3 Ways to Fix Your Broken Marketing

image of broken down wooden fence

We get to see a lot of marketing in the world, both good and bad.

When on the receiving end, we can detect bad marketing quickly — we all have built-in BS detectors — but as marketers there are some fundamentals that you can check for yourself very easily.

It’s almost like predicting the future, without all the crazy talk.

Get the following three crucial elements right or wrong and you can give your marketing a pass or fail, before it’s even started.

Take a look at these three key fundamentals and fix your marketing now.

Get to know your audience

The first pass or fail element is where your focus is placed.

Yes, profit and revenue are important. But if you focus your attention too much on income, you’ll lose the very people you need to get that income coming into your business.

Your job is to serve a market. The market is not there to funnel cash into your bank account.

Chasing dollars just makes you look desperate and out of touch. It forces you to use heavy-handed techniques that burn out your goodwill, and it ruins any authority you might have had.

Instead, you need to get to know your most-wanted customers in detail. Talk to them, understand their challenges, frustrations, needs, and goals. Get into your customer’s and prospect’s heads so you can describe their problems in your copy, maybe even better than they can articulate themselves.

Take a look at my offer page on Authority Blogger and you will see problem bullets, fascinations and benefits.

What’s probably not immediately obvious is that most of those phrases came directly from coaching calls and answering questions in forums.

People will tell you what is keeping them awake at night — and you can use those insights in your messages.

Customers will also tell you what is working and what is not. A surprise for me was when customers told me one of my best case studies was actually putting people off from buying. The person mentioned was seen as “too successful, too fast.” It seemed unachievable for “normal people.”

Find out what proof your prospects need, and then give it to them in the way they want to consume it.

Overwhelm is a real problem with your potential buyer. You have to work to remove the overwhelm where you can.

And at the same time, your customers are not stupid. You need to craft your copy without making it seem you are promising a “Push Button Magic Silver Bullet Foolproof System.”

I chose the case studies and testimonials on my offer page based on customer and prospect feedback. The people mentioned now are doing well, but not so well that it sets the bar too high and puts people off from buying!

Your audience wants compelling results, but they also want to imagine realistically achieving those results. A delicate balance.

This brings us to the next point …

It’s not about what you do, it’s about what they get

How often do you see messages like these?

  • “I’m a coach. Hire me.”
  • “I’m a speaker. Book me.”
  • “Buy my book, it’s a best-seller!”

People don’t want your thing, they want what it will do for them! Communicate what your product or service does for people.

  1. What is your true purpose?
  2. What is the result, outcome or transformation that you deliver?
  3. How does that connect to what your audience is looking for?

It’s not about features. It’s not even about benefits.

The details are there to support the buying decision, but they are not the whole point.

Sonia and I like to use the example inspired by our flights to Australia for the Melbourne Problogger Workshop.

Very few people want to buy fifteen hours in a metal tube, eating lousy food, and spending many hours waiting in line ups or hanging around in painfully uncomfortable plastic chairs in airports.

What are people really buying when they book a flight? They want the outcome, and that is to be at their chosen destination at a certain time because they have a good reason to be there. Despite having to go through the airline experience.

If we could teleport ourselves everywhere in Star Trek style, we would, no matter which features your airline seat entertainment system provides.

How will your customer’s life or business be different after they take the action you are suggesting?

Get that right and you are well ahead of the pack. The rest of your messages need to support that concept in a way that gets the prospect imagining being happily arrived at their destination.

Design campaigns that drive to your desired result

The final element I have seen over and over is people “doing marketing,” rather than planning and rolling out true campaigns.

What’s the difference?

Your marketing needs to be consistent, congruent, and joined up.

This means choosing a goal, having a strategy that drives towards that goal, choosing the appropriate tactics that fit that strategy, and rolling out your marketing according to your plan while measuring your progress to make sure you are achieving your stated goals.

Next time you are about to “do some marketing,” stop and think. At the most simple level, you need to ask yourself why you are doing the activity? What do you hope to get out of it? How will you know if you have?

The art of listening

A lot of the broken marketing we see is based on serving internal desires, being self-referential, or missing what the market really wants. If you open your ears you will be able to discover where you are missing the mark quite quickly.

If you are not getting many shares, comments, subscribers and sales, you know that you have some listening and fixing to do.

Don’t just do things because that is what you see other people doing, or because you heard a popular speaker say you should. You might be “busy” marketing, but it could be at worst you are working against your goals or at best wasting your time. A lot of what we see in social media is narcissism masquerading as branding and promotion.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments …

About the Author: Chris Garrett is VP of Educational Content for Copyblogger Media, a professional blogger, and the founder of Authority Blogger, a course that teaches you how to become the most trusted advisor in your market by turning your blog into the go-to resource. He also blogs at chrisg.com.

