The Blame Game

Who’s Fault Is It When Your Marketing Doesn’t Work?

You Might Not Like The Answer

 

My wife’s biggest pet peeve is losing things.
 
More specifically, she hates it when other people lose things. In a thousand ways, she’s the nicest, sweetest person you’d ever want to meet. But if you can’t find a shoe, forget it. She’s got no sympathy for you. Looking for a misplaced magazine? Zero percent chance she’ll help you find it—you should keep track of your stuff. Same goes for TV remotes, car keys, sunglasses, wallets, dog leashes, iPods, or any of the other 27 things a husband and might misplace during the course of a given month. According to the rules of her pet peeve, if it’s lost, you’re on your own.
 
And she can pull this off because she never seems to lose anything herself. Ever. Which is how I got in the crosshairs when her second set of car keys came up missing sometime around February or March of this year. Since they were gone, and since she never loses anything, logic would dictate I must’ve been the one who lost them.
 
Except I didn’t lose them. She did.
 
No matter. She was able to pinpoint when and how I committed the crime. The previous Sunday I had driven her car, and evidently had been careless with those keys when I got home. In an effort to appease her, I searched the bedroom closet top to bottom, including the bag I had been carrying, all the pockets of my suit, on top of the dresser, the sock drawer, inside my shoes, and all the other weird places you look for stuff after you’ve already exhausted the obvious places. Even the old stand-by remedies of “retracing my steps,” “where did you have it last,” and “checking inside the freezer just in case” yielded nothing. Those friggin’ keys were just plain gone. As George Carlin used to say, “Into the pile.”
 
Her solution was simple: She put me in a virtual key-losing-loser Shawshank. Every couple months, when she couldn’t quickly locate her main set of keys, she’d remind me how I’d been so lackadaisical in key-keeping. How could I be trusted with important things—when I couldn’t even be trusted to keep track of a lousy set of spare keys?
 
So imagine my delight last Saturday when she came into the kitchen with a sheepish little grin on her face and admitted she’d found the lost keys—in one of HER jacket pockets while cleaning out the coat closet. Frankly, I was shocked; I had naturally assumed that if the keys ever did turn up and if it were her fault, she’d just toss them in the trash rather than admit she was the culprit. Bonus points to the wife for confessing.
 
Of course my wife had the last laugh. My little “I told you so” parade was quickly rained out when she reminded me of the time I was sure we where headed to LA and we ended up in the ghetto, the time I assured my wife she had plenty of time to make her flight only to find out I made her miss the luggage cutoff by 2 minutes. Just to name two of the 1,412 “told-you-sos” she has on me.
 
The point is simple. When something goes wrong, our egos’ first defense is to blame somebody or something else for the failure. The same is true in business and in marketing. When Something goes wrong, the tendency is to BLAME…and nine times out of ten, we tend to blame the WRONG thing.
 
With that in mind, I present to you, in no particular order, the top 10 things you might WRONGLY blame for some of the most common marketing failures.
 
What You Think Went Wrong:

There Are Too Many Competitors, We Can’t Stand Out

The Truth:

Your Company Is Unremarkable & Boring, And Deserves Average Results

Explanation:

There’s a reason Six Flags is in bankruptcy and Disneyworld makes a billion dollars a second. It’s because Six Flags is dirty, smelly, and worn out and Disneyworld is great. Six Flags is borderline disgusting. They have really good rides—which is about the only thing that keeps anyone interested. Barely. Besides that, it’s got chipped paint everywhere, nasty smells wafting about, surly employees who wear bright yellow shirts encouraging you not to litter (seriously), standing water in ditches, and a creepy old dude for a mascot. Meanwhile, Disney simply WOWS its guests at every turn.
 
When was the last time you were truly “WOWED” by a company? When you were so impressed that you just had to tell somebody? Let’s flip this around now—when was the last time somebody did business with you and was WOWED and just had to go tell somebody about it? If there’s nothing unique, nothing distinguishing, nothing above average, nothing worth talking about in your business, then guess what? You deserve average results and average sales and average profit. Quit thinking the problem is the marketplace or the customers or the economy—until you can truly offer a truly unique and truly outstanding experience, you’re going to be stuck with crummy results. You’ve got to innovate and make your business worthy of the lion’s share of the dollars in your industry.
 
