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03/23/2014

A POPULAR FORMULA FOR SUCCESS: SIN, SUFFER AND REPENT

Maybe this is the formula for fiction.  Romantic fiction.  Women’s fiction.  When I think about it, however, this is like redemptive stories from successful people. 

Most successful people have done things wrong, they sinned, caused issues and problems for those around them and in their businesses.  

Why it matters

Marketing is a learned skill that comes from trial and error, and learning from others. Longevity in the discipline helps. Be a “learner."

In this process they suffered.  Of course, there may have been some success, but not total success.  No matter how they managed their lives and their businesses, they had suffering which they didn’t take the time to tie back to the wrong doing, the failures. 

Eventually they learned, matured and repented.  They changed and found salvation.  Through their repentance, they learned how to be successful. 

This formula isn’t a far stretch to those of us in marketing.  Take me for instance.  I have a degree in English literature.  After a short stint as a technical writer (interesting but not overly successful, although I did write the testing specs for the Wankle engine), I moved into marketing.   As a marketing specialist without training I sinned again and again:

  • I created inquiries for sales, but not qualified leads.
  • I launched marketing programs without telling the salespeople before they were launched.
  • I didn’t understand the principles of direct marketing until much later, so I created direct mail without a complete offer, with too much copy, and using bad lists.
  • I used lists for mailers that were old and had never been cleaned up.
  • I managed trade shows without understanding the reason for the show: leads.
  • I ran advertising without a call to action.
  • CRM systems?  I used a spreadsheet.

When it came to sins in marketing, I stumbled into 50 more than I care to mention.  But still, somehow, I wasn’t a total failure.   I tried and tried again, listened to vendors and agencies, and learned painfully slow.   I suffered, my sales reps suffered, my employers suffered, but for some reason they kept saying I was doing better than the last guy.    Repentance comes slowly when there is an ego in the way.

Frank Hill and Mike Simon taught me about qualified leads and more importantly managing those leads. Dan Kennedy in Chicago taught me about advertising, as did Bart Young.   Christel Hall taught me about public relations.   Wally Turner about sales.   Bob Crittendon taught me just about everything in marketing communications.  Russell Kern taught me about direct marketing.  Judy Johnson taught me about SEO.   Rich Hagle about book writing (he went through three books with me).   Susan Finch taught me just about everything concerning the web and social media (no end to this one).  

And I’m still learning.  The weekly SLMA Radio program teaches me and our listeners about marketing and sales. The first step in this process was listening to John Sturgis from Chicago tell me I was screwing up the lead management.  Bob Crittenden coached me when I probably deserved to be fired.  And the gentle, and not-so-gentle reminder from everyone listed above was that I was not perfect, but I had promise. 

The point is that my atonement was bound up in listening to and learning from others.    Reading an average of 20 books a year also helps.  Blogs help.  Conferences help.    What seems to have helped most was realizing that suffering through imperfect programs and listening to experts is the key to repentance and finally redemption.  As I improved I wrote books and articles, started an association, and interviewed 270 executives for SLMA Radio.

So for those marketing sinners out there, you will suffer; but in the end if you too are lucky, you will have good agencies and vendors around you and good mentors within your company, and you won’t suffer too much.

If you are open to whispered and sometimes shouted suggestions, maybe you too can reach a stage of repentance and learn, because marketing is a constantly changing game that can only be won if you go through the three stages of sin, suffering and repentance.   

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