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Reader Comments (64)

  1. says

    Chris, great article! I am right now in the process of re-designing my approach to marketing and this couldn’t have come at a better time. My challenge is finding out what people want before I start. I’ve interviewed a few people from my target audience, but I don’t think I have a full picture yet. But what I think I’m going to do is go ahead and launch my new blog/site using Brian’s agile approach to get the feedback (or lack thereof) to guide me in the right direction. Thanks for the advice, Chris!

  2. says

    Ha, I’ve been saying that for years (even called my blog “Fix Your Broken Marketing”).

    It’s true though. You need a strategy, and you need to sell a solution (not your experience or a bunch of features). Figure out what you really offer (is it product design or is it turning dreams into reality) and sell that.

    • says

      It’s also not just what you think they want but also understanding their “deeper want” – It’s a cliche but many niches do come down to simple basic desires like being attractive, power, safety, etc

  3. says

    I agree 100%! Too many marketers forget to offer REAL value and actually help prospects. I believe if you give value, engage, and build relationships, your business will be successful. Thanks for the great article Chris!

    • says

      Yup, it’s sad that it doesn’t happen as often as we would like but it kinda helps if you go from getting the sale to delivering your promise!

  4. says

    “Communicate what your product or service does for people.”
    You’ve got to keep your company out of the content. It’s not what you do, it’s what you can do for your customers. They want to know what’s in it for them.

    • says

      Your company should be in the content when it helps make the point, or reinforces your proof (eg. case studies), but unfortunately a lot of companies think “message from the chairman’s wife” is compelling content 😉

  5. says

    I’m a big believer of providing value. It will just sell for itself naturally. If your stuffs is useful and makes sense, your audience will come back for more. Its all about winning your audience. Its all about the WIIFM rule – Whats In It For Me.
    Thanks Chris,

    • says

      I don’t think anything will sell itself as effectively as if you work on both delivering good value AND promoting it. Consider Apple – would it have been the same with only Woz at the helm?

  6. says

    Yours is a great re-framing of the “features-benefits-mission statement” approach that has become so commom and so stale.
    Your questions:
    ( What is your true purpose? What is the result, outcome or transformation that you deliver? How does that connect to what your audience is looking for? )
    force a deeper discussion to take place, and we would hope, a deeper connection to prospective clients.
    All of my new clients, and I do mean ALL, have websites that are afflicted with the “me-me’s”. Changing the sites to make them more effective requires a hard conversation just as you have modelled with your questions: “Understand Mr. Client, as humans we are all mostly concerned about ourselves. As a product or service provider, however, YOU must be most concerned with THEIR wants, not your own!”

    Thanks for a useful reminder.

    • says

      Me-me-me can often be caused by not understanding the job of the website content creator – “but it says ‘about us’ so it should be about us!” – but I also believe even a *resume* should be written in a way that speaks to the wants/needs of the organisation and uses your information to support your argument :)

  7. Sarah Hums says

    It’s amazing how hard it is to get a grip of some of these most basic things (or to get others to listen when you try and convince them to!) The ideas/answers are already there in the form of why our customers ARE our customers. We just need to listen to them and synthesize.

  8. says

    This is a great reminder that the single biggest cause of “broken marketing” is thinking about what you do, not about what they need.

    It’s simple, but as Chris likes to say, “Common sense is not often common practice.” :) Again and again (and again and again) I see this tripping people up — including some big companies with huge marketing budgets. Actually, I think the bigger companies are probably more prone to making this mistake.

    • says

      It’s funny how often it is the smartest people (or teams) who don’t do the basic things. Rather than speak to what the market is looking for, they try to find tricks, “creative” Super Bowl ads or the latest shiny do-dads!

  9. says

    I learned years ago how to write better copy by just listening. After I had read about a story with Eugene Schwartz where he simply let the client talk and wrote the copy later just from that. I thought I’d give it a try. It made a big difference.

    I’m always amazed at how much info I get when I just listen to people.

    What Their fears are, what keeps them up at night, what they want in life…and I use that in my writing.

    Good stuff being said here in this post.

    • says

      Listening is becoming a rare skill it seems. One of my seminar interviewees recently told me that they were surprised I had managed to repeat their main points at the end of the interview. Yes … it was surprising that the interviewer was listening to what the interviewee was saying!

  10. says

    I have encountered people who have tried to get me to make the last mistake on your list, a lot. Other professionals can only give you hints about how to market your business. If your audience research tells you to do something different than what other marketers say, you must ignore them and do what you think will work for your people. Otherwise, you will end up with a head full of ideas and no money in your pocket.

    Good Post!!

  11. says

    Hi, Chris….I’ve bought things just because you’ve said so because you – personally – appear to have my best interests (or anyone’s) more or less at heart. (I.E. you seem to believe that you might get paid by helping people instead of getting paid because you’ve earned it).

