Why Most Marketing Sucks

There are seven key reasons marketing sucks at far too many companies:

  1. They don’t really know what marketing is, but in Kafkaesque fashion, they are going to spend money on it
  2. They go by generalities, even though every situation is different
  3. They do not employ a swarming offense, hitting everyone everywhere they turn
  4. They launch expensive programs and campaigns that are devoid of innovative thinking
  5. They ignore readily available research that would allow them to pinpoint ideal prospects
  6. Corporate management allows the drivers of the marketing process to remain unaccountable for generating a measurable return on the investment that it take to produce the marketing programs
  7. Managers refuse to admit that the only meaningful return on investment is measured by the recruitment of new customers and/or the sale of additional products to existing customers.

— Mark Stevens, Your Marketing Sucks, Chapter 1


What is Programming?

by Tony in * one-offs

What does a programmer do besides talk in programming language? Most programmers would have trouble explaining what they do. Programming is a job filled with details, and keeping track of those details requires focus. Hours drift by and the code appears. You look up and there are all of those statements. If you don’t think carefully, you might think that programming is just typing statements in a programming language. You would be wrong, of course, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking around the programming section of the bookstore.

— Ward Cunningham, Foreward, The Pragmatic Programmer


Growing Software

by Tony in * one-offs

Some years ago Harlan Mills proposed that any software system should be grown by incremental development. That is, the system should first be made to run. even if it does nothing useful except call the proper set of dummy subprograms. Then, bit by bit. it should be fleshed out, with the subprograms in turn being developed into actions or calls to empty stubs in the level below.

I have seen most dramatic results since I began using this Technique on the project builders in my Software Engineering Laboratory class. Nothing in the past decade has so radically changed my own practice, or its effectiveness. The approach necessitates top-down design, for it is a top-down growing of the software. It allows easy backtracking. It lends itself to early prototypes. Each added function and new provision for more complex data or circumstances grows organically out of what is already there.

The morale effects are startling. Enthusiasm jumps when there is a running system, even a simple one. Efforts redouble when the first picture from a new graphics software system appears on the screen even if it is only a rectangle. One always has, at every stage in the process, a working system.

I find that teams can grow much more complex entities in four months than they can build.

— Fred Books, No Silver Bullet


Managing Change

I used to think it was because I’m in a classic low-tech industry, but I spend a lot more time sorting out internal problems than I do coming up with ways to incorporate the latest wrinkle in envelope folding. Most managers do not manage change. Change takes them by surprise. What we’re actually managing is the conflict wrought by change. When we hold budget meetings at our company, every department has the same request: We can bury those hotshots across town if you just give us more resources. But before you can beat the guys on the other team, you need to have your own people on board. Good managers have to sort out the conflicts. You can’t just allocate resource and set policy by the numbers. Otherwise you wouldn’t need a manager – an accountant could run the company.

— Harvey Mackay, Beware The Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, Lesson 25


Harvey’s Odds on Beating Your Competition

Just show up – you’re a winner 80 percent of the time. Most accounts are won because nobody else is calling on them.

Show up on time – what could be more annoying than a salesperson who can’t deliver the first thing he’s promised to delivery – his own body.

Show up on time with a plan – don’t expect to get by with vague, offhand answers to objections. By being truthful and accurate in your answers you’ll get orders that others won’t get, because they haven’t been clear cut in their responses.

Show up on time with a plan and a commitment to carry it out – if you don’t believe in what you’re selling, how can you expect anyone else to?

Show up on time with a plan, a commitment to carry it out, and then execute it. Nothing is more deadly to sales relationship than a broken promise. Once you’ve put the other elements together, if you perform you’ll beat the competition 100 percent of the time.

— Harvey Mackay, Beware The Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, Lesson 22


Deliver More Than You Promise

Marilyn Bend, a schoolteacher in Oregon, totalled her car, and barely escaped alive. She wasn’t about to buy the same model, so she went to another dealer. He didn’t have what she wanted in stock, and he wouldn’t order it without her making “a commitment” in advance to buy it. She finally ended up back at the dealer who sold her the car she’d rolled, where her original salesman not only ordered the car she wanted “on spec,” but helped her get an additional thousand-dollar settlement from here insurance company on the battered heap.

Where does it a say car salesmen are supposed to fill out a prospect’s insurance claims? That’s a waste of time.

But the fellow who did it happens to be the agency’s leading salesman year in and year out. The schoolteacher even baked him a cake when she got her check from the insurance company. She bought the car, of course, even though she hadn’t made a commitment. Successful people do things others don’t like to do.

— Harvey Mackay, Beware The Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, Lesson 8


The Canyon of Wile E. Coytote

Wile E. Coyote is a Mensa genius whose only thought is to catch the Roadrunner. With the unlimited resources of Acme Corporation at Wile E.’s disposal, one might easily consider the Roadrunner doomed. But it never seems to work out that way.

Wile E. Coyote is a victim of overplanning. It is this overplanning, not the Roadrunner, that lands Wile E. at the bottom of the canyon.

