With the NBA Finals beginning this week (and for those of you outside the U.S. that’s the championship series of basketball), I want to talk about a concept that I’ve heard a few times recently:
In the past, basketball had five positions:
Point guard (for the short guy who could dribble and distribute)
Shooting guard (for another short guy who could score)
Small forward (bigger guy who could score)
Power forward (even bigger guy who could rebound)
Center (biggest guy who could take up space, block shots and also rebound)
Over time, the lines have been blurred: For example, the seven footer who can shoot from the outside and handle the ball is commonplace as is the six footer who can rebound with the best of the best.
All players on the basketball court can play multiple positions, they can all play offense and defense against anyone else and they all know everything about everyone else’s position so they can play it if necessary.
It’s confusing…but I guess it was necessary. Basketball players have gotten bigger and stronger and size does not diminish their dexterity which it seemed to in the past; and if you have the deficiency of being short, you can make up for it with athleticism and leaping ability.
In today’s game, the biggest guy on the court who can dribble and shoot as well as the smallest doesn’t get shortchanged by being pigeonholed into a position…nor does the smallest guy on the court who can go inside with the big boys.
I bring this up today to talk about “positionless marketing”…that is, knowing everything about your marketing whether you are directly involved in it or not.
In the introduction to my new book, Overdeliver,I lay out “9 things every business owner needs to know about marketing” and I’d like to share that with you today. Consider it a preview if you haven’t bought the book yet and a reminder if you have.
And if you haven’t picked up my book with all the fantastic bonuses, go to www.OverdeliverBook.com.
1. Be Involved in All Your Marketing Efforts, Even If You Outsource Everything
Most people with a background in direct response probably won’t need more encouragement on this one—we’re all data junkies who love getting our hands dirty on every kind of campaign. But if your role also demands that you focus on other things outside of marketing (product development, finances, hiring, etc.), make sure you never let go of the marketing reins completely. Keep an eye on everything that everyone is doing, both inside and outside your organization.
The best people I ever hired internally were the people in operations, analytics, and finance who understood and recognized the value of direct marketing. Being on the same page meant we could move so much faster than our competitors. When everyone on your team is on the same page, you don’t get slowed down by red tape. It might sound like a big ask to be hands-on with marketing when it’s not your core competency or to only hire people who love marketing, no matter their job title. But remember that every marketing message is a representation of you and your brand. Look after your marketing like you would your own child—it connects you to your customers, and that relationship must be protected at all costs.
2. Marketing Is Not Evil
I totally understand mission-based businesses and the need to be “elegant” or “classy” with all marketing and sales messages. But marketing your product, especially when it is mission based, is about serving your customers, not taking from them.
Always remember this important premise, drilled into me by one of my mentors, Jay Abraham (still one of the world’s biggest thought leaders on business and marketing, and author of the foreword to this book): it is irresponsible to bring your product or service to the marketplace without the same passion with which you created it.
There’s an ethical line each of us won’t cross (which comes down to your personal perspective), and that’s important to define clearly. But there’s nothing to be ashamed of in bringing your life’s work to as many people as possible if you are doing it in a way that’s congruent with your ethics and overall philosophy. To do this may require copy platforms and creative that you consider aggressive; but as long as you are working in the spirit of making a big impact, sell hard. The more people you reach, the better.
3. No One Spends Enough Time on Lists
You’re going to hear that no one spends enough time on lists a few times throughout this book. Take it to heart. Dick Benson (another mentor and the smartest man I ever met on the science and strategies of direct mail) said this to me the day I met him, circa 1985, when we were comparing lists. I never forgot it, particularly since he later revised the comment to say that the team I led at Boardroom was the only exception.
I can’t emphasize enough that you must pay close attention to your customer list, your prospect list, and how you approach list building at a very detailed level. The real live people who make up those lists are truly the lifeblood of any business driven by direct response (and even many businesses that wouldn’t identify themselves as being in direct response).
Ignoring your lists is like ignoring your family. It’s a prescription for disaster. Making sure you talk to different segments of your list based on their relationship with you is critical to maximize success, and we’ll talk about this at length in the following chapters.
4. Customers Refund Transactions . . . Not Relationships
E-mail is probably the most prevalent sales and communication medium in the world today, and it is also the most effective and efficient way to market any product or service when used properly. But just because e-mail is cheap doesn’t mean it should be used indiscriminately or without careful thought about every message you send. The care that you take with your e-mail list (what I would call your online family) might be the most important thing you do as a marketer, both now and in the future.
If someone recommends that you mail every day, don’t take it as gospel . . . take it under advisement. But here’s better advice: mail when you have something really worthwhile to say. Blogging every day with purpose is effective; throwing out random thoughts or sending pictures of last night’s dinner might be counterproductive. You wouldn’t want your own family to start ignoring you because you were sending stuff they didn’t care about. Think of your online family the same way. If you are just throwing out whatever you can think of every morning, including unrelated or insignificant content, you run the risk of burning out your list, causing your online family to ignore you when you really want them to pay closer attention.
