The Purpose of Marketing

Is NOT to make your product sellable.

Most of us have the idea that marketing should make our product sellable; that we need logos, branding, great website design, and tight messaging in order to make our product sell. If that is why you are doing marketing, you’re in trouble.

Bad marketing works really hard to sell the product. It has too, because the product won’t sell itself. A lot of people can’t sell anything until their marketing is in full swing. That should be a red light.

Good marketing works really hard to inform people of the product and more importantly, expand the reach of people who are hearing about what is already a great product. The product doesn’t need cheap parlor tricks to sell it, it would sell itself. It simply needs more exposure.

The best marketing simply makes more people aware of a product that would sell without any marketing at all.

Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be
People buy great marketing once. If your marketing is what is selling your product, you’re in trouble. The overwhelming majority of sales are to existing customers and referrals from existing customers. Great marketing can actually make a nominal product even less referrable. When someone buys based on a very high expectation created by the marketing and it doesn’t deliver, they’re not going to refer it.

Is your marketing trying to sell your product, or make more people aware of the great product you have?

How to Know Your Marketing Sucks
1) The “marketing is the key” approach – You’re hoping your marketing will convince people to buy your product who wouldn’t buy it by just being presented with the product itself.

2) The delayed “magic” info – You make people listen to or read a bunch of hype, hyperbole, history, and hooks before you get to the “three things that will change your life”, or “the thing we’re selling that will transform your business”. Blechh.

3) The bait and switch – You pretend you are presenting an article, news, research, etc., when you’re just using these cheap parlor tricks to suck people in to your marketing. The Motley Fool does this all the time – I unsubscribed.

4) The free lure – it’s not really free.

5) The offer maze, or Pied Piper – start with the free lure, then talk some more, make a slightly bigger offer, talk, bigger offer, talk, the big offer. The 50’ long website that gives the big pitch after scrolling to the bottom. Cheap parlor trick. Real products don’t need this kind of marketing.

6) Focus on new clients – This is the big one. If your marketing is focused largely on getting new clients, you’ve got the wrong focus. It should be aimed at people who already know and love you, and it should give them tools and reasons for getting others on board.

Great marketing gets people to buy a great product who then carry the lion’s share of the marketing for you as Raving Fans.

Don’t use marketing to make your product sellable. That approach is sleazy, inauthentic and lacks any staying power. You’ll have to keep up the marketing assault on new customers in order to stay in business, and everyone will tire of you quickly.

Focus on Your Raving Fans
Use your marketing to give your existing customers (Raving Fans) simple ways to sell for you, and to expand the reach beyond your existing market, who will then carry the ball for you as well.

Use your marketing to build relationships with your existing clients. It’s much more powerful.

Traditional Branding Isn’t for Small Business

Raving Fans are your brand.

As we start out, we take cues from Giant Corporation, Inc. that we should develop cool logos, fancy brochures, zippy websites, and catchy copy. But this is a waste of time and money for a lot of small businesses and a huge misdirection of focus. There is a better way for most of us.

A janitorial supply company wrote a response in another blog promoting all this fancy “branding” (to which this blog is a response):

“I think the most important thing you can do to brand your company is to provide superior customer support. Here at we pride ourselves on our customer service. We answer our telephones and respond to customer’s needs immediately. Customer service is what sets us apart for the rest and has customers coming back over and over again! has it figured out. For a small company the most important “branding” you can do is provide the best service possible and create raving fans.

Where do 95% of all our customers come from? I ask this question almost every time I speak and from the mouths of thousands of business owners → “95% of our future customers come from our existing customers referring them.”

For those under 30, 85% of product discussions are face2face and only 7% are online. The rest are by telephone or email. For those over 30, 92% are face2face and the rest are online, email, and phone. Our customers are talking directly to their FRIENDS, not with strangers or digital friends online. They are telling their FRIENDS what their experience was with us. And 90+% of our customers come from those human, face2face discussions.

So what are we doing going out and buying advertisements and creating fancy brochures and clever tag lines to attract people we’ve never met? The best brand we can build is to

get those who know us, to love us.

When we get big and have more money than time, we can go the fancy ad route.

But for now, focus on being the best in YOUR world and specifically on turning customers into raving fans. That’s the best branding you can do because it’s authentic, it’s really who you are, and it’s targeted at your best opportunity for finding future customers – from your existing ones.

Good on you,!


You Don’t Own Your Brand Anymore

Guess Who Does

If you’re spending a lot of money to develop your brand through advertising or a nifty website, you might want to rethink that. You don’t control your brand anymore, so trying to create or enhance it with slick images and thought-provoking tag lines could just be a waste of valuable time and money resources.

A couple years ago, Sun Microsystems theorized that we are no longer in the technology or information ages, but that we are now in the Participation Age, and that the hallmark of the Participation Age is Sharing.

Nobody likes to be told what to do, so their narrative hasn’t spread widely, but I’ve sure jumped on board – I believe there is no question we’re in the Participation Age, and that the central driving force in our economy is Sharing of ideas, resources, schools of thought, and commingling of those into new products, services, and conversations.

There is nowhere to hide anymore. Information is one of those things that is too easy to share now for anyone to try to keep it to themselves or pretend that one thing is actually another. That’s where the brand problem comes in. If the brand you’re putting in that slick brochure isn’t the same brand the admin, dock worker and VP have in your office, you’re in trouble. The Participation Age will expose you because your customers and employees will be sharing openly and freely about your real brand, the one they experience, not the one you put in that brochure.

So I guess I’m being a little coy in saying you’ve lost control of it; what has really happened is that you’ve lost control of pretending what it is. We can no longer market “family friendly” hot dogs and treat our employees like indentured servants, Who we SAY we are and who we REALLY are had better match up, because if they don’t, the conversation our clients and employees are having on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and a dozen other places is going to make the difference glaringly obvious.

Participation comes from Sharing, and Sharing comes from Community. People have more access to information sharing communities than ever before. Iran thought they could control their brand, but Twitter made it impossible – the real brand came out through their “customers” and “employees”.

The best we can do is to influence our brand by 1) creating a community for our clients to talk with others, and us, and 2) being an active part of that conversation. We cannot afford to say “Pay no attention to the man behind the green curtain” as in the Wizard of Oz. Who we are has to match what we do.

We should be actively involved with our customers, letting them know all the great things we do for them and influencing our brand by ensuring they know we’re listening and are working on their behalf. It’s easy to throw stones at the unknown or those at a distance. Companies that know this have come down off their high horse and have joined the Sharing party to actively engage with their customers on a level playing field. And surprise, surprise, these are the companies that are most in touch with what their customers really want from them.

Everyone knows the story of Zappos shoes working themselves into the conversation on Twitter. They didn’t do it just because it was intriguing, but they understand that when people see that the brand they talk about is the same brand they live in their offices, it creates community and connection that is stronger than any slick brochure Zappos could ever put on the street.

What are you doing to make sure you’re in the conversation with your customers and your employees about your brand? They’re already out there sharing it – you might want to get involved and influence what they share.

Start with this question – “What are you buying from me that you don’t even think I know I’m selling?” You’ll make more money in less time with questions like that. And you’ll actually have an impact on the brand that you no longer control.