They Never Compensate For A Lack Of Confidence And Perceived Value In The Mind Of The Consumer
Most business owners and marketers – maybe even you – have been conditioned to try to learn little advertising tricks and technique… mostly because that’s the only thing being taught in any school. I have heard many people mistakenly say “teach me the tricks of the trade.’ This is sad because in reality, they need to learn THE TRADE… in other words, the principles of successful advertising – instead of just learning the TRICKS. Once you learn the basic principles, then you can move on to learning the techniques. There’s a good reason why all good teachers of marketing and advertising go through all the principle-based strategies before they move on to the techniques and tips.
Let me tell you that I have a big problem just teaching techniques. Let’s look at a quick story to illustrate why. My oldest son’s name is Joe and sometimes we go to the local fast food chain drive-in and get french fries. When Joe was really little, like 2 or 3, sometimes the french fries would come out too hot for him to eat, so he’d ask me to cool them down. Well, how do you cool down a hot french fry when you’re in the car? You hold it up to the air conditioner vent and crank it up for a few seconds until it cools off!
We called this technique the “fast food cool down technique.” I know you’ve done this! Well, my son, being smarter than most (at least that’s what most parents always say, right?), he could do this technique all by himself, even at a very young age. Then I remember one time, I looked over there at Joe, and he was doing the fast food cool down technique and I hadn’t told him to do it or reminded him to do it or anything. He was just doing it. And I was thinking, “Wow, he really is pretty smart.” Then I looked closer, and actually had to do a double take. I realized that there were two problems – first, the french fry wasn’t hot and second, the air conditioner wasn’t even turned on. See, Joe was executing the technique to perfection – it’s just that the situation was totally wrong; he couldn’t understand what conditions had to exist before that technique would work. What I had was a small child executing a technique to its absolute perfection without any understanding of the principles that made that technique work in the first place. He didn’t understand the principles, just the technique.
And that’s how it is with sales techniques and marketing techniques and advertising techniques. Let me give you an example, direct mail. Back in the 70s, guys started coming out of the woodwork teaching techniques for tricking people into reading their junk mail. They teach to send your sales letter in a plain white regular sized envelope with no return address with a first class stamp and handwritten address. People would get it and go, “Wow! A letter from someone who forgot to write their return address! I wonder who it is?” Then they’d open it. What do you do when you get a white hand written envelope with no return address on it? You pitch it without even opening it! You know it’s junk. You know it’s a waste of your time. But people are still using that technique, just like a 3 year old holding a cold french fry up to an a/c vent that’s not even turned on!
Here’s another advertising trick used by car dealers. They’re notorious for using tricks because, they haven’t yet innovated their business sufficiently so as to be perceived as being different than their competitors. They don’t have a good inside reality, so instead they try to trick you into believing they offer a better value. I won’t even talk about the loss leader trick, where they put a stripped-down, low price model in their ad that lures you onto the lot only to find that model doesn’t exist. No, that’s too obvious. Everyone knows that trick. How about this one: I saw an ad that featured the headline, “Pay No Tax On All New Models.” You look at that and instantly draw a conclusion that you won’t have to pay the sales tax, which on a $25,000 vehicle could mean a savings of a couple of thousand bucks. I saw that and went “Wow, that’s a great value… pay no tax.” Then I saw the teeny, tiny type at the bottom of the page. It said, “Dealership will pay the INVENTORY tax on the vehicle, customer is responsible for all state and local sales taxes.” Now I had just bought a new car recently and remembered seeing “Inventory Tax” on the final invoice. It was something like $55. Well whoop-dee-do. A $55 savings. Nice trick, guys. Now you tell me: Does that kind of a trick build confidence and trust… or does it build what we call contempt and hatred?
But that’s what most advertising and marketing programs teach you to do – implement a bunch of little techniques to trick people into believing that there’s some kind of value in doing business with you. Techniques, I might add, that frequently don’t work when you try to use them in the real world. You can’t just rely on tricks and techniques. You’ve got to build the inside reality of your business so that the outside perception has a chance of being honestly good. Hey, if your inside reality is poor, or even if it’s just about the same as everyone else’s, what do you think the outside perception of your business will be? So-so at best, right? On the other hand, if you concentrate all your efforts on the “inside reality” but you can’t do advertising very well, you’re setting yourself up for frustration. You’ll be pulling your hair out trying to figure out how anybody could be so knuckleheaded to do business with competitors when your business obviously offers a superior value. Well, maybe it’s NOT so obvious.
The discovery: Most businesses could stand some improvement in both areas, but they struggle the most with the “outside perception,” or, in other words, with all of the competition that exists – because of the confidence gap – they have problems differentiating themselves in the marketplace. Regardless of your situation, or where you are now, that’s what these tips are all about – improving the inside reality and outside perception of your company. It’s best to spend time talking about innovation and how to make your business competitive from a product, operations, and management standpoint, and then spend most of the time talking about how to do the advertising so that it effectively has your company looking like a cut above all the competitors.
Can you see why it’s imperative that these two factors – the inside reality and the outside perception – be considered at the same time? Just innovating leaves you with a really solid company that nobody knows about. On the other hand, just learning sales or marketing or advertising will drive in business that won’t stick around if there’s no superior value. You have to consider both the inside reality and the outside perception. You have to first have something good to say then say it well.