    I think that the other component is integrity: that you believe what you’re saying. That you’d stick to your guns if it meant that I wouldn’t buy it. You believe that EVERYONE should be a pepper…so it’s not trouble to sell Dr. Pepper.

    I’ve never had an interaction with you that isn’t first class…I think I bought something that I never used simply because you’ve been helpful (Something about getting unstuck – if i recall). Same deal with Sonia – I bough, paid for but never looked at her Remarkable Marketing Blueprint simply because she helped to free me from the itinerant caprices of boofy haired realtors in adult failure spiral…. You care about your craft, what you do and I don’t think you’d pitch something you didn’t believe in.

    • says

      Thanks Chris :)

      As mentioned above, I think listening is a key component of caring, and delivering on promises is a key part of that too.

      When people are focused on helping rather than just getting paid I think a lot of this stuff gets easier!

  12. says

    Hi Chris,

    Great article. Well articulated. I’m constantly trying to win and re-win my clients over to thinking about what THEIR clients/customers want. Then giving that to them. It’s so hard for people, including myself, to remove their own wants from the equation.

    One thing I didn’t understand… You said: “It’s not even about benefits.” But all you talked about was benefits. It IS all about benefits – for the consumer. The true benefits for the consumer. Maybe just explain what you meant by that – or what it should be about if it’s not benefits.

    In any case, great piece of writing and a good article. Encourages everyone to think a little bit deeper about their message.


    • says

      What I meant is something can have a “benefit” or can have a meaningful outcome or result. IE. does your audience say “so what?” :)

      It’s the difference between “that’s nice” and “got to get me that”.

      The main way I fix this is by adding ” … and therefore” to put the benefit in context with the key wants/needs of the prospect.

      • says

        We talk in Teaching Sells about ultimate benefits. So in the Australia travel example, the feature might be more leg room, the benefit might be a more comfortable flight, but the real benefit is getting to Australia without dying of a leg clot. :)

          • says

            Yep, that makes sense. Reminds me of “FAB” sheets. F = Features, A = Advantages, B = Benefits. Most people focus on the first two… First. You should focus on them in the reverse order.

            In the example about the airline… Feature = more leg room. Advantage = A more comfortable flight than its competitors. Benefit = Arriving alive without a blood clot in your leg (haha).

            Again, great article. It’s been shared around to my circles.

  13. says

    Superb advice, Chris! I see so many headlines with “me, me, me” or “us, us, us” in them without a clear benefit lately…seems like they’d get the idea and start listening better.

    However, there are some positive examples out there! I subscribe to a huge number of email newsletters, all of them ranging in quality and quantity, but the good ones are so consistent that they’ve made me look forward to their marketing emails now — like ThinkGeek. Many of their subject lines begin with fairly generic phrases like, “Look at what you can buy with your points” or, “You’ll love this new toy,” but they get me to read them without fail. I WANT to know what they’ve got in store for me! Other stores aren’t so lucky, and they get trashed almost immediately. I like to see “you” and not “we” in my inbox.

    This applies to more than just email newsletters, of course, but that’s one of the big ones for me! Thanks again for the insights. And it’s nice to see you here on Copyblogger! :)

    • says

      Thanks Jill :)

      A lot of marketers think they just need a louder megaphone, when the really skilled folks can do more with a whisper. I had a Twitter spammer tweet me this morning encouraging me to share their pub crawl service with students in my area. Yeah … why on earth would I do that?

  14. says

    My question is this: How do I “listen” if people aren’t talking? I’ve tried engaging them. I ask questions, I ask for opinions, I try to get a conversation going. On an occasion, they do comment on my blog entries, but it’s often comments like, “Great post!”

    I know there’s some interest – there’s views and “likes” and the aforementioned “great post!” comments, so I must be doing something right. I just wish I could figure out what exactly it is people like or would like to see in the future. I asked once, people just liked the post. Should I get rid of the like button? Is it too easy for people to click?


    • says

      Jen, where else do your potential customers hang out? Are they Twitter people or Facebook people or Google+ people? Are they more talkative on someone else’s blog in your topic? Are there some forums on your topic?

      Try conducting some Q&A sessions. You can do them right from blog posts, or you can use one of the teleseminar services. (Some of these are free.)

      You can usually get something going by asking people to talk about what really irritates them. Social media is particularly good for uncovering irritation. :)

      • says

        On FB, it’s a lot of the same – Likes, “ooh, this is awesome!” (it’s a photography tutorial type blog, any halfway decent pictures will get the thumbs up), and not much useful feedback. They are more talkative on established photography blogs and websites though. But most of these sites serve a different segment of the photography crowds. Regardless I’ll reexamine them, may help give me some direction.

        Q&A and a ranting session is a great idea. I’ll look into that. I probably should work on growing my twitter base as well, eh?

