Marketing 101: The Power of Marketing

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When you hear the word "marketing" what comes to mind? More business or wasted money? If your experience with marketing or advertising has been less than positive your cynicism may be well founded. Yet, have you ever noticed a competitor with a mediocre product and a healthy business? The difference is often marketing.

Some say they've never done marketing and don't need to because of good word- of-mouth. Positive word-of-mouth is great, but not enough if you're serious about growing your business. Others do invest in marketing yet treat it as a necessary evil. The problem with that mindset is that it's driving with the brakes on. Those people sabotage their efforts by making poor decisions, taking half-measures and often resisting anything innovative.

When asked about the "one big key" to marketing success I reply that there's nothing more important than a "marketing mindset". A marketing mindset is an attitude, a way of thinking, that values and embraces the power of marketing. If you look at the companies and brands that are most successful -- Nike, Microsoft, Virgin, Trump, Saturn, Kenneth Cole, etc -- you'll find someone at the top with a marketing mindset. People like Trump, Cole, and Virgin's Richard Branson may have it instinctively. For most, however, it's a learned attribute. So, if you don't have a marketing mindset yet, keep reading and start to get one.

Follis Fact #1
You need a Marketing Mindset.

Attracting vs. Chasing

A guy sees a beautiful woman in a bar, tracks down her name and number, calls her up and says, "Hi, my name is Joe and I'm great in bed." That's cold calling. Another guy sees a beautiful woman in a bar and gives her a napkin that says, "I'm Bill and I'm great in bed." That's direct marketing. A third guy sees a beautiful woman in a bar, has his ex-girlfriend go up to her and say, "See that cute guy over there? He's my ex, his name is Tom, and he's really great in bed." That's PR. Last guy walks into a bar, a beautiful woman approaches him and says, "Hi, my name is Courtney and I hear you're really great in bed." That's effective marketing.

Attraction is the essence of marketing. When you create enough desire to get your prospect to come to you, they'll always be more predisposed to buying. That bares repeating. When you create enough desire to get your prospect to come to you, they'll always be more predisposed to buying. The challenge, of course, is that your prospect is elusive prey. So, imagine the first rabbit hunters. They'd exhaust themselves using spears and rocks until a more evolved Neanderthal got the idea of using carrots. Or, imagine the girl who desperately wants a date, but can't understand why she scares guys away when she chases them. Unfortunately, too many businesses act like that girl chasing for a date by putting lots into selling and nothing into marketing.

Follis Fact #2
It's always better to attract than chase.

Expense vs Investment

Those who don't understand marketing view it as an expense. Those with a marketing mindset know it's an investment. They know that, if done right, it can excite their prospects and produce a great return. "Done right" means well- researched, well-managed, and generally handled by someone who knows what they're doing. Regarding expense, being a small business is a bad excuse to do nothing. Start small, but do something. There are plenty of cost-effective, non- traditional ways to do a test. So, if you want to grow, you can't afford not to develop a marketing plan.

Determine your Objective and Budget

Like building a house it starts with a solid foundation. Start with a clear objective. The more specific you make it, the better you can develop an effective plan to achieve it. If your company has no marketing director to create a plan, get help. A marketing plan is critical and it involves the analysis of key market factors such as:

? the nature and traits of your product.

? the exact audience you're targeting.

? the competitive environment.

? the traits of your industry/category.

? the maturity of your business.

? timing.

Your marketing budget depends upon the analysis of these factors as well as your short and long term objectives. For some businesses, 5% of annual sales is plenty to invest. For others, 10% may not be enough. Once the marketing goal is determined it's easier to determine the budget needed to achieve it.

Have a Great Product

At the risk of stating the obvious, a big key for marketing success is having a great product. In his best-selling book, Purple Cow, marketing guru Seth Godin calls it, "being remarkable." It's about having a product or service that's exceptional.

Though many non-remarkable products may seem to do well because of great marketing, no long-term success can be achieved without a great product. In fact, if a product is not great, great marketing will usually make it fail faster. People will buy it, not like it, and never buy it again.

Case in point: Ever see an exciting teaser for an upcoming movie? It can make a lot of people run out and buy a ticket. The problem starts a couple of weeks later when folks see the movie, hate it, and then spread the word. Before you know it, the movie's gone. Here's another case. Remember New Coke? If not, you're not alone. It didn't last long. Despite the marketing muscle that Coke put behind it, the Coke- drinking public decided they were quite happy with the old Coke. Another case involves a new tropical hotel. Eager to jump-start his business the owner got tour directors and travel writers to check it out and hopefully generate some good buzz. Problem was, the hotel wasn't finished. Had he waited a couple more months he would've gotten great reviews. Now he'll be lucky if those tour directors and writers give him another shot.

