My upcoming book, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets, which I'm writing while you watch on this site and in my daily emails!

My upcoming book, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets, which I’m writing while you watch on this site and in my daily emails!

Hey there Rainmaker, I’m sitting here enjoying a nice cup of coffee, in the cafe at a local grocery store, typing out this email at the last second, as I’ve been very busy with a couple clients today.

Remember, I’m writing a book while you watch… My book, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets, encompassing all the most fundamental principles for applying direct response in your business. (Or, your clients’.)

We’re now deep into the section on “The Mental Game” of breakthrough marketing, and today’s lesson is absolutely critical.

There’s a fine line between effective, legitimate establishing of credibility, proof, and believability through self-promotion… And pompous chest-beating that turns customers off in a fraction of a second.

Get this right and you’ve discovered one of the most powerful lessons in positioning, marketing, advertising, and selling.

Okay, here goes…

To be a great marketer, you have to kill your ego.

If you look at most pop culture marketing and advertising, this is the exact OPPOSITE of what you’d think you need to do.

To illustrate, let’s look at the different approaches to marketing and advertising.

Let’s start with the advertising and marketing that most folks think of. The kind you see during the Super Bowl. The kind you talk to your friends about, as if it were entertainment.

You can call it “Madison Avenue.” You can call it “creative.” You can call it “branding.”

The gist of this style of advertising is that it should convey a positive impression of your company. It should be beautiful, or entertaining. It should be funny, or clever.

But most importantly, this school of creative advertising is either about the advertiser, or often, the advertising agency.

This is the type of advertising that wins advertising awards, given by other advertisers.

This type of advertising is a complete and total waste for most businesses.

First off, when this advertising works (and when it’s not an accident), it’s a numbers game. It goes by the old adage that when you want to make a sale, you have to put yourself in front of your prospect 7 times, or 20 times, or 200 times. That way, when it’s time to buy a product like yours, they’ll remember, and choose you.

With an effectively unlimited marketing budget like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola’s, this can have influence. Somewhat.

However, when it comes to most businesses, you’ll go broke before you build your brand this way.

And while you’re in court filing your Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, your ad agency will be receiving praise at the Addys or some other industry award banquet. Patting themselves on their back for the “creativity” they put into your latest campaign. And they’ll have even more to celebrate, because they’ll have gotten big fat commission checks from all those media buys you made to get those failed 200 exposures for your ad.

It’s criminal.

And then there’s the renegades, the rebels, the outcasts of the marketing world.

Those of us who believe that for every dollar you spend on an ad, it should bring back a dollar in return, bearing a new customer. Or for every dollar you spend advertising to your current customers, it should bring back 6, 10, even 100 dollars in return.

This is a school of advertising and marketing that judges itself not by beauty, nor entertainment, nor cleverness, nor humor.

We are to be judged by results!

Any “brand-building” is a happy byproduct of marketing campaigns and advertisements that created happy customers and profits. The “brand” is built through customer experience — NOT a manufactured image in the market.

“Mad Men” used to call us the mail order advertisers. Because, well, that’s where we come from. In today’s multimedia age, we’re called “direct response marketers,” or simply “direct marketers.”

Most importantly, the school of direct marketing is about the customer — and fulfilling their wants, needs, and desires.

We know that if we want our customer to spend their hard-earned money on our product… To trust us enough to send in money sight-unseen to get our wares… We need to captivate their imagination, relieve their pain, and awaken their pleasures!

We can’t make our advertising about us, because our customer doesn’t give a damn about us.

Our customer cares about herself. And the best way to get her to respond to our appeal is by showing her how buying from us improves her life.

We must kill our ego. And serve our customer’s.

With this directive, this allows us to start to define what makes horrible, bad, good, and great marketing — when it comes to generating real business results.

Horrible marketing is entertainment you pay an ad agency to create.

The worst of the worst marketing is creative masturbation done in ad agencies. It may include your business name, logo, or perhaps even products. But the primary purpose for its creation is to improve the image and stature of its creator — most often, the ad agency.

Most Super Bowl advertising never makes any money. It’s often a horrible, wretched failure of a business expense. And yet, it’s held up by many as the paragon of advertising. In truth, it’s advertising malpractice!

And yet, for decades — more than a century — the advertising industry has continued to be dominated by these creative advertisers whose biggest pride isn’t in helping businesses grow, but in filling shelves in their swank offices with ego-gratifying award trophies. And cashing the fat commission checks from that expensive air time.

I call this the worst of the worst simply because it’s one step short of highway robbery — and it’s spoon-fed to unknowing business owners as if it were the Holy Grail…

The ad agency says, “They’ll laugh, they’ll cry… They’ll love our ad!”

And I ask, “Yes, but will they buy?”

One step above horrible, you’ll find bad marketing…

Bad marketing is a fancy business card.

This is perhaps the most common style of advertising. Flip through a phone book, or visit most businesses’ websites, and this is what you’ll find.

The headline is their business’ name. Their phone number and address are listed. It may include a kitschy slogan, complete with platitudes about service and quality. Perhaps also a vague list of services, some of which only mean anything to the people who work at the business.

In short, it’s the bare minimum of information, and it’s 100% about them. It’s there to make the business look good and professional. It makes the owner feel warm and fuzzy about themselves to see it there. There’s nothing edgy or offensive. It’s acceptable to people of all stripes.

But it doesn’t do the number one job of any marketing and advertising…

It doesn’t sell!

