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Marketing is not about selling.

Marketing is establishing or propagating a brand in the eye of the consumer. One of the most important things any business has to achieve is “brand awareness”.

The brand is what sells not the marketing.

Al Ries helped me with an important principle in regards to branding:

“The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope”

What did he mean by that? He meant that for any business to thrive the important step they must take is telling the consumer (in various ways and means, i.e. “marketing”), “We do ____”. One thing. One thing only. We don’t only do it – we are masters at it. We are authorities in this area.

Consider the businesses that have really thrived and took off throughout the years: Starbucks, Subway, Hertz, etc. Each one of these started out not trying to be “everything to everyone”, but knew what one thing they wanted to do and they did it.

Look closely.

Whenever a business tries to extend themselves beyond this, they begin to decline or lose their branding power. It’s also interesting to see that the ones who started out with a powerful brand and got greedy and began to try and do what everyone else was doing and lost their influence. Pretty soon someone else will come and pick up where they began and they will be the new stud on the block.

You remember Cadillac’s attempt at making a smaller car? Now think about it. Who wants a small Cadillac? Those two words don’t even go together. But in the wake of heightened consumer demand for smaller, more cost efficient vehicles, the Cadillac group couldn’t resist. They did it and it failed terribly. Most don’t even know which car I’m talking about.

Last I heard Starbuck’s is getting into ice cream now… ugh.

Ford now owns Chevrolet in the truck market. Why? Because they poured all their advertising energy and engineering into that division.

In 1988, American Express had a handful of cards and 27 percent of the market. Then it started to introduce a blizzard of new cards including: Senior, Student, Membership Miles, Optima, Optima Rewards Plus Gold, Delta SkyMiles Optima, Optima True Grace, Optima Golf,Purchasing, and Corporate Executive, to name a few. The goal, according to the CEO, was to issue twelve to fifteen new cards a year. American Express market share today: 18 percent (1).

As a sales writer our job is to find each company’s “One Thing”. To help them to find it and to broadcast it. It isn’t that they can’t have but one service to offer, but they have to know what “one thing” sets them apart and drives business and not try to be Masters of the Universe.

I was doing a proposal for a local business one time and the owner told me that everyone in their city had considered them the leader at one particular area of service. There was a growing need for another and he asked if I would help him to market this service. I politely told him that this was a bad idea. They only needed to keep pushing and keep announcing their specific area of expertise and watch it rise and not give in to the urge to go in another direction.

The worst writing I have ever done is when my ability to influence a business of this fails and they persist in having multiple personalities. It’s a hard way to write and makes for miserable reading. Not everyone can be a Walmart. Those that try soon meet their demise.

So here is the tip for your writing:

Focus on one thing. One target group. One audience. Write to them like you were sitting in a coffee shop telling them about whatever product or service you are attempting to sell. Resist schizophrenic tendencies. Watch your advertising skyrocket.

1. Ries, Al; Ries, Laura (2009-10-06). The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.