        • says

          Once you get one or two people to open up then you can get suggestions for where else to be looking or who else to talk to – getting started in the process is the hardest part!

  15. says

    Everybody is talking, Know your Audience, Know your Audience, Know your Audience, it has become so deafeningly boring.

    Precisely, how the hell am I going to know the audience if I am doing online marketing where I can’t even see their damn faces?

    And please don’t give me the full run-around of knowing your niche as that is essentially the same.

    You make it sound so easy and simple. Yet at the end of the day, the guys raking in money are those buying advertising credits.

    • says

      You know your audience by listening to them. Millions of people every day are using all of the social media channels to talk about their issues, their problems, what they wish someone would do better, where they want to go. It’s much easier online than it is for a bricks and mortar business.

      If you find the idea of listening to your audience boring, you may not be a good fit for running a business.

  16. says

    Brilliant post, Chris. Here’s what hit me the most, “Your job is to serve a market. The market is not there to funnel cash into your bank account.” In other words, the way up is down!

    • says

      It’s funny to me the entitlement culture that is growing in business, and not just online. The businesses who treat customers as people will increasingly succeed past the ones who just want to be shown the money!

  17. says

    When you wrote ‘Your audience wants compelling results, but they also want to imagine realistically achieving those results…’ – it somehow reminds me of this site that promises just too much that you begin to wonder, that it’s too good to be true. I guess, most often, businesses fail in marketing because they did not do their research well, on what problems they can solve for their customers. I guess, some folks need to relearn that social media is not really about marketing.. but a communication tool to listen and engage.

    • says

      It never ends either – you have to be constantly in touch with your market. Look at Copyblogger, they could have stopped innovating after Teaching Sells first launched, but now Copyblogger Media is as much a software company as anything else!

  18. says

    Thanks Chris! Wow, these are some really valuable tips. I’m working on a new course myself and have marked your key question (IMO): “How will your customer’s life or business be different after they take the action you are suggesting?” ~ Thanks again :) ~ BTW, I’m one of the thousands of happy copyblogger customers!

  19. says

    I have always believed that in marketing and presenting yourself and your product, honesty in what you do and sell is of paramount importance. After that you need a fantastic products or service. Next is the after-sale service you give, this speak volumes for you and your company

    • says

      Selling is given so much priority that people often forget about delivering a service, and as you say, the customer experience speaks volumes.

  20. says

    HI Chris. Thanks for remind us that “People don’t want your thing, they want what it will do for them!.” This is the usual mistake that marketers do. THey always talk about their products and services without stating what these can do for their customers.

    • says

      I have a background in IT/programming so I understand the desire to make everything technically brilliant and then try to find customers for it, heh. And really your product could be the coolest thing ever but how is it relevant to me?

  21. says

    Thanks for the article Chris. I work trying to help guitar tutors market themselves and some of them really need the tips here. It’s pretty hard to convince somebody new to marketing to stop thinking ‘Hire me I’m an expert’ and to start thinking ‘what is my true purpose?’ like you suggest so thank you, I’ve now got a fresh angle to use to help them.

    • says

      I can tell you that my daughter and I signed up with a guitar tutor not because he was an expert and not because we wanted to be rock stars, but because we wanted a fun activity to do together and we wanted to be able to play semi-recognisable tunes for our own enjoyment :)

  22. says

    Chris, dude… I just got out of a webinar where Jon Morrow sang you praises beyond praises.

    This is a fantastic look at marketing, and I always find the #3 to be instinctually, almost biologically understood by people. Nice touch :)

    I find that many people (and I’m sure at least some of CopyBlogger’s audience), sort of zone out when they hear terms like strategies, tactics, and campaigns.

    Understanding those things is key, to be sure, but whenever they crop up in the past I’ve felt like I was wading into quicksand.

    It’s like me saying “I just wanna get my message out to people and feel some traction, y’know”, and someone’s like “Well, DUH, you need proper campaigns, strategically planned and tracked.” and I’m like… “oh.”

    So what I’m saying is I love how you didn’t open with that stuff, you started with some simple but powerful questions and gradually led people into an understanding of proper marketing campaigns.

    It may be simple, but to me it’s an elegant, artistic simplicity that I’d like to see more of.

    Thanks man. And speaking of thanks… I also always remember how good you were to me through some brief e-mails and on twitter back when I ran spiritsentient.com.

    Rock on and ryze up.

  23. Doaa says

    Thanks for the nice article,
    But I really want to know about Multible
    Level Marketing
    If u can at least direct me to some books on
    the subject

  24. says

    Totally agree with your last point here Chris.

    Sometimes, even though we “sanely” realize of how important to listen or collect information about what people really want, most of use (especially me) are too lazy to do that. And we keep busy making random guesses with our own opinions about what people really want.

    Great post Chris.

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