The One Mistake That's Killing Your Business

You shouldn't be focused on brand marketing like Apple or Starbucks -- but rather on this instead.

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By Alex Banayan

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LinkedIn Influencer, Alex Banayan, published this post originally on LinkedIn.

In business school we're shown case studies about Apple, Starbucks, and those other big guys – but the idea that their marketing methods are "best" is the biggest lie in business.

Just because it works for them doesn't mean it will work for the rest of us who work at small or medium sized businesses.

What you should be learning in business school is that you should not be focused on brand marketing like Apple or Starbucks – but rather on direct marketing.

Every dollar you spend on marketing should be tracked and expected to produce a return. Billboards and Super Bowl commercials only work for the 1%.

So if you're serious about upping your marketing game, you need to refocus on learning what the best direct marketers do to build successful businesses. And one of the best resources on this subject is Dan Kennedy's No B.S. Direct Marketing. Below are 10 rules from the book:

1. Always Include An Offer

As Peter Drucker said, "The purpose of marketing is to create a customer." If you don't include an offer, you're creating more awareness instead of more customers – a poor result when you have dollars on the line. Make the call to action clear and direct.

2. Give A Reason To Respond Right Now

With everything going on in our busy lives, we're either going to take advantage of an offer now – or not at all. Put a time limit. Make it a limited quantity offer. Put a sense of urgency. Grab the attention of the people who see your ads and give them a reason to act right now.

Related: 3 Career Mistakes You Can't Afford To Make (LinkedIn)

3. Give Clear Instructions

Don't assume people will know what to do when they see your marketing material. Tell them exactly what step you want them to take next. You'll be amazed how this skyrockets your conversions.

4. Focus on Tracking, Measurement, and Accountability

If you're not testing and tweaking your marketing continuously, you are guaranteed it won't be as effective as it could be. And the only way to test is to track and measure everything. In fact, if it can't be tracked and measured – don't do it.

5. Only Do No-Cost Brand Building

There's nothing wrong with brand building. It's only wrong when you pay for it. Jack Trout (author of Positioning) said it best when he said that unless you have a billion dollars, don't start a brand building campaign. Instead, focus on direct marketing. Enjoy any brand building you get as a bonus of your marketing – not as the goal.

6. Always Follow-Up

Dan Kennedy once asked a room of business owners which battery company ran ads with the bunny that kept "going and going". Half the room thought it was Duracell. So if Energizer spent billions of dollars on advertising and still couldn't get people to remember their brand – do you really think just one ad or marketing effort is enough to sway people to your cause? You need to follow up – follow up with your prospects, follow up with your customers.

7. Make It Look Like Mail-Order Advertising

Most people think mail-order advertising is ineffective. But the truth is, it works big time. The point is that mail-order advertisements are some of the most tested marketing pieces that exist. So study them. Use them as role models for all your campaigns.

Related: 3 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life (LinkedIn)

8. Strengthen Your Copy

Most marketing we see in the digital age is made of nice pictures and cute catch phrases – seems that the people behind those ads forgot that those things don't make people buy. And remember our goal: to make people buy your product. So focus on writing in a way that sells – focus on strong copy. (I highly recommend the book How To Write An Advertisement as a great guide for that).

9. Focus On Results. Period.

It doesn't matter what image or copy you like, or which ad you think you should use. As a marketer, you need to listen and act only on results.

10. Put Your Business On A Strict Direct Marketing Diet

Next time your local newspaper calls about putting your logo on the fourth page – say "no" – unless you're ready to use the above 9 points in there as well. Forget about awareness marketing and go on the diet of business champions: direct marketing.

What Did You Think?

How many of those rules did you "get"? Which one was spot on? Which ones did you already know? And more interestingly—which do you disagree with?

Share your insights in the comments below.

Alex Banayan

Author and Keynote Speaker

Alex Banayan has been featured in major media including Fortune, Businessweek, Bloomberg TV, Fox News and CBS News. An acclaimed keynote speaker, Banayan has presented the Third Door framework to Apple, Nike, IBM, Dell, MTV, Harvard and countless others.

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