Marketing 101: 10 Lessons from Marketing Experts

How do you become a good marketer? What are the things you need to know before you try to sell people your product? The hard truth is that there is no universal “how to” guide to the world of marketing  each business and marketing strategy have their unique story. However, there are marketing 101 lessons that work for everyone – and the best lessons come from the experience.

We’ve compiled a list of advice from some of the greatest marketing and psychology experts to create a universal marketing 101 guide for business beginners. Here are 10 lessons you can learn from them.

1. Goals Feel More Real When You Put Them on Paper

Starting a business is a complex endeavor – and it gets more complicated each step of the way. Things you initially weren’t even thinking about start surfacing and branching into new challenges. Seems overwhelming? Here’s the tip – write it down.

Marketing 101 lesson 1

“Whatever the goal, the important thing is that you set it, so you’ve got something for which to aim—and that you write it down. There is something magical about writing things down. So set a goal and write it down. When you reach that goal, set another and write that down. You’ll be off and running,” writes professor of marketing, business and psychology Robert Cialdini.

While it may seem like a ridiculously simple and cheap trick, its power is immense. Apart from helping you organize your thoughts, writing things down will help you get the sense of achievement as you complete tasks one by one. Even if your list consists of 100 goals, seeing only 5 of them ticked off gives you a sense that you’re going somewhere, and that part of that long road is behind you.

2. Don’t be Afraid of the Uncharted Waters

“It is conventionally believed that companies can either create greater value to customers at a higher cost or create reasonable value at a lower cost. Here strategy is seen as making a choice between differentiation and low cost,” says Co-Director of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute W. Chan Kim.

Marketing 101 lesson 2

Defining yourself exclusively in relation to your competitors and the existing markets is often what keeps you spinning in circles, unable to see the opportunities that are right in front of you. Chan Kim argues that going under and over to create a new market, a ‘blue ocean,’ is the right way to approach a new business.

“Value innovation is the cornerstone of blue ocean strategy. We call it value innovation because instead of focusing on beating the competition, you focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company, thereby opening up new and uncontested market space,” writes Chan Kim.

3. Change is Possible, If You Know Where to Push

What is the mechanism behind the social epidemics? Have you ever tried to pinpoint the exact moment when a new (or old and relatively unknown) idea turns into a widespread phenomenon? Business and science journalist Malcolm Gladwell dedicated a bulk of his work to this mystery, digging deeper into people’s minds. And while people, in general, tend to stick to what they know and hold dear, it’s not impossible to steer them in the different direction, he concluded.

“If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior…you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured,” Gladwell explains.

Marketing 101 lesson 3

“Merely by manipulating the size of a group, we can dramatically improve its receptivity to new ideas. By tinkering with the presentation of information, we can significantly improve its stickiness. Simply by finding and reaching those few special who hold so much social power, we can shape the course of social epidemics.”

While Gladwell deals with larger social epidemics, it’s not hard to see why his Tipping Point theory is considered a marketing 101 lesson. Knowing how to start a conversation about your product, where to find influencers and when to push the right buttons is a valuable asset to a budding marketer.

4. People Are Less Rational Than They’d Like to Believe

“We usually think of ourselves as sitting the driver’s seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we made and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires-with how we want to view ourselves-than with reality,” says professor of Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely.

A lot of our decisions and plans are built around rational thinking. Except that most of the time, people are not rational, and this puts us in a vicious circle of disappointment when things don’t work out for us even though they made ‘perfect sense.’ This, of course, is not an invitation to market products by lying or obscuring – it is simply an invitation to take into account the fact that more often than not, your customers prioritize emotions when they make purchasing decisions.

Marketing 101 lesson 4

“Most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context. We don’t know what kind of racing bike we want—until we see a champ in the Tour de France ratcheting the gears on a particular model,” writes Ariely.

“We don’t know what kind of speaker system we like—until we hear a set of speakers that sounds better than the previous one. We don’t even know what we want to do with our lives—until we find a relative or a friend who is doing just what we think we should be doing. Everything is relative, and that’s the point.”

