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Saturday, 21 March 2009

Why so many marketing studies don't pay off - and what to do

Several people commented on my last piece, and I agreed with much of what everyone said. God, what a spineless creature I am.

In that piece I also meant to comment on what Rezbi wrote in his blog where with admirable honesty he confessed to having practically beggared himself by buying lots of courses on marketing.

Many people are doing this. It is natural to want to improve - and there is a great deal of excellent advice out there. I can think of at least 12 people whose stuff I read and often learn from - including Perry Marshall and Michel Fortin, who commented yesterday.

But besides my extreme antiquity there is a difference between me and many - in fact most - of those who read all this "become a marketing/copywriting genius in six painless weeks" stuff.

The difference is that too many quite simply don't know what they're trying to improve. They seek to do handstands and double somersaults before they can even crawl, let alone walk. They lack the grounding.

After countless bruising, costly lessons and a great deal of study, I understand a little bit about the realities of business and a great deal about almost every aspect of marketing.

Unless you understand the context of what you are doing, it is almost impossible to succeed. I am constantly astonished at how people come into marketing or copywriting without studying.

For example, a couple of months ago a lady running a stall at Willowbrook Mall in New Jersey said she wanted to "get into international marketing" - whatever the hell that is. When I talked about studying she said, "Oh, you're like all the rest."

My Australian partner Malcolm Auld and I were discussing this problem the other day, when reflecting on the extraordinary stupidity of some clients - usually those working in large organisations.

He made a very perceptive remark.

"I think it is because marketing is not a vocational occupation. That is, if you are a plumber you have to know how to fix a pipe - there's no grey area, it's either fixed or it's stuffed. But so much of marketing is about opinions not facts - everyone's an expert and nobody values expertise."

100% true.

Another problem is that so many people follow too many experts all at the same time, and never know which to follow; and a third is that many of these courses give you everything you need except the two essentials: something good to sell, and lots of people who need it - a hungry crowd, as the late Gary Halbert put it.

That is one reason why last year I had a go at trying to educate people formally, through an a academy called EADIM (I've been doing it informally for well over 30 years now).

What happened reminded me of Oscar Wilde's remark after one of his plays was badly received. "The play was a success. The audience was a failure."

The students (two came all the way from Australia, one from South Africa) loved it. One -the head of a direct marketing association in Europe - said it was the most valuable week since he learned to read and write.

I lost a fortune on it, though.

Another two lessons learnt: first I believed in over-optimistic projections from a lot of other people - my fault - and second, as a result the Marriott Hotel in Brussels screwed me into the ground. However, I now know what to do, so we're repeating the course in October this year.

So if you really want to know what the direct marketing business is about and you know it won't happen for you in six easy weeks, go and have a look at www.eadim.com.

And when you get there, besides telling me one of the dates is wrong and I should be promoting the damn course everywhere, tell me what you think.

If it interests you, I should tell you two things: one, we've already got about 20% of the places filled. Two, I'm thinking of doing something in the U.S. to introduce people to some of the cleverest people I know - most of whom you'll never have heard of.

One has been a partner of Sir Richard Branson three times. Another has helped sell $6 billion of stuff for big firms in the last two or three years - and is an expert in the one thing you need to be able to do - which most people (especially marketers) are abysmal at. A third masterminded the marketing behind the world's biggest wine club. And so on.

Now I have to go and write some copy for hearing aids. As usual, I'm sure I'll never have an idea, but at least I have the advantage of being half deaf.

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