What You Think Went Wrong:

There Are Too Many Competitors, We Can’t Stand Out

The Truth:

Your Marketing Looks Exactly Like Everyone Else’s

Explanation:

I just listed my home for sale, and as a result, the home was listed on the MLS. You know what this means, right? Every single moving company on the planet now sends me a postcard because they know that people who are moving are probably good prospects for moving. That’s pretty smart thinking. Except that yesterday, I literally received FIVE postcards from FIVE companies…and that’s on top of the four I got the day before, the six I got the day before that, and the (literally) 25 I’ll be getting in the next week. Every single one of the reads approximately the same: Free Estimates, local & long distance, in business for 90 years, etc. I’m going to dismantle the entire moving industry’s marketing in an upcoming article, but come on guys—this is the best you can do?
 
If your marketing looks like everyone else’s then you’re going to get a tiny fraction of the business. Writing better marketing and winning is so easy and so predictable when using the our formulas that not doing so comes down to ignorance, laziness, or belligerence.  
 
What You Think Went Wrong:

The Recession Is Hurting My Business

The Truth:

Your Crappy Thinking Is Hurting Your Business

Explanation:

It’s true that the recession has shrunk budgets and lowered the amount of money being spent in the marketplace. But that’s really not an excuse for YOUR business to be down, especially when you consider that there’s still plenty of stuff being bought out there, and three-quarters of your competitors have no clue how to market their businesses properly.
 
Just ask Rudy Rodriguez, a principle of Castro Roofing in Dallas. They specialize in commercial jobs, and in particular, they rely heavily on schools and other government buildings. Pick up the paper—you’ll see that all the municipalities and school districts are getting killed because their tax bases are down. And then there’s Castro Roofing, adding new jobs, building new office space, buying new trucks, and setting sales records. Why? Because Rudy has a very competent brain and figured out a long time ago that he could destroy his competitors with superior marketing. So when a particular school district tells Castro that their budget is depleted and they can’t authorize any new work, Rudy smiles and sends his crews to 27 other jobs their marketing has brought them.
 
Of course your business is different. You’re not a roofer, and this story doesn’t apply to you. How about crappy thinking? Does that apply to you? Then get out there and freaking win. Screw the down economy already.
 
What You Think Went Wrong:

Radio/Newspaper/YellowPages/Direct Mail/Etc. Just Doesn’t Work

The Truth:

Maybe Your Ad Blows

Explanation:

The Great Western Closet Company designs and installs custom closet organizers in upscale homes in a medium-sized city in the west. In consulting with the owner, Mike, I was convinced that direct mail could be a profitable advertising medium. Mike, however, was opposed. “We mailed over 30,000 pieces last spring, but only got six jobs from it. I lost almost $1,500 on the deal. Home improvement shows are the only reliable source of leads for this kind of company.”
 
Their first problem was that they didn’t send out their own mailer. Their ad was a four-color, 8½ x 11 sheet printed on the back of a boot store’s ad. The ad was sent out with several others in a ValPak-type mailer. Mike wasn’t sure which geographic areas had actually received his advertisement, and he couldn’t verify that 30,000 pieces had gone out. As for the ad itself, it contained no headline, made no compelling case for their product, and made no specific offer. There was nothing telling why their product was great, what advantages it held over the competition and the alternatives, or what benefits would come from using the product–it just said “Here it is, buy it from us for no justifiable, rational reason.”
 
Really, it just doesn’t work in your industry? Naturally some types of media are more suited for some industries than others. But more often than not, when I look at the AD that was actually ran in the so-called crummy media, it’s a large, steaming pile of dung—meaning of course, that it stinks. Did you realize that by running a crummy ad and then drawing a conclusion that the MEDIA was at fault you could be costing your company substantial amounts of money in the future?
 