Always look to build relationships for a lifetime, and deliver huge amounts of valuable content before you ever try to sell something. Because e-mail is cost-efficient, this is so much easier than in the past, when we only had offline techniques. Understanding lifetime value (which has its own chapter later on) gives all marketers real leverage and the maximum chance for success in multiple channels. It’s this focus on the long game that you need to develop in your customer relationships.
5. Credibility & Transparency Trump All
Respect your customers. If they’re following you, don’t insult them with anything but transparency. Showing proof of your approach through testimonials, case histories, and professional endorsements is about building your case, not bragging. And when you make a mistake or want to show vulnerability, people always appreciate transparency.
Isn’t the cover-up always worse than the crime? There are countless stories in the world of marketing where a business confessed to something they were not proud of or failed at and came back stronger than ever. But once there’s a cover-up, you’re doomed.
6. Always Think Direct Marketing
Remember—direct marketing is not just direct mail. It’s measurable marketing in any channel. Measurable and accountable advertising is always what you want, and don’t let anyone sell you a brand and image advertising “campaign” without being able to show a clear return on your investment (ROI).
I’ve been saying for years that the Internet is the ultimate direct marketing medium . . . and while that won’t change anytime soon, allmarketing is direct marketing in my world. Expecting an acceptable ROI must always be standard operating procedure. Just because a lot of stuff is cheap to do online doesn’t mean you should allow sloppy campaigns out the door or skimp on requiring tangible results.
7. Use Your Personal Brand in Your Marketing When Applicable
Many marketing superstars understand their personal brand deeply and always keep it totally in sync with their products and services. They’re confident talking about their achievements and know that their information is valuable to their customers. However, many entrepreneurs and business owners are squeamish about putting themselves out there for fear of sounding boastful or disingenuous. In response to that, I will quote baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean (and I think John Wayne and others have used this one too): “It ain’t bragging if you done it.”
8. Advertising Opportunities Are Now Infinite
There are endless ways to market your products and services today. None of us can master them all, because there’s simply too much to know. This is why now the best time ever to be a marketer . . . is but this is also what makes it dangerous.
Having spent my entire career buying à la carte from the best experts across multiple marketing niches, I can assure you this approach will pay for itself. I tell entrepreneurs to run—not walk—away from anyone who claims they can be your one-stop shop for all marketing, creative, and media buying.
Remember that when you have more choice across channels, you also see more specialization and therefore more experts. I don’t think I have to convince you that experts are much better to work with than generalists—and certainly better than generalists posing as experts. In today’s supercharged, multi-channel and technology-rich marketing environment, no one can be an expert on everything. Make sure you’re always searching for the expert who is the leading specialist in the channel you want to use.
Feel free to go to this website because it just redirects to my website, www.briankurtz.me. I really do own this URL, just to prove a point.
No business should rely on a single marketing channel, because you never know when the landscape might change. If Facebook shuts down your ad account, or Google changes its search algorithm, or your e-mail provider slaps you for an infringement, you must have other channels dialed in to keep your business solvent.
This is not about one channel being better than another channel. That is, it’s not an “or” but an “and.” Not only is buying your media on a single channel boring, it’s also dangerous. And the danger is easily avoided when you’ve committed to working with the best of the best across the different marketing disciplines, as I mentioned in the last point. You would expect the people who manage your money to diversify your financial risk, and you should expect the people who manage your marketing to do the same.
Remember, you have to meet your customers where they are, and there’s not a single industry where buyers use only one channel. Meet them everywhere they spend time. And you can only serve your customers if your business stays afloat, so diversify your marketing to ensure you can provide for them over the long haul.
* * *
With all the tools, case studies, and information at our disposal, today’s marketers have more opportunity than ever to leave an indelible mark on the world. While I can’t guarantee what the market will do or which platform will take off next, if you approach direct response marketing with a spirit of service and healthy competition, your business and marketing can be a force that changes countless lives for the better—and pays off for you too.
The nine fundamentals listed above were originally written for entrepreneurs and business owners who are not marketers but who I believe must embrace these principles to build their businesses for a lifetime. This book will dive deeply into all these principles, giving you valuable understanding whether or not you are an experienced marketer.
P.S. I know many of you have bought Breakthrough Advertising for which I am very thankful…I am so glad I have been given the privilege of bringing that classic back to life.
And many of you have shared wonderful experiences you’ve had exploring this book–and please keep writing to me with your thoughts and insights.
Gene Schwartz’s other classic, The Brilliance Breakthrough, is a book that you may not know as much about but you should.
Consider it Gene’s manual for writing (and not just copywriting).
You can get your copy here: