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Some Harsh Truths About Marketing

By Karl Robinson

Most marketing is ineffective, impotent, and inept.  Marketing plans tend to fall into two categories:  Copy what everyone else is doing, or farm it out to an ad rep.  The result is basically the same. Plain vanilla messaging with the same cliché phrases and offers that make no impression on the consumer due to their mind-numbing triteness. 

I worked for a family owned HVAC business years ago.  The owner gathered several of us around the conference table one morning to play the recording of their new radio spot.  After much hype, we played the audio clip.  The ad consisted of family members reading  tired lines like:

 “We care about quality and service” (Really?  I was looking for a company that didn’t give a rip about those things.)

“Call today for all your heating and cooling needs” (You mean you you’ll reheat my dinner and ice down these beers?)

“We’ve proudly served the area for over 50 years.” (So has the post office.  What’s your point?)

“We’re family owned and operated.” (I know a lot of very dysfunctional families.  This could be a bad thing.)

This kind of drivel just shuts the mind down.  Who responds to ads like this?  Nobody.  For starters, it is entirely we/us focused instead of you/your focused.  Frankly, it’s just as well the ad was useless since there was no sales script to use for incoming calls from the ad, no follow-up system for leads generated, and no way to track the ad’s effectiveness in terms of ROI.

The radio station that produced this little gem shares the blame for its failure.  They, like many advertising media outlets, simply don’t understand the principles of effective, response-driven messaging.  They try to sell you a simple solution to a complex problem.

Complex, sophisticated marketing strategies - of which advertising is only a small part- are what put you in a category of one.  They are what allow you to do business on your terms and command prices that would make your competitors blanch.  (By the way, complexity is not the same as chaos, and sophistication need not be difficult.)

Your primary business from this point on should be MARKETING.  That is, effectively bringing your products and services to market is priority one.  Marketing isn’t a department, it is an operating value everyone is responsible for.

Here are some tasks you should be engaged in as a marketing-centric business:

  •   Positioning your business as the ONLY choice for your chosen prospects and customers.

  •   Creating unique offers that have real value for customers.

  •   Generating leads that ask to be marketed and sold to (opt-in).

  •   Installing systems that follow up relentlessly with all leads that come in.

  •   Vigilantly tracking the results of all marketing efforts, testing and adjusting constantly to achieve                    maximum results     

  •   Instituting price strategies that command above par profits.

  •  Cultivating solid business relationships with customers through newsletters, birthday and holiday                    greetings, customer appreciation events, etc.

  •  Leveraging these relationships into referrals and testimonials.


To move your business to new levels of success and prosperity, you must shift your focus from what you do to marketing what you do.  You can only get so much better than the competition no matter what the field.  Separate from the pack by establishing your unique message, then deliver that message to your ideal prospects and customers in creative, meaningful ways.