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SPECIAL SERIES: Back to basics

Over the past several months we’ve noted that our posts that “remind” readers of the basics aspects of good marketing get the most views.   We also see in the stats these are referred to repeatedly over time.

It’s not that readers don’t appreciate the newer stuff, such as our unique marketer’s angle on current events (such as the tanking of Tiger Woods), or even our willingness to sometimes sacrifice sacred cows (like last week’s view on the PTI).   

Yet our more loyal readers say they appreciate most the “oldies but goodies”, or reminders of some of the marketing basics they learned in school, but so often forget to employ.  Or, strategies and tactics they don’t want to admit are no longer sexy (in this new era of sexting…) even though they still work.

 Well, we are listening, and are launching this short series of posts once a week over the next few weeks that will hopefully serve as a refresher.  Our goal is to remind us that there are benchmarks and guidelines that should be followed for any marketing plan, even post-Twitter ones.  (Yes, Gen Y’ers, this is for you, too!)

We are also inviting some of our regular contributors and other marketing mavens to share their insights into what still works and what no longer flies via guest posts or comments.  Importantly, we will try to keep these short & sweet.

Check back next week for our first real post on this short special series!


Folly is for clowns, not marketers
Folly is for clowns, not marketers

Our count-down series continues!  We found that folks just love lists.  Our blog stats show that the “listy” posts are the best read by far.  It just goes to prove that long-winded explanations of things just doesn’t cut it today.

Having been raised with advertising guru David Ogilvy’s 1980s “long copy sells” adage,  now we learn that the leading Generation Yer marketing guru blogger Seth (it’s OK, check out the competition at: favors short & sweet…and bulleted.  So here we go….

 After the amazing 10 MARKETING MISTAKES (post 8/23), followed by our surprising SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESS (9/12), we will now address some major follies…in no particular order of foolishness:

  • FOLLY:  After we manufacture our widget, we will put together the marketing plan.”

FACT:  Perhaps that’s the most common mistake marketers make.  Always think of the cement company’s dictum: find a need, then fill it.  If there is no need for your product, no amount of marketing will help you sell it.

  • FOLLY:  “My nephew can do it for cheap.”

FACT:  This is a common approach in family companies trying to keep the lid on costs.  Unless your newphew is an EXPERT on brochures, web sites, category management, what have you, let a professional do it.  Unprofessional results, especially in graphics and image, are immediately and permanently apparent.

  • FOLLY:  “If we give it away for free, then who’ll buy it?”

FACT:  My mother often used this old adage about girls who live with their boyfriends before marriage:  “Why would he buy the cow if he can get the milk for free?”.  While this might be the case with lust,  it’s apparently not so with marketing.   It has been proven that most of the time, if you give a customer/client  something smallish but useful, at no obligation, they’ll come back.   This has been particularly so with web business-to-business, such as white papers, trend reports, guide books, even opinions, that you can download for nothing. 

Afterward, of course, you are invited to join the organization or pay for an annual subscription, etc.  By that time you are typically hooked on the stuff or at least feeling guilty, so you bite… If no one signs up or buys what you are offering, at least you know the product is no good right away.

  • FOLLY:  “If we had a larger budget, we would have gotten better results.”

FACT:  This is the plague of big companies with lots of money to waste.  We have seen more useless stuff come out of those with endless resources than from companies that actually have to use imagination and moxey to get their message across.  The smaller companies are typically better at measuring results also, which is what it’s all about.

  • FOLLY:  “We want everyone Twittering about us!”

FACT:  This is a new one since the explosion of social media.   We find many marketers today want the full plate of media options just so they can be on-trend.  At a recent trade show (posts 10/2 and 10/7) we learned that some produce companies were asking folks to follow them on Twitter.  When we asked them “Why?”, they couldn’t respond strategically.  Perhaps they think people are dying to read about what their melons are up to at any time of the day…

Folks, please have a good strategy before you adopt every new trend.  Even Mylie Cyrus knew when to give up Twitter.



Last month we listed the top ten MISTAKES MARKETERS MAKE, and we promised this month we would tackle the more uplifting topic of SUCCESS.  (Thankfully, only SEVEN of them…) Technically, doing the opposite of  “Mistakes” should yield success,  but here we address these more specifically:

1.  WALK THE TALK.  This may seem like a “Duh…” but it’s surprising how many companies say they practice marketing but have no actual marketing department, manager or function.  The successful marketer knows the difference  between sales and marketing, and builds the latter in his/her organization to support the sales efforts.

2. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH.  Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating book Outliers describes a study which proves that to achieve genius level in any profession — be it doctor, lawyer, and yes, even a Rock band — you need to put in a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice.  Successful marketers don’t sit on their laurels and are always honing their craft.

3.  LEARN TO LOVE METRICS.   Most marketers love the power of  words but many hate the push of numbers.  Successful marketers know that only by setting and measuring specific goals can they be assured their marketing plan works…or if they should start looking for another job.

4.  SEEK SOLUTIONS.   Top marketers know they’re not in the business of  manufacturing or distributing widgets.  They’re in the business of providing solutions, either for actual or merely perceived problems.   They live by the famous cement company tag line:  find a need and fill it.

5.  EMBRACE THE NEW.  Smart marketers realize that while they may not personally appreciate FaceBook,  Twitter, Del.ici.ous, or any other of the myriad social and viral networking tools out there today, they know  what they can or cannot do to market a specific product or service.  Then, they make a dispassionate decision whether or not to employ them. 

6.  HARNESS  THE POWER OF PR.  The new social networking tools are popular and powerful because they’re not like advertising, but simply a general concensus on the merits of something.   Advertising may be effective at creating awareness, but there is nothing quite as convincing as a non-paid endorsement from a third party (PR).  Savvy marketers  try to get the “buzz” out about themselves and their products as often as possible.

7.  CRAFT A CRISIS PLAN.  No matter how brilliant a marketing plan or its execution is, it can all come tumbling down during a crisis.  We have seen this numerous times when a product contamination or foodborne illness can bring an entire industry to its knees.   Successful marketers rely on two complete plans:  their marketing AND their crisis one.



Clients today often want a “quick fix” to business challenges, and marketing is one of them.  Importantly, many are afraid of making a mistake.  Marketing is one of those sciences many think they don’t know much about, but in fact, a lot of it is just common sense.  While we tend to not like these types of  lists (quick fixes!), a client asked, so we are obliging, of course. (When the client says “Jump!”, we jump…) Here it is, with some repeats of previous posts…

1.  LACK OF A PLAN.  Many companies treat marketing activities as a “do-it-as-it-comes-along” proposition, resulting in efforts that don’t meet  goals, not to mention spending more than you have.  You have to have an annual plan, and then to WORK that plan. 

2.  NO (OR BAD) POSITIONING.  This is a complex concept to explain here, so we urge you to read the older but still excellent marketer’s “bible”:  Positioning:  The Battle for Your Mind (Al Reis & Jack Trout.)  Recognize that your widget may be competing with myriad  other widgets, and unless you give it proper branding  in a competitive marketplace, chances are you won’t sell one.  Or, maybe worse,  you’ll sell it for a lot less than you’d like. 

3.  CONFUSING STRATEGIES VS. TACTICS.  This one is easy to confuse but it’s very important to know the difference.  A proper marketing plan starts with an objective, such as:  “Create awareness and demand for Best Widgets with target customers.”  The  strategy follows, i.e.   “Reach women aged 25-45.”  Then your tactic is what you are going to do: the activity to meet the strategy and objective,  i.e.  “Advertise monthly in O magazine.”  Never start with tactics, as we have seen so many do.  This is the correct order of planning to ensure you are always “working your plan.”

4.  THE ONE-AD CAMPAIGN.   Unless you are advertising during half-time in the Super Bowl…and even then (assuming you can afford that, and then you are probably not reading this) the key to advertising success is in the formula:  frequency + reach = impact.  Tests have shown that three consecutive print insertions, for example, provide the minimum frequency to even be noticed.  And this is assuming your ad is compelling, well-written etc.  Reach would then be  circulation, or how many people will see your message.  Always try for the most of both.  If you  have the budget for only one ad, unless you are doing charity, don’t spend it.  (BTW, an oft-quoted mininum expenditure to be successful in consumer mass media is $3 million.  With the right targeting and social networking you will never spend that)

5. A “ONE-HORSE SHOW”.  This is the common mistakes clients make where they think that ONE thing they do will work.  Successful marketing is the integration of several tactics (see above) that, working together over time, achieve results.

6.  MISUNDERSTANDING SALES VS. MARKETING.  We see this a lot.  Please refer to previous post about TERMINOLOGY.  If you follow your marketing plan properly, your sales should improve.

7.  NO MARKET RESEARCH.  This should be at the top of your list.  You cannot have a proper marketing plan without research.  If you are doing B2B (business-to-business marketing) you need to understand the companies that will buy your product:  where they are,their motivation, the competition, the marketplace, etc.  If you are doing consumer marketing, you have to understand your target:  the demographics (where they live), psychographics (how they think) etc. 

8.  LACK OF CONSISTENCY.  This is when your marketing message is confusing:  you say one thing on your brochure, another on your web site, and the overall “look” is different on each sales brochure and customer communications.   Refer to #2:  all your communications should reflect your market positioning and be consistent.

9.  INABILITY TO MEASURE RESULTS.  A common ad industry adage says:  ” 50% of what we spend on advertising is wasted:  the key is to know which 50%.”   Set up specific but measurable goals to ensure your plan is workable.  Goal such as “increase sales by 10%” may or may not be doable, thus the importance of market research, above.  Test concepts and markets.  Remember:  test twice, roll out once.

10.  LACK OF PATIENCE.  Maybe this should have been #1.  Marketers are typically impatient, anxious for quick results.   If your plan is sound, you should see measurable results in one year.  Give your plan at least that amount of time to succeed.