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A Thing

Bad marketing advice

By Nancy Drexler and Sam Neuman

Don't you love it when backseat drivers tell you there's a much faster way to get from point A to point B? How about when a friendly neighbor shares how to make your yard look as good as his? Or when a co-worker replies to your e-mail by pointing out a spelling error?

Armchair experts are a universal annoyance, and marketing is one area where everyone purports to be an expert. Here are several pieces of pervasive marketing wisdom, along with our thoughts on why you should ignore each and every one.

Good marketing will make you a star

Well, yeah, that could happen. But so what? There are several problems with this bit of so-called wisdom:

  • Not everyone wants to work with a star.
  • It's risky to rest the fortunes of an entire company on the back of one person's ability to be trusted or admired.
  • It's probably safe to assume that every one of your customers has an ego at least as big as yours.

Please. If you never listen to another thing we say, hear this: It is NOT about you. Unless you've got smitten relatives supporting your business, no one cares how smart, valuable, talented, efficient or well connected you are. They care about what you can do for them.

If you run your company well, you don't need marketing

Right. And if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? You can create the most brilliant product, but if nobody knows it exists, you'll soon find out how lonely it is to be brilliant. Similarly, price your widget too high and you might have to travel to Abu Dhabi to sell it.

Then there are the miniscule variables that untrained marketers tend to overlook. For instance, when TV dinners were introduced years ago, most of them were packaged in blue containers.

None of them sold. Then they were repackaged in yellow and orange, and sales took off. Color communicates. So do a host of other factors. It's not your job to know what they are, but you might want to work with someone who does.

There's no point in marketing to current clients

Any business owner knows that no matter how successful you are, you can never afford to stop growing. And if you're losing as many customers as you're bringing in, you've stopped growing.

Worse than that, you've begun creating an army of disgruntled customers who will probably be delighted to share your faults with others.

Even though unhappy former customers make more noise than happy current customers, your staple of satisfied clients is one of your best and cheapest marketing tools. Nothing you can say will ever mean as much as what your clients say.

Add to that the cost factor: It costs far more to bring in a new customer than to keep an old one. With this in mind allocating some marketing dollars to current customers becomes a no-brainer.

If your business is growing organically, don't waste money on marketing yet

When things are going well, we're all tempted to take a moment to rest on our well-earned laurels. Unfortunately, this industry moves at an incredibly fast pace, and before you can say "merger gone wrong," yester-day's market leader has become today's struggling salesperson.

Companies change hands and executives change positions, but clever, thorough marketing lets you maintain your investment in the one thing that can always remain constant: your brand.

As long as your company name is well known and associated with quality, you'll always have a familiar product to sell, no matter how the industry changes. Without a marketing foundation, your best bet may be clicking your heels three times while repeating, "40 times monthly residuals." It doesn't take a wizard to see how sustainable that business model is.

One nice brochure does the trick

Market to everyone, and you market to no one. Think of how you react when a piece of unsolicited mail arrives addressed to "Occupant" or "Current resident."

I can't tell you how many salespeople have lost business opportunities by getting a potential client's gender wrong or asking for the spouse of someone who was divorced long before the call.

Generic puff pieces and lack of research violate the number one rule of good marketing: It's not about you or what you're selling. It's about the person you're selling to.

Let your prospects feel that you're speaking directly to them and that you understand their needs, and you'll raise the odds considerably that your marketing vehicles will be read, not shredded.

There is good marketing and bad marketing

Marketing, like life, does not exist in black and white. Like relationships of any kind, marketing is not always predictable. What works in some markets may not work in others.

What is successful on a Monday may be less successful on a Thursday. (Research has shown that e-mails sent on Mondays get opened much more frequently than e-mails sent on Thursdays.)

Too many people assume that if a marketing piece looks good to them, it will be an effective marketing tool. The reality is that it doesn't matter how attractive the piece is. It matters if it cuts through clutter, speaks directly to a need, and makes it easy to respond.

We all want our communication pieces to fit with our self-images or preconceived notions of what is good. Smart marketers leave their egos at the door and focus on what works.

Marketing is too expensive for something that's not necessary

The list of essentials for human life normally includes oxygen, water and food. While marketing may not rank with those three, we'd say it does belong somewhere between your Blackberry and the office water cooler.

Marketing doesn't have to be extravagant. But it can and should be your eyes, ears and insight into the behavior of your customers.

Nancy Drexler is the Marketing Director and Sam Neuman is the Communications Specialist of Cynergy Data, a merchant acquirer that distinguishes itself by relying on creativity and technology to maximize service. Cynergy offers its ISOs: VIMAS, a cutting edge back-office management software; Vimas Tracking, a ticketing system that makes responses to customers fast, accurate and efficient; Brand Central Station, a Web site of free marketing tools; plus state-of-the-art training, products, services and value-added programs, all designed to take its ISO partners from where they are to where they want to be. For more information on Cynergy, e-mail Nancy Drexler at .

Article published in issue number 060401

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