How to Stop “Fixing” Non-Existent Marketing Problems

Getting your marketing message right is always a work in progress. That’s true even for established brands that, at least from an outsider’s perspective, appear frozen in time.

The mistake many professionals make, even some good copywriters, when they stumble upon such a company, is to immediately “correct” the marketing problems:

“They should do this…”

“They need to do that…”

“What they’re doing isn’t working…”

No marketing problems with Drudge!

Do you do this? Be honest.

The truth is, we all do it. But it’s wrong. It’s an impulse worth resisting.

Why? Because without access to behind-the-scenes information, there is no objective way to judge how one company’s dated website, tacky coupons, or 70s-style packaging is performing.

For all you know, the company’s profit margins might be breaking records!

(Unlikely? Maybe, but it happens. Read on.)

Appearances can be deceiving

Your boss (as if I need to tell you this!) is not immune from making the same wrong assumptions on a hunch or whim. The problem is, when he or she expects you to ride along. Trying to get them to walk it back can be harder than finding an honest man in Congress!

Hunches and gut feelings are touchy subjects. Who wants to argue over something so subjective?

You have to address them with care and sensitivity. Hard data and conversion rates? Not so much. If something works, it works…

…which is why, for example, the Drudge Report hasn’t (from all appearances) updated its website in 20 years. The site pulls in more than 2 million visitors a day, and those visitors stick around reading for 30 minutes. The establishment news leader, The New York Times, beats those numbers by a nose hair, yet spends tens of millions more on website optimization.

An interesting fact about the Drudge Report is that beneath its frozen-in-time appearance, its ad targeting software is razor-sharp. Or as one writer put it, “the site is like a 1995 Ford Escort with a 500-horsepower advertising engine under the hood.”

Marketing problems based on assumptions

The old adages about not judging a book by its cover, ASSUMEing, or getting fooled by appearances are all true.

Your marketing copy should reflect this sentiment. That is, the voice and word choice should not be decided upon by committee or popular trends.

The two most important factors for churning out copy that sells are first, knowledge of audience and second, knowledge of product. If your copywriter(s) have a good grasp of both, then you need not worry about the opinions of outsiders.

I’ve learned through trial and error not to judge a company solely on their marketing collateral. The visual/design/copy elements do not tell the whole story.

Real marketing problems usually run a little deeper. For example, the world’s largest staffing agency ($10 billion in sales annually) sports an ugly, bare-bones website that doesn’t give one clue about their global reach…

… which I have to assume is intentional. You simply don’t grow into a $10 billion company by forgetting to update your website… right?

What marketing problem did you “solve” for a company only to later discover that you were spectacularly wrong?

Share with me on Twitter @DevaneyMkedev.

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