Your marketing sucks.

I bought the book ‘Your marketing sucks” because of the title. While I didn’t expect much from it, it was worth reading. It’s a quick and easy read that I recommend it to any CEO who thinks marketing isn’t working as well as it could for his company.

I’m the second guy to admit that I don’t really know jack about marketing (Steve Bayle is the first – he’ll readily admit that I don’t have a clue.) I came to this realization in the middle of the Internet bubble. I was sitting at my desk in Colorado one day when I received a giant overnight package from one of my investments that I’ll refer to as YACOTWTF (“Yet Another Company On The Way to Failing”). It was an unusually large overnight package and I wasn’t expecting anything, so I was curious. When I opened the package, inside was a giant picture frame with a note taped to it. The note said “Congrats on the great ad we’ve placed in Red Herring Magazine.” I looked at the picture and it was a giant (poster sized) framed (in glass) replica of the ad. My first thought was “why the fuck did they send this to me?” I read the ad. My second thought was “what a shitty ad – it doesn’t say anything about what YACOTWTF does.” My third thought quickly followed, “What did we pay for this?” You can see where this was going. “Did I approve the marketing budget”, “Who is the VP Marketing again”, “I better call the CEO to fire the guy.”

After this ran its course, I called up my doctor, made an appointment at a special top secret medical facility for entrepreneurs and venture capitalist (there are two separate buildings but the dining hall and gym are shared), and had an operation that replaced the phrase “marketing” with the phrase “demand creation” in my brain. Oh – and the ad campaign – which cost $2 million in total (unfortunately, Red Herring wasn’t the only place a full page ad was run) – generated ONE lead and ZERO customers. The company went out of business about a year later. If YACOTWTF was the only company on the planet that did something as dumb as this it’d be one thing, but they had plenty of company as many of the Internet bubble companies spend grotesquely more than $2m on “marketing” that had zero return.

It should be no surprise to you that I didn’t hang the ad on my wall in my office. Our building is two stories high – glass makes a neat scatter pattern when dropped from that height (although it was a pain in the ass to clean up.)

This book reinforced a lot of messages around using that thing that I refer to as demand creation to generate value in your business. I knew I’d at least enjoy the book (even if it wasn’t good) when the first chapter started out with the rule that “Marketing is not about spending money on such things as advertising, direct mail, and P.R. Those are just tools. Marketing is about growing your business – its revenues, profit, and valuation.” Ok – well – duh – but it’s often overlooked. When the author started the next chapter with “Most companies make salesmanship the last step in the marketing process. Most companies are wrong: Salesmanship should have come first” I was hooked – at least for the hour it took me to read the book.

While the book has all the flaws of today’s typical business book (author platitudes followed up by mediocre and often self-serving examples, desperate need of a better editor, and reader fatigue after about 150 pages), it’s still a worthwhile book for a CEO struggling with demand creation (I mean marketing).

  • Brad, if you have not yet read any of his stuff, I highly recommend Jay Abraham’s “Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got.” I have read many marketing books and most of them could be aptly titled, “This marketing book sucks.” However, Jay’s stuff is dense, useful, and totally focused on marketing as a means to increase revenues and profits. He decries the use of traditional advertising, and is fond of saying that “growing a business is almost risk-free” because of the fact that he suggests testing all of your marketing in very small test batches. It is now my marketing Bible.

  • I liked “Your Marketing Sucks” when I read it, because it helps make a clear distinction between marketing and sales. Mistaking “sales” for “marketing” is what makes bad “marketers” blow wads of dough on dumb Red Herring ads.

    But why not go back to basic principles? The best definition of marketing I’ve ever read is from The Man, Peter Drucker, in his book “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” (p. 251 of the softcover version):

    “Price in itself is not ‘pricing,’ and it is not ‘value.’ [Successful companies are] paid for giving their customers satisfaction, for giving their customers what the customer wanted to buy, in other words, for giving their customers their money’s worth.

    ‘But this is nothing but elementary marketing,’ most readers will protest, and they are right. It is nothing but elementary marketing. To start out with the customer’s utility, with what the customer buys, with what the realities of the customer are and what the customer’s values are – this is what marketing is all about. But why, after forty years of preaching Marketing, teaching Marketing, professing Marketing, so few suppliers are willing to follow, I cannot explain. The fact remains that so far, anyone who is willing to use marketing as the basis for strategy is likely to acquire leadership in an industry or market fast and almost without risk.”

    As one of my marketing profs once told me, “Marketing is best left to engineers”. Amen.

  • Can you imagine being a VC and watching all of your money being pissed away like that.

  • That sucks

    Brad Feld has a post on his recent read of Your Marketing Sucks by Mark Stevens. Brad tell a great story that goes with the book….

  • Mike Panaggio

    I loved the pure common sense logic of the book “Your Marketing Sucks” Its all about ROI and not getting stuck on the cost versus expense scenarios that the amateurs. The big question is whether anyone practices what they preach.

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