49: Does Your Marketing Suck?

Business Strategy“Your marketing sucks.”

So, says Mark Stevens, author of the book by that title. You might have seen Stevens any number of cable news networks or just on the speaker list for the National Auctioneers Association’s educational webinar series (January 5, 2010) and/or Winter Symposium (February 8, 2010).

Since I’m speaking in Park City, UT, the morning after Stevens, I bought two of his top-selling books for research. I just finished reading “Your marketing sucks.” with highlighter in hand. Over 18% of the pages in my copy now have florescent markings—a lot of salient, practical points between the covers.

Just in case you don’t read it yourself, here are the top five action points we all should take from Stevens’ advice:

  1. All marketing efforts must be sifted through the filter of return on investment (ROI). If your advertising, PR, and sales initiatives do not make more money than they cost, your marketing sucks.
  2. Focus on your primary value proposition. Don’t market generic attributes you share with competitors—only what sets you apart from them. Sell the client benefit, not tag lines or your ego trips.
  3. Exploit your niche. The jack of all trades is the master of none. Same goes with media: not all marketing vehicles are created equal for your (changing) needs.
  4. Create goals before budgets. Don’t premise your initiative with “We want to spend [this amount] and dedicate [this amount] to this medium.” First determine, “How can we accomplish this concentrated objective with the resources we have?”
  5. Constantly monitor, measure, and adjust your marketing to ensure maximum effectiveness. Don’t advertise somewhere just because your competitors do; don’t assume your current effectiveness with current tactics will remain the same.

I disagree with Stevens on one point, though, at least for the auction industry. Stevens claims that brand awareness is not an acceptable goal—only direct sales. The problem for auctioneers marketing their services is that clients only need their services at specific times in their life or the life of their assets. Predicting that would require Minority Report-like mind reading for some retail auction sectors. For individual auction campaigns, though, these points are all right on the money.

If you want to make money, you’ll need your marketing to be an income generator—not an expense.

So many Christians settle for plateaus. I have at times. We know all the right stuff. We’ve seen God do some cool things and even reiterate those stories. We keep showing up in the places other Christians populate, because that gives us some sense of spiritual propriety. But we aren’t growing. And if we’re not growing, we’re not making fruit—just keeping past fruit on display like a business’ first dollar bill on the wall. In other words, we’ve got past revenue but no spiritual cash flow. We’re leveraging memories and accomplishments, toying with bankruptcy.

But rather than ask, “Is this working right now?”—instead of examining our spiritual return on investment, we use traditional, artificial litmus tests. If the markers match, we assume we’re okay. Everyone else seems to be okay in this same spot. Maybe I’m just over thinking this.

If we’re not hearing from God regularly and being challenged by that Voice, we’re operating on rumors and fumes. Are we having a conversation with God bigger than prayer requests? Do we see sovereignty and witness life change around us? Can we recall recent, intimate moments of God’s pleasure or wrestling, insight or discomfort?

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