Because marketing is a “soft” science, it is often surrounded by an aura of mystery.
Unlike adding a column of numbers, or combining specific chemicals in a beaker, you cannot always predict the outcome of a marketing campaign. That uncertainty has given rise to a number of commonly held myths about marketing although the reality tells a very different story.
Let’s take a look at some of these myths.
-Myth No. 1: “If you do a good job, marketing is unnecessary.”
Some businesspeople believe that the only marketing they need to do is to perform an outstanding job for their clients.
This may have been true in the past, but word-of-mouth advertising is no longer enough. In today’s strongly competitive business environment, receiving quality work is considered a given. Today, all entrepreneurs and professionals need to implement creative and effective marketing campaigns to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and pursue prospective clients.
Perhaps you’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that: “Only your marketing person is responsible for your marketing efforts.”
Who handles the marketing for your company? If you give the name of just one person, think again. While a single individual may be officially charged with the task, everyone in your company is part of your marketing team whether their “clients” are internal, such as the support staff for a professional services firm, or are on the front lines of attracting paying customers.
-Myth No. 2: “Direct mail doesn’t work.”
We’ve all heard this. The “evidence” for this myth is that direct-mail campaigns allegedly draw, at best, only a 1 percent response rate.
The truth is, it’s impossible to generalize about response rates. The response that a direct-mail campaign elicits depends on several crucial factors, including what it is you’re selling, how clean and up-to-date your mailing list is, and the quality of the materials you’re sending out.
The success of direct mail also depends on the nature of the offer you’re making. Is it one that will motivate people to respond? Granted, in some types of mailings sending article reprints, for example there is no offer. But even in those cases, are you giving contacts several options for getting in touch with you, if only to say thank you? Do your phone and fax numbers and your e-mail address appear in all your materials?
-Myth No. 3: “The only time we really need to update our database of clients, customers and referral sources is just before we send out holiday cards.”
If you believe this, you’re missing many opportunities. Your database is the core of any marketing program. Whether you’re embarking on a new marketing campaign or enhancing your existing efforts, your database needs to be ready.
Updating a mailing list takes a great deal of time and effort, and unless you do it on an ongoing basis, it’s unlikely to get done at the 11th hour when you’re about to send out a direct-mail piece. As a result, you’ll either wind up not mailing the piece, which means you’ll miss a potentially valuable business opportunity, or you’ll mail the piece to an incomplete and out-of-date list, which means much of the money you spend on the mailing may be wasted.
So, update your database long before you plan any direct-mail campaign. And once you’ve updated it, keep it current on a continuous basis. Assign one person the role of “keeper of the database,” and instruct everyone in your operation to forward any changes to that individual.
-Myth No. 4: “We don’t expect to get any business from our Web site.”
Did your company create a Web site six months or a year ago, and no one has visited it since? If so, it’s important to realize that people won’t come to your Web site if they don’t know about it. It’s critical to raise awareness of your site through other channels such as making sure your URL appears on your letterhead, in your ads, etc.
Also, are you giving your target audience reasons to visit and return to the site? Are you keeping it fresh by adding new articles and other information to it on a regular basis? Are you sending your customers and potential customers e-mails containing links to updated information on the site?
-Myth No. 5: “Our company can never get coverage in the newspaper or on TV.”
You’ve probably wondered why a certain individual perhaps a competitor of yours is regularly quoted in the newspaper or interviewed on your local TV station. Knowing that the person is not extraordinary in any way, you may be mystified.
If you want to receive media coverage, you must target the media channels and individuals that you want to be covered by. Assemble a database of contact information for the media figures that report and comment on your area of expertise. Brainstorm ways that you can make yourself valuable to them. Demonstrate how you can help them, and you’ll begin to build valuable relationships with them.
By shining the light of reality on these and other commonly held marketing myths, you’ll see clearly that they’re riddled with misconceptions. Only then will you be able to unleash the powerful magic that marketing can create for your company.
Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Corp., a marketing consultancy. She can be reached at berman @berbay.com.
Entrepreneur’s Notebook is a regular column contributed by EC2, The Annenberg Incubator Project, a center for multimedia and electronic communications at the University of Southern California. Contact James Klein at (213) 743-1759 with feedback and topic suggestions.