Marketing and the “compounding defects” problem

When marketing fails to perform, a frenzy of fixes happens.

It’s about tactical optimization and doing things differently.

But often marketers are addressing symptoms, not root problems.

Sometimes, bad marketing is caused by a rotten foundation. Marketing execution stumbles when it’s not underpinned properly.

Michelle Tresemer describes this problem as “compounding defects”, a term that she borrowed from the construction industry.

Compounding defects happen when there is no strategic vision or purpose. This leads to marketing that isn’t focused, structured, or aligned.

Michelle says that “by the time you to tactics, there are no guardrails or no direction. Everyone is just doing what they think is best and it doesn’t work”. 

In the physical world, compounding defects are what happens when a skyscraper’s foundations are slightly off.  As the building is constructed, the foundational flaws are magnified and exacerbated.

In the marketing world, compounding defects can involve a lack of leads or sales or content that a CMO finds difficult to approve because it’s somehow off the mark.

So, how do companies avoid compounding defects?

Michelle says it starts with clearly articulating a company’s vision. Are they looking to see hyper-growth? Are they looking to be acquired? 

When that happens, it allows a company to do marketing that is laser-focused on key priorities and goals. 

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