In Market Like You Mean It, marketing expert Al Lautenslager explains how you can engage your customers, create brand believers and gain fans for everything you sell. In this edited excerpt, the author describes eight strategies you can use to make your marketing messages cut through the media clutter that your prospects and customers see every day.

How does a marketer stand out in the crowded marketing storm? How can you hit your target market right between the eyes and cut through the media clutter that's all around you? Answering these questions represents the holy grail of marketing.  

Every day there are new messaging ideas and repurposed content from thought leaders and marketers of all types. If your messages are part of that clutter, your goal is to lift them above the clutter and get noticed. Here are eight essentials to consider as you start off and move closer to that marketing holy grail:

1. Focus on solutions. This is what customers are really looking for. And when there's demand, half of your marketing job is done. Products and services that have a high demand get noticed early and often. Give your target market what they want or what they're interested in looking at. Offer something that shouts "I'm a problem solver" or "I'm a solution" quickly, and your message will get noticed.

2. Aim at your target market. Marketing that doesn't hit its intended target is classified as a waste, inefficient or junk (as in "junk mail"). Marketing that does hit its target market is classified as interesting, effective and very efficient. The key here is to give your target market something that interests them. If you're a senior citizen interested in classical music, a direct-mail piece about the newest music releases for the latest rock-and-roll bands won't do the job -- you're not part of the rock-and-roll music target market.

3. Use headlines and subtitles. Make these titles (and subtitles) provocative, thought-provoking, extreme and completely unexpected. One of the best headlines I've seen--one I know got noticed--was "Things the Government Won't Tell You About Terrorism." Another one that garnered equal attention was "7 Mistakes Banks Make Every Day." Both would get attention and make people want to read more.

4. Have a crystal-clear message. Graphics can get attention, but don't let them overwhelm your marketing to the point where your message isn't being communicated. The famous advertising guru David Ogilvy once said, "I do not regard advertising as an entertainment or an art form but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don't want you to tell me that you find it creative. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product." You can't bore people into taking notice with boring or unclear messages.

5. Try extreme marketing messaging. The truth is, extreme marketing works. Things that state the opposite, the negative and mistakes get attention. Here are examples of headlines or messages that get noticed because of their extreme nature:

  • How to Run Your Company into the Ground in One Week
  • How to Make Your Salespeople 10 Percent More Efficient
  • How I Grew Profits by 0.005 Percent

All these headlines would probably get your attention and make you want to read on because of their extreme nature.

6. Offer a marketing hook. This is another way to get noticed that's especially prevalent in content marketing circles today. Simply put, information is offered as an incentive for additional contact. This "hooks" a prospect, setting the stage for further communication. Here are a few examples of hooks:

  • Call us today for a free mortgage loan calculator.
  • Download a free recipe ebook that uses our spices and seasonings.
  • Stop by today for a free vase for your Mother's Day flowers.

All these hooks offer something of value to an interested prospect. They'll all increase not only the attention your pieces get but your response rates as well.

7. Leverage odd items, shapes, and sizes. Another thing to consider when you want your pieces to stand out from the crowd is to create something that's a different size or has a different tone or is otherwise outside the normal format. This includes odd-shaped mailing pieces, extreme colors or messages, and choosing unusual times at which to approach your target market, like talking about Christmas in the spring. Carlsbad Brewery once dropped fake passports in the New York City subway system to notify their target market about a new product they were launching. Finding a passport on the subway was unexpected; it's not something you see every day. Carlsbad's messages got noticed.

8. Answer directly "What's in it for the prospect?" Holiday Inn Express advertised that their motels had the "number-one customer-rated showerhead." Have you ever been asked to rate a showerhead? Holiday Inn discovered this was important to their target market and communicated that message directly to them. You can listen and read all about the features of a Holiday Inn Express, but hearing about the number-one customer-rated showerhead speaks to something all visitors want. What's in it for them? A superior shower. Superior showers get noticed.

Standing out from the marketing clutter will always be a marketer's challenge. Starting with these fundamentals will help you break through.