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The Blame Game - Part One

My wife’s biggest pet peeve is losing things.

More specifically, she hates it when other people lose things. In a thousand ways, she’s the nicest, sweetest person you’d ever want to meet. But if you can’t find a shoe, forget it. She’s got no sympathy for you.

Which is how I got in the crosshairs when her second set of car keys came up missing sometime around February or March last year. Since the keys were gone, and since she never loses anything, logic would dictate I must’ve been the one who lost them.

Then, every couple months, when she couldn’t quickly locate her main set of keys, she’d remind me how I’d been so lackadaisical in key-keeping. How could I be trusted with important things—like our six children—when I couldn’t even be trusted to keep track of a lousy set of spare keys?

So imagine my delight last Saturday when she came into the kitchen with a sheepish little grin on her face and admitted she’d found the lost keys—in one of HER jacket pockets while cleaning out the coat closet. Frankly, I was shocked; I had naturally assumed that if the keys ever did turn up and if it were her fault, she’d just toss them in the trash rather than admit she was the culprit. Bonus points to the wife for confessing.

The point is simple. When something goes wrong, our egos’ first defense is to blame somebody or something else for the failure. The same is true in business and in marketing. When Something goes wrong, the tendency is to BLAME… and nine times out of ten, we tend to blame the WRONG thing.

With that in mind, I present to you, in no particular order, the top 4 things you might WRONGLY blame for some of the most common marketing failures. 

What You Think Went Wrong: There Are Too Many Competitors, We Can’t Stand Out:

The Truth: Your Company Is Unremarkable & Boring, And Deserves Average Results
There’s a reason Six Flags is in bankruptcy and Disneyworld makes a billion dollars a second. It’s because Six Flags is dirty, smelly, and worn out and Disneyworld is great. Six Flags over Texas, where my family has season passes, is borderline disgusting. They have really good rides—which is about the only thing that keeps us interested. Barely. Besides that, it’s got chipped paint everywhere, nasty smells wafting about, surly employees who wear bright yellow shirts encouraging you not to litter (seriously), standing water in ditches, and a creepy old dude for a mascot. Meanwhile, Disney simply WOWS its guests at every turn.

When was the last time you were truly “WOWED” by a company? When you were so impressed that you just had to tell somebody? Let’s flip this around now—when was the last time somebody did business with you and was WOWED and just had to go tell somebody about it? If there’s nothing unique, nothing distinguishing, nothing above average, nothing worth talking about in your business, then guess what? You deserve average results and average sales and average profit. Quit thinking the problem is the marketplace or the customers or the economy—until you can truly offer a truly unique and truly outstanding experience, you’re going to be stuck with crummy results. You’ve got to innovate and make your business worthy of the lion’s share of the dollars in your industry.

What You Think Went Wrong: There Are Too Many Competitors, We Can’t Stand Out:

The Truth: Your Marketing Looks Exactly Like Everyone Else’s
A couple years ago I put my home up for sale, and as a result, the home was listed on the MLS. You know what this means, right? Every single moving company on the planet now sends me a postcard because they know that people who are moving are probably good prospects for moving. That’s pretty smart thinking. Except that yesterday, I literally received FIVE postcards from FIVE companies…and that’s on top of the four I got the day before, the six I got the day before that, and the (literally) 25 I’ll be getting in the next week. Every single one of the reads approximately the same: Free Estimates, local & long distance, in business for 90 years, etc. Guess what? It’s not just movers—it’s YOU, too! All window ads look basically the same. All siding contractors use essentially the same ad. Ditto for kitchen remodelers.

If your marketing looks like everyone else’s then you’re going to get a tiny fraction of the business. Writing better marketing and winning is so easy and so predictable when you use the correct formulas, like the ones I teach in my Monopolize Your Marketplace system. Request a free introductory CD and find out how at

What You Think Went Wrong: The Economy Is Hurting My Business:

The Truth: Your Crummy Thinking Is Hurting Your Business
When I ask remodelers in seminars if the “recession” is over, I am surprised how many of them shake their heads and say no. No one denies that the recession changed the way people think about their money (they’re more protective of it). But come on!  That’s really not an excuse for YOUR business to be down, especially when you consider that there’s still plenty of stuff being bought out there, and three-quarters of your competitors have no clue how to market their businesses properly.

Just ask Brian Elias, owner of Hansons Windows in Detroit. His business has been UP for several years in a row, to a record $65 MILLION dollars in 2012. In Detroit. Think about that for just a minute. He specializes in windows, siding, and roofing, and he advertises like crazy to keep the phone ringing off the hook. They run over 150 appointments PER DAY, and do more in sales in a week than many companies do in a year. IN DETROIT. I know Brian personally, and I know that his singular advantage in the marketplace is that he thinks big. That’s it. He couldn’t care less about a recession or Detroit being the “armpit of the country,” financially speaking. He just keeps advertising and selling like crazy.

Of course your business is different. You’re in a much worse market that Detroit probably, and this story doesn’t apply to you. How about crappy thinking? Does that apply to you? Then get out there and freaking win. Screw the down economy already.

What You Think Went Wrong: Radio/Newspaper/Internet/Direct Mail/Etc. Just Doesn’t Work

The Truth: Maybe Your Ad Is Terrible
The Great Western Closet Company designs and installs custom closet organizers in upscale homes in a medium-sized city in the west. In consulting with the owner, Mike, I was convinced that direct mail could be a profitable advertising medium. Mike, however, was opposed. “We mailed over 30,000 pieces last spring, but only got six jobs from it. I lost almost $1,500 on the deal. Home improvement shows are the only reliable source of leads for this kind of company.”

Their first problem was that they didn’t send out their own mailer. Their ad was a four-color, 8½ x 11 sheet printed on the back of a boot store’s ad. The ad was sent out with several others in a ValPak-type mailer. Mike wasn’t sure which geographic areas had actually received his advertisement, and he couldn’t verify that 30,000 pieces had gone out. As for the ad itself, it contained no headline, made no compelling case for their product, and made no specific offer. There was nothing telling why their product was great, what advantages it held over the competition and the alternatives, or what benefits would come from using the product--it just said “Here it is, buy it from us for no justifiable, rational reason.”

Really, it just doesn’t work in your industry? Naturally some types of media are more suited for some industries than others. But more often than not, when I look at the AD that was actually ran in the so-called crummy media, it’s a large. steaming pile of dung—meaning of course, that it stinks. Did you realize that by running a crummy ad and then drawing a conclusion that the MEDIA was at fault you could be costing your company substantial amounts of money in the future?

Next week, we'll explore four more culprits wrongly blamed when marketing plans fail.