All the Gear, But No Idea.

Guest Author Daniella Koren is President and Founder of DKI a healthcare marketing company.

I recently went on a hiking trip in New Zealand where one of our group had the most expensive hiking gear:  boots, clothing, hiking poles, backpack.   Despite his lavish equipment, he was always the last one to arrive at the day’s destination and when it came time to tackle the trail …ultimately injuring himself to the extent that he couldn’t finish the trip!  We all chattered about the guy with “all the gear, but no idea.”

This phrase stuck, and I thought about how this applies to the business world, finding a striking parallel between the hiker and the brands we encounter.

Each year we talk to dozens of companies about their marketing challenges, what they’re currently doing, what they’d like to do and we find a common theme.  There is so much “stuff” being produced to support a brand’s marketing initiatives, often hidden in silos with hazy roles and confusing responsibilities internally. 

With the boom in digital marketing and technologic innovation, this trend is rapidly getting worse.  As companies race to innovation and chase the latest and greatest, there is a growing lack of communication and coordination about strategy, roles, metrics/measurement, data, and how it all fits together. 

Each initiative is well intentioned, and often delivers reams of data to the brand in the form of scorecards, roll-ups, and wrap-ups; excel documents, emailed highlights, etc., etc.  But at the end of the day, the brand has no idea what it all means, how it ties together, and whether all of this “gear” was even necessary to achieve primary objectives.

Although brands need to test unchartered territory, it’s best not to stray far from the marked trail.  Here are some common mistakes and ways to avoid them.


Asking yourselves if you really understand the environment, all of the direct and indirect factors that may affect efforts such as: the mindset of our targets (demographic, psychographic, decision making process), the competitive strategy, and the financial context.  I recommend testing, testing, and more testing.  It doesn’t have to be long and laborious. Even just understanding the pulse can be enough to validate the first phase of your plan.


Create a plan that includes solid answers (documented for all to share) about who the primary targets are, what the ultimate goal is at the end of the day, and what the best strategic route is to get there.   This sounds extremely elementary, however more often than not, stakeholders cannot answer these simple questions.


Bring together a proven group of experts, and give each a defined role.  Your team (internal and external partners) must understand the global vision, and then how they fit in.  Most important is to articulate guidelines for responsibilities to avoid fuzzy lines or confusion about who is doing what.  It’s another seemingly simple tenet, however 90% of the brands we encounter are not doing this.  The result:  overlapping ideas and tactics, inefficient resource allocation, and murky strategy with no clear path to results.


Snap goes the tip on the first try.  As marketers our tools need to be adjusted to the challenge.  Lots of gear, with no idea often results in mismatched strategies, messages, and channels.  A sales aid may be appropriate for a rep detail to a physican, but not as brochure-ware for your consumer Facebook page.


Draw a good data map.  Specifically with direct response initiatives, we need to carefully strategize and meticulously manage the way data flows between initiatives so ultimately it’s driving toward common goals and metrics.  This practice must be incorporated at the beginning, and weaves through every single marketing initiative launched.  One representative for the brand (person or company) should facilitate the creation of business rules and is ultimately accountable for the integrated metrics and measurement.


Puddles are typically created from too much traffic in one area, resulting in murky, stagnant water.  Just because your competitors have been there and done that doesn’t mean it’s the place to be.  The optimal territory is often a bit harder to reach, but fertile and rich for new exploration.


There is a balance – operating within the realm of proven marketing, vs. stretching beyond.  Innovation is important, there is no doubt.  Where brands are making investment errors today is when they feel the urge to go out of the comfort zone, and chase every new opportunity at once.  Carefully select 1-2 innovative ideas for each planning cycle, understand their potential value, and make sure they are seamlessly integrated with your tried and true initiatives.

While navigating the trail towards success can murky at times, if you keep the simplicity of proven marketing strategies in view, your brand can quickly add gear that helps to propel results to the next level. 

When it comes down to it, all you need is a bottle of water and a compass.

Guest Author Daniella Koren is President and Founder of DKI a healthcare marketing company. With a passion for technology and the Web, Daniella has led DKI to become an innovator in the field of Direct to Patient marketing, developing new and successful models that demonstrate positive ROI. 

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