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By Kathy Vass, Marketing Editor

Avoid Missteps By Dispelling Marketing Myths

Kathy Vass, Marketing Editor

F rench author and journalist Françoise Giroud said, “Nothing is more difficult than competing with a myth.”

The term marketing conjures up hundreds of definitions, varying opinions and common misperceptions that could be considered marketing myths. Marketing gurus Alexander Hiam and Anaheim, Calif.-based D.C. Woolsey & Associates warn that many of these widespread myths are downright dangerous to those who buy into them when developing marketing plans and programs. Here are some of the most common marketing myths:

Marketing and sales are different things.
All marketing is about sales. Marketing is developing the tools and techniques — advertising, collateral materials, public relations programs, promotions — to sell your product or service. Accepting an ADDY® award for an advertisement or brochure is wonderful, but that ad or brochure is valuable only if it helped you sell your product.

If your marketing and sales departments are separate, consider combining them to improve communication and ensure company sales goals and objectives are shared and pursued in tandem.

Marketing is a set of formulas that deliver successful sales.
The old marketing rule of thumb said an ad must run three to six times before it reveals its effectiveness and profitability. There are a couple of ways to look at this myth. One is to ask, if an ad flops in the first month, why will it do better in the fourth? An ineffective ad doesn’t improve over time.

However, new studies indicate the onslaught of media messages has grown to more than 3,000 per day, so it takes more impressions to break through the clutter. The new rule of thumb indicates it takes nine times seeing an ad before a customer is ready to buy. However, for every three times your ad appears, customers aren’t paying attention two of those times. So, it takes 27 runs to achieve the desired nine impressions.

Focus groups can be beneficial when developing ad campaigns. Ask your best customers or top prospects to review your ads before they run. You’ll get valuable feedback, and your customers will appreciate your interest in their opinions.

It also is vitally important to know your marketplace. Perhaps your customers aren’t reading the magazines in which your ads are appearing. Maybe they receive industry updates via the Internet, or prefer catalogs or direct mail for new product announcements. Find out how your customers receive information, and try reaching them through those media.

The best product or service will win.
Perception equals reality. Most people are convinced their perceptions are correct, so the winner in marketing is the prospect’s perception.

As an example, when the Coca-Cola Co. introduced “new” Coke, the product flopped despite the fact that Coca-Cola had conducted more than 200,000 taste tests, and “new” Coke had won out. The problem was customers’ perceptions that Coke was better than “new” Coke.

If your intention is to change long-held perceptions of your product, you’d better be prepared to spend a lot of marketing dollars.

I know this product like the back of my hand, so I’ll be able to sell it.
In truth, you must know the marketplace just as intimately as you know your product or service.

In addition to constant changes in the competitive landscape, there are continuing changes in the way your customers receive information. Knowing your marketplace, and developing effective ways with which to approach it and communicate with it will ensure your success much more than product or service knowledge.

Everyone loves my product or service, so I won’t have a problem selling a lot.
People often tell you what they think you want to hear. Rather than a formal presentation, try casually showing or explaining your product or service to people to get a genuine reaction. If they are wowed by it, you may have a winner. Offer them one on the spot or offer to procure the service for them. If they don’t express interest in purchasing it, it may not be as big a winner as you thought.

Attack your competitors’ weaknesses with your marketing.
Customers buy from your competitors because of their strengths, not their weaknesses. You need to be as familiar with those strengths as your own, and develop ways to effectively sell against them.

The Internet is an easy place to make money.
Here’s how Internet revenues break down, according to D.C. Woolsey: Of all revenue spent on the Internet, 60 percent is related to pornography; 20 percent to computers; and 20 percent to everything else combined.

“The Internet reminds me of the California Gold Rush back in 1849,” Woolsey writes. “A few people struck it rich and the rest had to get a real job.”

You should cut back on your marketing and advertising expenditures in a recession.
According to a study conducted some years back by New York City-based Ogilvy & Mather and the Strategic Planning Institute and published in Business News Week, the opposite may be true. The study found that the more a company spent as a percentage of actual or projected sales compared with their competitors, the greater the percentage of the market they captured.

Market share has a dramatic effect on profitability. Those companies with greater than 40-percent market share experience an average return on investment of 41 percent, while those with shares under 10 percent return profits around 9 percent, according to the study. Effectively marketing during a recession can help you increase your share of a diminishing market. When the economy rebounds, your company will be in the stronger sales position.

Anyone can do marketing.
Designing a great ad, letter or brochure, making a great sales presentation, designing an effective website, or developing and positioning a new product take different skill sets. A good all-around marketer should understand all of the marketing disciplines and be able to manage the experts in areas where they themselves are weaker. Many small business owners and executives have a great understanding of product development and operations, but know very little about marketing.

It makes no sense to invest in research and product development if you spend little to nothing on marketing. Marketing is developing the tools and techniques that improve the quality and quantity of your sales. Avoiding its myths will help improve your bottom line.

Good Marketing Takes Practice

Most everything we become good at requires practice. The same is true for marketing. All of your employees, from the switchboard operator to the CEO can and should practice their marketing skills so your company never misses an opportunity to sell.

Here are some practical marketing principles that can be put into practice immediately to improve sales:
Never miss an opportunity to present your company well.
Every contact with the outside world is a marketing and sales opportunity. From the way the telephone is answered to the manner in which you present yourself at a trade show, first impressions are lasting. Dressing well, always having your business cards, smiling and listening all make good first impressions.

Know your point of differentiation.
In other words, know what makes you special to customers and prospects. What is motivating your customers to buy from you? What are your product strengths? What is getting a prospect's attention?

Many marketing managers will tell you they are not quite sure how a prospect found out about them, or what prompted a sale. Asking simple questions like “How did you hear about us?” and “What do you like best about our product or service?” can help you focus limited marketing resources in the best direction.

Spend 10 minutes a day marketing your company.
Again, good marketing takes practice. It’s not a one-shot deal, and it’s not a miracle worker. Take time to read a marketing tip each day or work on ways to put a marketing principle into practice.

Separate the browsers from the buyers.
Each time you make a sales call on someone who can’t or isn't ready to buy, you are wasting valuable marketing resources.

Develop a customer profile for your product or service that allows you to quickly weed out prospects that do not match that profile.
Screening for the highest-quality leads is perhaps the single-most powerful way to boost sales and profits in the short term.

Simplify your marketing strategy.
If your marketing plan is complicated or confusing, it is not finished. Success in business comes from simple, powerful ideas that are well-executed.

May/June 2006