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Common Marketing Mistakes and How to Fix Them



You know many companies that have gone out of business. Some didn't have products people wanted, or sold them for too much, or had poor employees. Those are the obvious reasons. But there's a more subtle reason some businesses go DOA - their marketing message.

Your company can sell a great product, but if your marketing message does not create that image in your customer's mind, it won't sell. The perceived value of your product is what initially counts the most. And perceived value is created largely by your marketing message.

There are many ways that a good marketing idea can go bad. Here are some of them:

(1) Make it Cryptic. A cryptic message is not immediately clear to its readers. Not on purpose; it's just written in a way that the reader cannot understand. For example, here is a slogan an insurance company used to spearhead a new marketing campaign - "We won't let you get it until you've got it." Confused? Me, too. And so were most Americans. They lost a bundle on the campaign before changing it.

When people see your company name and hear the slogan, they should immediately 'get it.' The same is true of your marketing message. If you feel the need to say "in other words," your message is probably suffering from crypticitis and should undergo sentence surgery. Speaking of surgery, the Cosmetic Surgery Institute has a terrific slogan: "We'll get you in shape fast!"

(2) Make it Confusing. A confusing message fails to get all the important points into the reader's mind. Usually that's because the writer assumes the reader knows some key fact. For example, a New York company named Richland's advertised a "Entire Stock 25% Off" sale, gave their phone, address, and sale hours. But they assumed people knew what they sold! Very few people will take the time to figure out what your message is all about, or look for the missing information they need. Make sure you serve your message up like the Blue Plate Special - fast, simple, and easy to digest.

(3) Make it Complicated. Many ads are written with the mistaken belief that readers care enough to wade through complex arguments explaining the product and what it will do for them. Most don't. Why? Some studies estimate that the average person is bombarded with over 3,000 commercial messages a day (most of which we don't pay attention to). No wonder readers want marketing messages that are quick and easy to process. That's why USA Today is so popular. The famous KISS rule still works. But the unfortunately abbreviated KISASS rule is ever better - Keep It Short and Simple, Stupid!

(4) Make it Uninteresting. Some copywriters assume that readers are panting to find out more about the product, and will endure the most boring writing to satisfy that desire. Even ads that promise "great riches" or "great sex" need interesting copy, so how much more important do you think it is for your message to be interesting? Interesting copy creates desirable images in the reader's mind. An ad for an out-of-the-way shopping center talked about its "picturesque courtyard, quaint shops, intriguing restaurants, and peaceful setting" to make readers interested enough to make the drive. But another ad only blared "Body Care" and listed its services, such as "microdermabrasion." Which one sounds more interesting to you?

(5) Make it Unattractive. Ever see a newspaper photo of a hamburger that looked washed-out and gray? The headline probably said something like, "You could be eating this delicious hamburger right now at Bob's Big Boy." But the burger didn't look so delicious, and now your image of Bob's food isn't so good. An unattractive photo destroyed a good ad and hurt the company's reputation.

Photos are the first thing that most people notice in your ad, flyer or brochure. Next are the captions and headlines. If those pictures and words don't make your product seem appealing, they probably won't waste time on the copy.

I once saw a brochure for a home service company that was filled with dark, dull photos of their technicians, who all had their backs and butts to the camera. The company had the mistaken impression that potential customers wanted to see technicians working on complicated and unidentified pieces of machinery.

Imagine that your marketing piece is like a flower vase. Does it look like it would be sold at Macy's, or the Dollar Store? If you have a Dollar Store brochure, people will think you have Dollar Store merchandise, too.

(6) Make it Unbelievable. I get a regular set of spam e-mails that have "description" lines like "Make $4,000 a Week Sitting By Your Pool!," or "Make $1,000 a Day While You Sleep!" When we read a marketing message that is so far outside the realm of possibility for us, we tend to reject it. Why? Because we have all been fooled time and again by similar promises, so we're skeptical.

Why make new customers skeptical of your message by promising an unbelievable benefit? Sure, it may work on some people, but probably not the type of customer you want.

Your message should stimulate some important desire in readers and promise to satisfy it. But the promise must pass their 'smell' test - if it smells rotten, it probably is. For example, you might believably say they can lose several pounds a week with your diet and exercise. But it isn't believable to promise they'll drop five dress sizes in a week. Treat readers with the same intellectual respect that you demand. Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said that he wrote every ad with the same respect as he would show to his wife.

Today there are hundreds of rocky shoals that can sink your business. Many of them are out of your control. Don't become a victim of one that you can control - your own marketing message.

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