Sure, if I already know I’m going to do business with you, this is information I need. And you certainly don’t want to leave this basic information out of your ad — because it tells the me how to find you if I want to do business with you.

But — telling me your business name and phone number will NEVER convince me to do business with you.

You have to do more…

Good marketing is about your products and services, and what they can do for the buyer.

Good marketing happens when the creator begins to break out of the shell of his or her own ego.

Good marketing often starts at the product or service being offered. But in the course of presentation, it becomes about the prospect.

It tells the prospect they should buy your product or service. It gives a solid reason why they should take action. And that reason why is rooted in the needs and desires of the customer. It’s only about the business, the product, or the service insomuch as they are the vessel for the prospect fulfilling their desires.

Entire businesses and business empires can thrive on this style of marketing. Do this well — you’ll learn how as you continue reading Breakthrough Marketing Secrets — and you can be set for life.

And yet, there is one step above…

Great marketing is about the buyer, and how their life will be transformed.

First off, I’ll say great marketing is rare. The masters of the craft — half science, half art — have spent their entire lives improving.

I can’t teach you great marketing in this book. You must set out to learn it yourself. And you’ll learn it through true experience — trial and error — far more than you’ll learn it by reading another book.

However, I can tell you a little bit about it, to point you in the right direction.

I think of it much like I think of “enlightenment” as taught in contemplative spiritual traditions.

It’s said that enlightenment can’t be taught. And yet, there are centuries of manuscripts, books, and other teachings on enlightenment. What gives?

While it can’t be taught, it can be pointed to.

And so you might hear from a Zen master, “You wish to find enlightenment? Stop looking for it!”

With no experience in the teachings of these traditions, you read this as nonsense. However, to someone who has recognized the nature of enlightenment, this is a perfect description.

Perhaps it will make more sense if I take it out of the mystical. “You wish to find happiness? Stop looking for it!”

The simple act of trying to make yourself happy rests in the assumption that you’re unhappy to begin with. If you’re looking for happiness, that means you don’t already have it.

And so it is with truly great marketing. Perhaps you could say, “You wish to create great marketing? Stop creating marketing!”

Often someone who works too hard to create great marketing ends up with horrible marketing. Because their work says, “Look at me, I’m so good at marketing.” Yes, on the surface it looks like it’s trying to make the sale. But really it’s trying to look like it’s good at making the sale.

When you think of yourself as a marketer, and you set out to create great marketing, you’re going about it in the wrong way.

I’ve had the fortune to learn the processes of at least three or four truly great marketers. These are folks who have created millions’ and billions’ worth of sales through their writing alone. They have created business empires with hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. In understanding and adapting their process, I can start to point to what goes into great marketing.

I’ll paraphrase the words of Bill Bonner, founder of Agora, Inc., a 9-figure direct marketing publisher of consumer information. In a discussion a few years back, Bill told me…

“I’ve learned thousands of rules to creating great marketing. And since then, I’ve also forgotten them. Most have become habits, and can be called on when needed. But I don’t start with these rules.

“The rule I start with today, is to get into the mind of my reader, and look for the story that interests me. If it interests me, I hope it will interest my reader. And then I seek to tell that story in the most exciting, compelling way. I’ll never know until I test it, of course. Sometimes I’m right. Often I’m wrong. But when I’m right, it’s because the story was right.

“If you want to create great marketing, you must find the story you believe will interest your reader, and tell it in the most compelling way possible. Everything else is secondary.”

Bill is among the most revered direct marketing writers in the world. Even the gurus of the direct marketing world bow at his feet.

Over three decades ago, he wrote a sales letter to launch a publication called International Living. The letter has been updated a few times over the decades, to reflect changing offers for the publication. However, the core story of the letter — and much of the copy — remains the same, three decades later.

In the time since then, the best copywriters in the world have been paid enormous sums to make their best efforts at beating it. Some have, for short periods of time. And yet, Bill’s letter always come out on top for the long run. The more time you spend in direct marketing, the more you realize what an impossible feat this is. But Bill did it — attributing much of its success to his uncovering the story the prospect wanted to hear.

So what kind of story interests your prospect? Well, the superficial details change quite a bit by market. The investment story that piques someone’s interest is very different from the health story, and that’s also very different from the home improvement story, and the wine story, and the [insert your market here] story.

However, on a deep level, it’s always the same story. It’s the hero’s journey. And you are not the hero — your reader is.

The story you tell is one of a journey, and of transformation. The hero, your prospect, starts in their ordinary, mundane life. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” to quote Thoreau.

And then there is a call to adventure — the invitation to go on a journey with you to fulfilling their wants, needs and desires. The invitation is to try your product.

They answer the call, they take the journey. Their lives are changed for the better. They share their joy with their friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues.

They are a new and better person as a result. Their life is visibly transformed.

Your product, your service, your business was a tool on the journey. It was a vessel for their transformation. But the story is not yours, and is not about your product.

It is about them.

Nearly everything you learn from this point forward will be about how to create good marketing. Not great marketing. When you’re doing everything right and creating good marketing, that is enough to accomplish tremendous business breakthroughs.

But I urge you… Never forget Bill’s lesson — which was the same I learned from the other great marketers I’ve had the fortune of learning from.

The more you focus your marketing on your prospect, and their hero’s journey, the better you will do. This requires you to no longer be the star. Your product, your service, your business, and you become mere members of the chorus line. You are only there to support your prospect’s starring role.

You must kill your ego.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets