So much of what passes as marketing today is really a set of myths that lead to costly failures. To help avoid the mistakes these myths can cause, let's take a look at the big ones.
1. Doing any marketing at all is better than doing nothing. That's simplistic. Marketing costs money. It must be transitioned from an expense to an investment. Unless the marketing is smart, on point and creates a substantial ROI, marketing is just a way to camouflage the act of throwing thousand dollar bills out the window.
2. Advertising and marketing are the same. Not at all. Advertising means buying space or time to relay a message. It can be important to marketing or irrelevant, depending on the company and its goals. We told one of our retail clients to stop advertising and sales went up (that's unlikely to happen very often, sales rising when you stop advertising, but point made; sales didn't decline). Instead of throwing $250,000 out the window, the owner put the money in his pocket.
3. The best marketing presents a company and/or its products as beautiful or creative or sexy. Who says? I'll tell you who: the ego-driven creators of beautiful/creative/sexy marketing. What they won't tell you is that they don't care a whit about ROI. They just want to be told what creative geniuses they are. Some of the best marketing uses (as one aspect of an integrated approach) infomercials with poor production values and often unattractive real people (as opposed to models) telling you how they lost 850 pounds taking placebo pills filled with polyester packing material. Art? No. ROI? Yes.
4. Great marketing is dreamed up by highly paid executives who make ads and brochures and websites and then let them loose in the marketplace. Crazy. That's the way it is often done and that's another reason most marketing fails. To achieve effective marketing, you must reverse-engineer the process so that decisions about what the company needs to market successfully and how it should be created are made at the point of sale and then traced back to the "geniuses" at the home office. Only salespeople can really tell you what they need to make a sale, so start there.
5. Salespeople aren't really part of the marketing process. Nonsense. Yes, there is a difference between selling and marketing, but if the marketing process leads to a sales team empowered to close, and the salespeople are schmoozers instead of closers, sales will be few and far between.
6. More on selling: With the right training, you can turn non-closers into closers. Forget about it! You can't train non-salespeople to sell and you can't stop true salespeople from selling. Find the latter and pay them well.
7. Great marketing agencies are the ones who win lots of awards, so choose them. OK, if you want to borrow awards to place on your mantel. But if you want sales to grow, go for the award-less agencies that live by this credo: The best marketing is the product of the least expense that results in the highest ROI. My marketing firm, MSCO, has won a few awards, I am embarrassed to say. The only one I am proud of is one we received from Forbes for creating an ad that motivated more readers to act than any other ad. Now we don't enter any award contests.
8. Good marketing is based on rules:
a. You should spend x percent of your revenues on marketing.
b. Great direct mail generates an x percent response rate.
Hogwash to it all. Every company, every time in history, every product/service/every goal is different. So how can there be universal rules? And if you are told that the best return you can get on direct mail is 1 percent, don't use direct mail. Or seek to generate 10 percent! Rules are for schools. Results are for businesspeople.
Great marketing, inspired marketing, can be the most powerful force in growing companies large and small. The great marketers--Bill Gates, Mary Kaye, Tom Watson, Steve Jobs, Ray Kroc, Sam Walton--avoided the myths and drove their companies to the mount. You can do the same.
Mark Stevens is the CEO of MSCO, a results-driven marketing and management firm, and the best-selling author of 24 books. His latest book is Rich is a Religion.