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).