If businesses spent less energy trying to sell their product and more on improving it, they'd have more success in the long run.

Follis Fact #3
Great marketing will make a bad product fail faster.

When product, client, and marketing are all exceptional the results can be a beautiful thing -- even if it doesn't start off that way.

"Let me get this want my commercial to start with my competitor's tagline?"

That was the company president's response when I presented the concept. I guess I couldn't blame him. Recommending that he put $350,000 behind a TV spot that began with his main competitor's tagline may not have seemed like the smartest idea. Yet, I knew my concept was strong -- if I could articulate it. But, before I continue, let me step back and explain the scenario.

Sorrell Ridge Fruit Spreads was an unknown all-natural "spreadable fruit" product (ie. jam) that had been selling in health food stores. Now, the tiny brand was ready to battle the big guys on the grocery shelves of America. The main competitor and undisputed leader in the category was Smucker's. Smucker's had a 30-year history during which it built one of the strongest, most positive brand images in history. Their tagline, "With a name like Smucker's it has to be good", was famous and endeared by the American public. What's more, their ad budget was about 20 times that of tiny Sorrell Ridge. To say we needed a kick-ass campaign is an understatement. But Smucker's was vulnerable. Their preserves were mostly high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and little fruit. Sorrell Ridge, on the other hand, was all fruit. It was a big competitive difference and the stage was set for a classic David vs. Goliath battle. So, back to our meeting...

"You want my commercial to start with my competitor's tagline?"

"The idea here isn't to promote Smucker's tagline, it's to dismantle it," I replied passionately. The president's eyebrows raised. I then walked him through the simple 30-second TV spot which opened with the Smucker's tagline filling the screen...

With a name like Smucker's it has to be good.

The announcer began: "For 30 years Smucker's has been telling us they have to be good. But in fact, Smucker's Preserves is mostly corn syrup, refined sugar, and only some fruit." At the mention of each ingredient a pair of hands popped up from the bottom of the TV screen and patched over the last line of type, "it has to be good," with a succession of modifications starting with "it's probably good", to "it might be good," and finally, "is it really so good?" We then cut to the Sorrell Ridge jar as the announcer explained that "Sorrell Ridge is 100% fruit." The final stake in the heart was our tagline which played directly off Smucker's:

Sorrell Ridge. With 100% fruit, it has to be better.

Holding my breath, I glance over at the Sorrell Ridge president who now looked like a kid on Christmas morning. I then presented a "50 cents off" coupon ad with side- by-side visuals of each jar positioned under their respective tagline. Like the TV, it was simple, but compelling, and he loved it. But now came the legal questions. Could we even do it? After some nail-biting delays, and a few minor copy changes, the lawyers gave us the green light. But not without stern warnings that there was no guarantee that Smucker's wouldn't sue. To the president's credit, he pulled the trigger on the campaign and we held our breath.

We didn't have to hold it long. Sales spiked and within the month were up a full 90%. Our thrilled client immediately doubled his media spending by scraping together every dime he could muster. When the dust finally settled 12 months later, Sorrell Ridge had a 50% national increase while sales for the entire jams category increased only 3.5%. The Harvard Business Review wrote it up as a case study and Forbes wrote it up as a 2-page feature. My partner and I got covered in a dozen trade publications and appeared live on CNBC. And, despite all our legal fears, Smucker's never did take action. Everything we said was true and obviously Smucker's knew it. Though they probably could've tied us up in court, the last thing they needed was more press. We simply had a better product and we got the message across in an exciting way.

Follis Fact #4
The better your product, the better your marketing can be.

? 2005 John Follis. All rights reserved.

John Follis is one of the 12 "Best Advertising Minds of New York" as voted by The New York Ad Club. His campaigns are in 3 college textbooks, he has written for ADWEEK, and he has taught at 3 New York universities. Currently, John works on select projects, consults, and speaks. He may be reached at

For John's booklet: How to Attract and Excite Your Prospects: A Guide for Getting the Best Marketing Results, visit:

For consulting info, visit: Marketing Therapy:

For speaking info, visit: Follis Speaking:

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