Overplanning assumes that a plan can be and should be prepared for every possible contingency. Unfortunately, life doesn’t come in that small a package. It’s easy to respond to actual circumstances, but impossible to respond to imaginary ones.

Overplanning comes naturally to any person with a highly developed intellect and a morbid fear of failure. Western society has placed such a premium on success that few of us can bear the thought of failure. Yet failure is the key to success.

The person most likely to succeed is the one who recognises the temporary nature of failure and consequently has no fear of it –
a person who knows that each failure brings him one step closer to success.

–Roy H. Williams, The Wizard of Ads, #87


A Two-Peso Weather Report

I am standing in the front yard of my close friend Loren Lewis when a blue Cadillac pulls into his driveway. Loren is known as a mechanical genius who has a weird, psychic bond with Cadillacs. Loren shouts to the driver, “Pop the hood and leave it running!” and then begins messing with things in the engine compartment before the man has even gotten out of his car.

While Loren is twisting bolts and pulling wires, the driver introduces himself and begins telling his sad story over Loren’s shoulder. “I’ve had it every place in town and you’re my last hope. This car has been in and out of the shop for the past two months, and I’ve spent more than five hundred dollars to fix the air conditioner, but it still won’t blow cold. No one can figure it out. One of the guys at the dealership suggested I bring it to you, but I don’t want to leave it here unless you’re certain you can fix it.”

Just then, Loren closes the hood and says, “I heard the problem as you were pulling into the drive. Now reach through the window, and stick your hand in front of the vent.”

The man’s eyes widen. He shouts, “It’s ice cold! It’s ice cold!”

“That’ll be fifty dollars,” says Loren.

“What?” exclaims the man. “I’ve only been here three minutes. You can’t charge me fifty dollars for three minutes!”

Loren nods. “You’ve got a point,” he says. He reaches inside the Cadillac, takes the keys out of the ignition, and stuffs them into his pocket. “Follow me,” he says. Inside the house, Loren hands the man the telephone and says, “Call your wife to come pick you up. Your car will be ready in a week.”

David Weisz, a friend of mine with a reputation for artful negotiation, tells his children, “Always negotiate the price of products. Never negotiate the price of services. The services you get for half price are not the same services you get for full price.”

–Roy H. Williams, The Wizard of Ads, #61


The Cocaine of Advertising

Ask your physician how to feel good, and he’ll look you squarely in the eye and say, “Eat right and exercise.” Yet for every dollar spent in fitness centres, Americans spend nineteen dollars on cocaine. The reason? Two seconds after you snort cocaine you feel like Superman. Two weeks of diet and exercise just makes you hungry and sore.

The desire for instant gratification is harmless enough if the only thing it leads you to do is pay higher prices at a convenience store. But heaven help you if you demand instant gratification from your advertising! The business person looking for a financial quick fix will soon discover the cocaine of advertising, a four-letter magic chant:

Sale! Sale! Sale! Sale!

–Roy H. Williams, The Wizard of Ads, #20


Principles of Guerrilla Warfare

From China to Cuba to Vietnam, history teaches the power of a guerrilla movement. In business, too, a guerrilla has a reservoir of tactical advantages that allows the small company to flourish in the land of the giants. Size, of course, is relative. What’s more important than your own size is the size of your competition. The key to marketing warfare is to the tailor tactics to your competition, not to your own company.

1: Find a segment of the market small enough to defend

It could be small geographically. Or in volume. Or in some other aspect difficult for a larger company to attack. A guerrilla organisation does not change the mathematics of a marketing war (the big company still beats the small company.) Rather a guerrilla tries to reduce the size of the battleground in order to achieve a superiority of force. Try to pick a segment small enough so that you can become the leader. The tendency is to do the opposite, to try to grab as big a market as possible. This could be a mistake.

2: No matter how successful you become, never act like the leader

Most guerrilla companies are lucky their leaders didn’t go to the Harvard Business School to learn how to market like General Motors, General Electric, and General Dynamics. That’s not to say that the business schools of this world don’t produce excellent leaders. They do, for the big companies whose case histories make up the core of their curriculum. But the essence of guerrilla strategy and tactics is the opposite of what’s right for the Fortune 500 crowd. Some corporate employees spend years without ever meeting a customer or seeing a competitive salesperson. Guerrillas should exploit this weakness by getting as high a percentage of their personnel as possible on the firing line. This drastically improves the “quickness” of a guerrilla to respond to changes in the marketplace itself.

3: Be prepared to bug out at a moment’s notice

A company that runs away lives to fight another day. Don’t hesitate to abandon a position or a product if the battle turns against you. A guerrilla doesn’t have the resources to waste on a lost cause. Here’s where the advantage of flexibility and a lean organization really pays off. A guerrilla can often take up a new position without the internal pain and stress that a big company goes through. A lot of infighting has to take place before things get changed in a big company. A small company can change things around without making internal waves. Guerrillas should also use their flexibility to jump into a market quickly when they see
an opportunity.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 10