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How Good Are You at
The Great Game of Marketing?
by Joe Gracia

Imagine trying to play a game without knowing the rules. What would your chances of winning be? Unless it's a game of chance, they would be pretty low.

Marketing is not a game of chance. It's a game with specific rules that you can learn to play well. Once you learn and master the rules of the game, it's relatively easy to start winning.

If you are not generating the level of prospects, customers and sales that you want, then all you need to do is improve your knowledge and skill in playing The Great Game of Marketing.

In my 17 years in the broadcasting profession and 11 years as a marketing and management consultant, the number one reason I found business owners failing at the game of marketing was because most of what they believed about the game of marketing wasn't true. Most of the things they believed were myths!

Here are just 10 myths that marketers who fail, believe:

1. THE PURPOSE OF MY ADVERTISING -- ADS, FLYERS, LETTERS, ETC. -- SHOULD BE TO SELL MY PRODUCT OR SERVICE

Absolutely not true! Trying to sell your product or service in your advertising is like walking up to a stranger and saying, 'Will you marry me?'

If people don't know, like and trust you, they won't buy from you.

The real purpose of your advertising is to attract prospects -- people who have an interest in what you are selling -- to your business.

Your selling efforts are then directed specifically to those people who have the most interest in buying what you are offering.

2. EVERYONE IS A PROSPECT FOR MY PRODUCT OR SERVICE

Not true. If you try to get everyone's attention, you'll get no one's attention. Not everyone is going to be interested in what you are offering.

The more specifically you target your marketing efforts towards people who already have a genuine interest in what you are offering, the more attention and results you will get.

3. MARKETING IS ABOUT TRICKING, CONVINCING, OR MANIPULATING PEOPLE INTO BUYING MY PRODUCT OR SERVICE

If you believe this, you won't be in business for long.

There's a name for people who do that -- they're called con-artists and snake-oil salesmen.

Marketing is about helping people get what they want. If they don't want what you are offering, move on and find someone who does -- or change what you are offering so that they do want it.

4. THE PURPOSE OF MY MARKETING EFFORTS SHOULD BE TO JUST CREATE AWARENESS OF MY BUSINESS IN MY MARKETPLACE

Big money-wasting myth!

You've probably heard it before from various media reps; 'You need to keep running your ads over and over again to gain marketplace recognition and awareness.'

Don't believe it. While Coca Cola, The Gap, and Disney can afford to spend millions of dollars to create awareness and keep their names uppermost in the minds of the people in their marketplace, a small business can't.

Unless you have at least $100,000 to $200,000 a year to spend on awareness marketing in your local market, forget it. Mass awareness marketing is a game for the big guys, not for a small business.

Remember, the goal of media reps is to have you run your ads over and over and over again -- that's how they make their commissions. The concept of awareness marketing fits in very well with their goal, but not with yours.

You should be using what is called direct response marketing -- marketing that produces an immediate and direct response.

5. I DON'T NEED A HEADLINE ON MY MARKETING PIECES

False. You need a headline on every marketing vehicle you use. That includes ads, flyers, letters, post cards, Web pages, e-mails, etc. Your headline for an in-person presentation, a telemarketing call, etc. would be your opening statement.

6. I CAN JUST USE THE NAME OF MY BUSINESS AS THE HEADLINE IN MY ADS, FLYERS, LETTERS, ETC.

No you can't -- even though this is what 80% of all small business marketers do. Check out your local newspapers and look at how many ads have the name of the business at the top of the ad. That's their headline, and it means nothing to the people reading the publication. Very few of those ads get any response.

A headline should grab your prospects' attention and get them to say, 'Hey, that's something I'm interested in!!'

Honestly, would a business get that kind of response from you if their headline said, 'ACME PRODUCTS'?

7. MY HEADLINES SHOULD USE CREATIVE, CLEVER OR FUNNY PUNS TO GET ATTENTION

If your goal is to throw away every penny in your marketing budget, then clever puns will do the trick.

They're used everywhere --

-- Go Ahead Mac My Day (For an Apple Macintosh computer)

-- We've Got You Covered (For a carpet store)

People may smile, they may even tell you how clever you are, but they won't respond to your marketing.

Your headline should always be a specific, benefit offer that will get your prospects or customers to take immediate action to take you up on your offer.

Tell people what they will get if they respond to your marketing piece.

To test whether you have a benefit offer in your headline, simply picture yourself standing in front of someone and stating your headline out loud:

No Headline: (Just stand and stare at them) What would their response be?

or

Company Name Headline: 'Acme Products!' What would their response be?

or

Clever Pun Headline: 'Go Ahead Mac My Day' What would their response be?

or

A Benefit Offer Headline: 'Would you like a free report on new ways to eliminate headaches?' What would their response be?

If they didn't have the problem of headaches, they would probably say, 'No thanks.' But if they did have a problem with headaches, they would probably say, 'Yes, I would!'

Marketing pieces without headlines are called 'Headless Wonders.' Those with the company name or a pun are just as worthless.

Always use a Benefit Offer headline on every marketing piece you create.

8. PUTTING 'CALL FOR MORE INFORMATION' AT THE BOTTOM OF MY MARKETING PIECES WILL GET LOTS OF RESPONSE

That's a myth. Very, very, few people will call for more information. People will rarely know what they are supposed to ask for when they call -- so they don't.

Make them a specific, compelling offer in your headline, and then tell them exactly what they need to do to get it.

9. IN ORDER TO BE EFFECTIVE, MY MARKETING MATERIALS MUST BE CREATIVE, FULL-COLOR AND EXPENSIVE

No. One of the first things we used to do when taking on a new marketing client, was tell them to stop spending money on creative, expensive marketing pieces.

A simple, black and white, one-page letter, on inexpensive bond paper with a compelling benefit offer in the headline, and a simple, but clear Call to Action will always out-perform an expensive marketing piece with a weak, clever or nonexistent offer.

Marketing is not about creativity, cleverness or impressing people with your good taste; it's about giving people what they want.

10. I DON'T NEED TO COLLECT THE NAMES AND ADDRESSES OR E-MAIL ADDRESSES OF MY PROSPECTS OR CUSTOMERS

This is a huge business-killing myth. Very few people buy after just one contact. Eighty percent of the sales are made after 8 or more follow-up contacts.

How are you going to follow up with your prospects a minimum of eight times, if you don't collect their follow-up information? You can't, and you will lose 80% of your sales potential.

We have hundreds of thousands of prospects in our follow-up databases for our two online businesses, and we follow up with each and every one of them once a week via our e-mail newsletters. After every follow-up we receive thousands of dollars in sales.

If we didn't collect our prospects follow-up information -- we're not talking about spam, every one of our prospects signed up to be on our follow-up newsletter list -- we wouldn't be in business.

That's how the great game of marketing is played.

If you're not collecting your prospects' and your customers' follow-up information and then following up with them consistently, then you're not playing the game to win.

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