“You’re dropping the ball,” a client’s secretary once told me — abruptly. She explained that she wanted to redecorate their company’s foyer. I frustrated her because I had been non-committal in her request that I look at a furniture catalog. I tried to explain that she should hire an interior designer and my marketing team would be happy to collaborate on any branded elements.

“But isn’t that marketing?” she insisted.

I tried to explain that interior design and marketing aren’t exactly the same thing.

“Well, I think everything is marketing,” she retorted, crossing her arms.

That secretary reflected a common thought process — everything is marketing. Of course, a company’s image is always shaped by marketing — and of course, marketing touches everything.

But every business situation can’t be resolved by a marketing team.

Your Marketing Team Can’t Fix These Internal Issues

Whether you are working with an outsourced marketing team, a single marketing consultant, or a department inside your own organization, these factors fall outside of marketing and often limit their ability to promote your organization.

1. Fix a Flawed Product or Service

I was once working with an organization that was outsourcing delivery to a contract company that was chronically late. Customers wouldn’t get their time-sensitive products in time for events.

While I could help smooth over each customer’s frustration as they vented online, the solution was obvious. The company needed to fire their delivery contract service and find a new business partner.

When bad reviews start pouring in, companies usually look at the marketing department to fix it — as they should. Obviously, it’s the marketing team’s responsibility to change the narrative. However, the marketing team can’t redesign a product or improve your services.

Solution: Go Back to Business Development

Once the immediate public relations nightmare is resolved, your company must find a way to fix whatever occurred. You betrayed your customers. That demands action.

Fix your flawed product or service. Then, your marketing team can map a way to move forward, rebuild your message, and repair your image.

2. Resolve a Leadership Bottleneck

I once worked with an organization where I provided a series of “How To” articles for their online resource database as part of their SEO strategy. Their team members would advise on the content and verify its accuracy.

At the final sign-off, I would send the files to a particular department head — and never hear back. When I visited him in person, he would say he didn’t have the authority to sign off.

When I asked to speak with the person above him, that person would say she had already delegated it down to the department head. We talked in a loop for weeks with no one signing off on the content.

Solution: Improve Your Organizational Structure

The time, money, and opportunity lost on leadership bottlenecks pain marketing professionals because it limits the timely release of messages.

If your organization wants to share impactful promotions, you need to resolve internal conflicts to smooth the path from concept to release.

3. Just “Photoshop” It

Once, a client sent me a photo of an object taken straight at the front. However, they wanted an angled view for their final product image. When I suggested just taking a photo at an angle, they balked. They claimed, “photoshoots are too expensive!”

Then, I explained that building out the image would take a lot of time from a skilled (read: high hourly rate) graphic designer.

Whenever someone sends me a low resolution image with poor composition and says, “just photoshop it” I wonder if they missed the “speed” part of speed editing videos.

This is actually a frequent complaint from designers on the Clients from Hell website.

Solution: Manage Projects Efficiently

Photoshop is great for quickly retouching lighting, small flaws, and adding visual effects. However, reimagining a scenario moves into the realm of art.

That’s never cheap or fast.

Ideally, you should plan your promotions before you take photos. Then, your photographer will know what spaces they need to fill.

If you don’t have the necessary shots, it’s probably more cost-effective to stage another shoot — or adjust your layout — than changing large photographic elements.

4. Compensate for “Problem” Employees

I spent some time working with a group of automotive dealerships that gave me an eye-opening window into human resources. Each week, I would access the quality assurance recordings of sales calls that came through on various tracked phone numbers.

At one dealership, the phone would often ring for a long time before a certain employee answered. Then, he was gruff with the customer. Worse still, he seemed unaware of the current sales promotions.

At first, the store pushed the issue back onto marketing. They asked if there was anything I could do to make it easier for this particular salesman.

I put together a weekly, special package — just for him — printed and shipped out to the store with tips for how to explain the sale, how to talk on the phone, and notes of encouragement.

(Yes, it was printed because he never looked at emails)

Yet, he was still slow to answer, rude on calls, and uniformed.

Every other employee was doing just fine with the weekly sales meeting —where the sales manager reviewed the current ads, discussed commissions, and incentivized his sales team.

Solution: Consult Human Resources

It can be difficult to spot an employee that is bringing everyone else down. They may be subtly sabotaging your sales flow, slowing down production, or stirring up drama within your company.

Problem employees can drop solid sales leads or create negative customer relationships, leading to fewer sales — regardless of your marketing efforts.

5. Promote Without a Budget

I find that some clients think marketing services should be “free” because “the internet is free.”

I love story-telling opportunities because they create a more authentic representation of an organization. For professional settings, especially within a specific niche, releasing a case study lends credibility while creating buzz.

Each time I put one together, we start with a series of employee interviews. I discuss the project details and draft a narrative that a customer can follow.

I outline the story noting areas where specific data, testimonials, or processes need to be explained.

King-maker content costs.

Then, we choose the formats for the case study, often a printed document and a digital document. Sometimes, audio or video versions accompany those formats. For all of these formats, text, photos, and graphics must be created, reviewed, and approved.

Next, we move into the promotional materials like blog posts, social media posts, press releases, email blasts — in addition to working a list of industry contacts to see if they’ll pick up the story. All of this means we must reformat the case study into abridged snippets that preview the full story.

Finally, distribution and tracking allow me to put the story out and make adjustments to optimize.

Even if we don’t spend a single dollar buying ads, that includes dozens of hours with an associated cost.

A common misconception — with the advent of viral content and search engines — is that marketing should be “free.” Even if your budget does not include actual adspend, no promotion is really free. At the very least, you need to pay someone for the hours it takes to create a message that earns unpaid media coverage.

Solution: Talk to the finance department

Whether you are trying to create an adorable media moment or gain a thought-leader reputation, king-maker content costs. It doesn’t matter if Organizations must think about all marketing in terms of both time and ad spend — creating budgets accordingly.

How to Get More Out of Your Marketing Team

To get the most out of your marketing team, approach each project with a collaborative mindset.

  • Set Budgets at the Beginning: Marketing teams can estimate the time as part of their pitch. Go back and forth on expectations and deliverables until you create a budget and scope that fits your plan.
  • Delegate Appropriately: Make sure you have the right people sitting in the right roles. If an issue arises, consider whether the function has been placed in the wrong area of the organization or if you assigned the wrong person.
  • Take a Wide View: If your marketing efforts seem to be bumping against barriers, look outside the marketing team to see what may be obstructing the process. You may find processes and personnel that need improvement.

You can get more out of your marketing team when you shift your mindset. While it’s true that marketing touches everything, marketing isn’t everything. It’s one part of your overall business plan.