of it.

So how do some marketing teams catch things like that?


“People will try to tell you that all the great opportunities have been snapped up. In reality, the world changes every second, blowing new opportunities in all directions, including yours. “ — Ken Hakuta

Great companies develop this marketing tool and good ones pay thousands for it — a customer experience journey that maps out the all ways our customers interact with our product or service.

It’s a fundamental, and not an uncommon or a secret. But if you look hard enough, you can reverse engineer the companies or brands that are better at using it.

Picture all of the details you see — waiting line waiting for a ride at Disney or the experience from logging searching to buying anything on Amazon.

They find out two important things that can come from exploring the customer experience journey — where customers are dropping out or what’s motivating them to continue moving towards action. Or even better, how they become loyal fanatics.

And, in those steps we can find and prioritize the most important moments. Moments that can be improved through creativity and innovation or improved execution. Made to save time, relieve frustration, deliver delight.

By creating a thorough map, we can see every interaction with a product or service from becoming aware to buying to using; and everything in between. Think about Starbucks writing your name on the cup or the Amazon ‘Buy now with 1-Click button.’

They’re all opportunities. We can win or lose based on the overall experience they create. And, just as important as creating them, is updating them when things outside our control change.

New payment technology, new application capabilities, updated regulations — they’re always happening and changing the experience customers have with us. Which should change the way we execute our marketing strategy. It’s on us to notice.

Because, most importantly, noticing is the spotlight we give to the customers.

20/20 Vision

“Everyone from the CEO down to the contact center agent should know what it feels like to be a customer.” — Blake Morgan

A storefront doesn’t tell us everything about a brand, but it’s the first place symptoms or trends can show up.

And the shopping mall is the last place some of us would search for ways to make our customers’ lives better since most people are paying with a click right now. Nothing says that’s slowing down.

It doesn’t matter, though, how we lose the customers. If they’re ignored in real life, they’ll quit showing up online. Our brand is made up of every way our customers see and interact with us; a blind spot grows if we’re standing still while the world keeps shifting.

We don’t control what happens to us or make all the rules. And, chances are, we probably don’t like a lot of them. But, creating opportunities out of them, instead of being limited by them is a superpower.

Now we have the tool that does exactly that, using the customer experience journey to map out and shine the light on the details. Imagining being a customer, walking alongside customers, experiencing their journey — being a customer.

To find a way to make some part of their lives better; creating something unexpected that shows we care, which builds trust and loyalty. Because we know what it’s like to be ignored — and the feeling sticks.

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