Why Marketing is So Hard

Learn why marketing can be so challenging and get started down the path to becoming a better marketer.

In my last email I talked about breaking the cycle of bad marketing. I also talked about how one of the keys to breaking that cycle was understanding certain rules of marketing that are not always taught in school or easy to spot. As a matter of fact, I never learned these rules in school. I discovered them through a lot of hard work and experimentation. I also stood on the shoulders of some great marketers. Folks who, in one respect or another, were able to shed light on certain aspects of these rules. But it wasn’t until I stitched them all together that I was able to come up with a comprehensive strategy that greatly impacted my marketing campaigns going forward. Today, I’m going to share two of these rules that I consider to be foundational to the practice of marketing. They go a long way toward helping explain why marketing is so hard.

The first of these two rules is called The 99% Rule. And simply stated, The 99% Rule says that 99 percent of the time, when prospects are exposed to your brand, they are not ready to buy. Now wrap your head around that for a second. Every time you spend money on marketing, whether it’s on Google Search ads, Facebook ads, radio ads, print advertising, billboards, or anything else, 99% of the time when prospects see your ad they are not ready to buy.

Now you don’t have to take my word for it. Put yourself in the shoes of a prospect. We’re actually put in that position every day. Think about the last time that you scrolled through your Facebook feed or searched for something on Google. Think about the last time you commuted into work and all the billboards that you passed and all the commercials that you had to listen to on the radio. Think about the last time that you skimmed through a magazine. Then ask yourself this question. When was the last time that you saw or heard an ad and were so moved by the offer or the pitch that you stopped what you were doing and bought what they were advertising right then and there? I guarantee that if you’re like me and just about every other human being on this planet, the answer to that question is never.

Now the second rule is a corollary to The 99% Rule and it’s called The Rule of 7. It was first proposed by a gentleman by the name of Dr. Jeffrey Lant. What Dr. Lant discovered was that on average, regardless of what industry you were in or what market you served or what product or service you offered, or what price point you sold it at, on average it takes 7 meaningful interactions to turn a prospect into a customer. This one rule explains that sinking feeling that we’ve all had in the pit of our stomach when we’ve launched a marketing campaign and seen our marketing spend go up and up and up and our return on that investment go down and down and down.

Let’s walk through an example together to help illustrate just how devastating The Rule of 7 can be to our marketing campaigns. Let’s imagine for a moment that we’re an online retailer using Google search ads to grow sales. Now across all industries a Google search ad costs an average of $2.69 on a cost-per-click basis. To make our math easier, let’s round that up to $3. Let’s also assume that our conversion rate off of that click on our online store is 2%. That means that our cost per sale is $134.50. This also means that our average order needs to be $134.50 just to break even. Fortunately for us, we sell high-end fashion accessories that yield an average order value of $300, so we’re good right?

Well actually, no. That’s because we forgot to factor in The Rule of 7. According to The Rule of 7, our prospects will have to view our Google ads an average of seven times before they are ready to buy from us. That means that our actual cost per sale is $1,050. Since our average order value is only $300, our campaign is in the red.

This example, I hope, helps explain all the heartache and heartburn that you’ve probably experienced as you’ve seen yourself plowing money into advertising all while not getting the results that you expected.

Now in the weeks and months to come, we’re going to talk about many of the other rules of marketing that are also critically important for you to be aware of. But if you only remember two of these rules and apply them to your marketing campaigns, I would suggest that you remember these two, The 99% Rule and The Rule of 7. Because most of the time here’s what we all do. When we place an ad on Google or Facebook or in print or in radio or in billboards (pick your medium), we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all asking our prospects to BUY NOW. We’re all trying to convince them that what we have to offer is so wonderful, so revolutionary, and so transformative that they need to BUY NOW because it’s going to have such a huge impact on their lives.

But here’s the hardest pill to swallow. The fact of the matter is that our prospects are not ready to buy and we’re not reaching them enough times in the right ways to stay relevant and top of mind until they are ready to buy! They just don’t care. So if you can internalize these two rules and ask yourself one question, that question being “What should I be doing differently?”, then you’ll find that  you’ve taken your first step down the path toward better, more effective marketing. Towards a world where you see your marketing budget stretching farther and farther and you start seeing your return on investment on that marketing spend going up and up.

By the way, congratulations! This is a huge first step. You’re beginning to realize some of the dynamics that are working against you, and once you understand all of these dynamics and change your approach to marketing to take advantage of them, you will be much more successful. I hope you’ll join me for my next email. I’m looking forward to sharing more of these rules of marketing with you and helping you grow your business.


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  1. Pingback: Overcoming Marketing Amnesia to Grow Your Brand - Big Purple Fish

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