What You Think Went Wrong:

The Yellow Pages Only Delivers Cheapskate Price Shoppers

The Truth:

You Inadvertently Trained Your Prospects To Ask For The Lowest Price

Explanation:

I’ll tell you flat out, I HATE this one more than all the rest. Because it’s not only stupid, it actually defies all common sense. I’ve heard it from hundreds of business owners in dozens of different industries—they refuse to advertise in yellow pages because—in their experience—the people who call from the yellow pages are all broke people who just want the lowest price. They have lots of proof to back it up, too. The most common question they get when people call in, they’ll tell you, is “how much is it going to cost.” See that proves it—all they care about is getting the lowest price.
 
Actually it only serves to prove who has the least functional brain. The reason people call in from the yellow pages and ask how much it costs is because they HAVE NO IDEA WHAT ELSE TO ASK! Let’s go back to the movers…if you were moving across town and went to the YP looking for a company to do the job, what would YOU ask when you called them on the phone? When they answered the phone, you’d probably say something like “I’m moving across town and I wanted to find out how much it will cost.” You cheap sucker, you!
 
The real issue is that the ads themselves don’t educate prospects on what they REALLY ought to be looking for when hiring a mover (or whatever the heck it is that you sell). Remember, they’re looking in the phone book because they don’t know who to call (think about that for a second). They don’t know who to call because, ostensibly, they don’t buy what you sell very often. So they don’t know what to look for, what to look out for, what questions to ask, or what issues might be problematic. They just don’t know. Then you start with the whole “been in business since 1431 BC routine” and they see your ad and ask you “how much.”
 
Bottom line: When people call you (from YP or anywhere else) and the only thing they care about is price, that means that YOU haven’t trained them what to look for and how to evaluate the competitors. So your margins get cut, you get mad, you make less money, and it’s all 100% your fault.
 
I once knew a man who, after 25 years in the retail jewelry business, retired and decided to launch a company that sold lower-end jewelry and collectibles on a nationwide basis using newspaper advertisements as his marketing medium. He would place advertisements in newspapers which looked exactly like the Franklin Mint’s. The only thing different would be his company’s name and address at the bottom of the ad.
 
He sharpened his pencil and figured that if his ads could pull a mere 6 responses out of every 10,000 placed, net profits would triple the ad cost. Only three responses out of 10,000 and he would break even. If Franklin could do it, why couldn’t he? On the strength of pro-formas and his reputation in the community, he raised over $200,000 from local investors to launch the first product, a gemstone ring. The initial ad cost over $60,000 for complete coverage in the Los Angeles Times’ Parade Magazine. Since the paper was delivered to several million homes, he figured to be extremely rich very soon.
 
To make a sad story short, the product bombed. He tried a different product the second time, and still another the next time. Finally, after all of his capital was depleted, he was forced to quit. His investors were not happy. How could this have happened? All he needed was a measly 6 responses out of 10,000.
 
Instead of blowing the whole budget on a couple of unproven ideas, he should have taken the time to run some tests in similar magazines with smaller circulations. These relatively inexpensive tests would have told him which ad concepts worked, which prices pulled the most orders, what kinds of terms his customers found most convenient, or anything else he needed to know before rolling out a huge, expensive campaign. Moral to this story: It’s better to find out what works and what doesn’t when there isn’t $60,000 at stake. Testing will ensure you never make a major marketing mistake again–ever.
 
Coming next week: Part 2
 
What You Think Went Wrong:

(New Marketing Idea) Is Too Hard To Execute (or Won’t Work)

The Truth:

You’re Too Lazy

What You Think Went Wrong:

We Can’t Generate Enough Leads

The Truth:

You’re Not Spending Enough Money To Buy Your Leads

What You Think Went Wrong:

My Website Isn’t Generating Any Business For Me

The Truth:

Your Website Has Boring, Worthless Content

What You Think Went Wrong:

My Website Isn’t Generating Any Business For Me (part 2)

The Truth:

Nobody Even Knows The Dumb Thing Exists

What You Think Went Wrong:

This Mailing Campaign Isn’t Working

The Truth:

You Only Sent The Freaking Mailer Out Once!

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