The Real Secret of Marketing Success

April 20, 2024

Since 2003, I’ve worked with some smart and successful business owners – and also some unsuccessful ones. I’ve learned a huge amount just by watching how my best clients have marketed their businesses.

It’s been a great privilege. They have been paying me to work for them – but all the while I’ve been soaking up their marketing knowledge too!

So, naturally, I’ve wondered over the years, why are some businesses successful and others go broke? I’m talking about small and medium size businesses, which are the ones I work with. People start them full of optimism, with the dream of owning their own business. They work hard. And they employ someone like me to help them with online marketing.

The reality is, even though I try to put the same amount of effort and expertise into every client I work with, some succeed and others fail. In the early days, when one of my clients’ businesses failed, I would take it personally and think I had failed with the marketing.

But over time, I’ve learned there’s a lot more to successful marketing than simply building a great website, setting up a Google AdWords campaign, optimising for Google etc. These are all important. But there’s something more fundamental, which is the real difference between success and failure in marketing.

The secret is – a “starving crowd” – i.e. making the right offer to the right people at the right time

The great copywriter, Gary Halbert, used to say, if you’re selling burgers the most important thing is to have a starving crowd. As long as the quality of your burgers is reasonable, you will sell a ton of them to that starving crowd.

The same applies in any business. If you are selling a product or service that’s in hot demand, it’s a heck of a lot easier than trying to flog ice to Eskimos. It sound obvious. But a lot of businesses fail to realise this simple truth.

This what sets apart the winners from the losers in business, in my experience. First, they’re smart enough to get into a business where they can see there’s a strong demand for the product or service they want to sell.

Second, where there are other strong competitors in the same market (which there will be, if there’s strong demand), the successful businesses find a way to differentiate their product or service. They do this by finding some kind of emotional connection with their target audience. So people will clamour to buy from them rather than anyone else.

This is why, for example, you can have two businesses selling flowers. One is making a fortune while the other struggles for a few years and eventually shuts down. The successful florist has found a way to connect with their target customers’ emotions. They are not just selling flowers – they are selling an experience.

Naturally, I love working with the successful business owners. In most cases, they already know in their own minds what makes their business unique and why people should buy from them, rather than anyone else. All I need to do is ask them. They tell me, and I write it down. The result is a persuasive sales message.

But with the unsuccessful business owner, when I ask them what makes their business unique and why someone should buy from them, rather than from their competitor, they don’t really have any idea. They look to me to come up with the idea. Which I try to do. But it’s pushing water uphill.

If the business owner doesn’t know what makes them unique and better than the competition, their marketing is doomed to mediocrity from the start.

These days, I can get a gut feeling about how a client’s marketing is going to go, just from the initial conversation. I can sense whether they have a passion for the product or service they are selling – and whether they are smart enough to get inside the mind of their target customer and connect with their emotions.

Those kind of clients make my job so much easier!