5. You’re Not Rational Either, So Let the Tools Guide You

“80 percent of marketers are unhappy with their ability to measure marketing return on investment. Not because the tools aren’t good enough, but because they’re too good, and marketers are seeing for the first time that their marketing strategies are often flawed and their spending is inefficient,” says media strategist Ryan Holiday.

Marketing 101 lesson 5

Digital tools are a blessing – maybe not for your ego, but definitely for your marketing strategy. Where your judgment and expectations may be flawed, cold hard numbers don’t lie. In 2018, a marketer can no longer afford to lag behind the developments in the digital sphere.

“Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph,” concludes Holiday.

6. Harness the Power of Social Media

While many people like to mystify social media, the truth is that it is merely a digital playground for pretty much the same tendencies people have always had. For more than a century, marketing has been about telling the right story at the right time. But don’t forget what the end game is – not just capturing people’s attention, but making them buy something from you.

Marketing 101 lesson 6

“Your story isn’t powerful enough if all it does is lead the horse to water; it has to inspire the horse to drink, too. On social media, the only story that can achieve that goal is one told with native content. Native content amps up your story’s power. It is crafted to mimic everything that makes a platform attractive and valuable to a consumer—the aesthetics, the design, and the tone. It also offers the same value as the other content that people come to the platform to consume,” says entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

“Email marketing was a form of native content. It worked well during the 1990s because people were already on email; if you told your story natively and provided consumers with something they valued on that platform, you got their attention.

And if you jabbed enough to put them in a purchasing mindset, you converted. The rules are the same now that people spend their time on social media. It can’t tell you what story to tell, but it can inform you how your consumer wants to hear it when he wants to hear it, and what will most make him want to buy from you.”

7. Empathy for the Customer Is the Key to a Good Story

While you’re often told that content is king, you rarely find advice on things that make said content king. The thing is, there is no magic formula. It takes time, patience and a lot of hard work to learn the art of selling. However, your copywriting trial and error process can be much smoother if you stick to a few universal principles.

First of all, keep in mind that people buy your product because they need it, not to do you a favor. It’s about the customer, not about you.

Marketing 101 lesson 7

“So, before you begin the writing, be sure you know the purpose or mission or objective of every piece of content that you write. What are you trying to achieve? What information, exactly, are you trying to communicate? And why should your audience care?” advises content writer Ann Handley.

“In other words, empathy for the customer experience should be at the root of all of your content, because having a sense of the people you are writing for and a deep understanding of their problems is key to honing your skill.”

8. Annoying People Is Not a Marketing Strategy

Spam, phone calls, knocking on people’s doors, poking their eyes out with pop-ups and banners is not going to help you sell your product. While some people may feel cornered into buying something from you, most of them will eternally associate your brand with pushy behavior and annoyance. As you could learn from previous lessons, digital tools and social media have been very helpful for marketers by giving them a channel to connect with customers spontaneously and organically, and then test the results of that connection.

Marketing 101 lesson 8

“Do not arrive as an interruption or disruption, attempting to divert your reader’s attention from the object it is focused on, fighting to interest him in something different from what he is already, at this moment, interested in,” advises strategic advisor and business coach Dan S. Kennedy.

“Instead, align yourself with the subjects already possessing his attention, the matters already garnering his interest, the self-talk conversation already occurring in his mind, and the conversations he is already having around the water-cooler at work or at the kitchen table at home with peers, friends, and family.”

9. Make Data Work for You

“Having all the information in the world at our fingertips doesn’t make it easier to communicate: it makes it harder,” says analyst and author Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic.

As we established earlier, marketing caters to the emotions rather than logic, which is what makes data and cold hard numbers a challenging part of communication with customers. Graphs and statistics about the efficiency of your service may make a lot of sense, but without a good wrapping, they are just that – lines and numbers.

Marketing 101 lesson 9

“If you simply present data, it’s easy for your audience to say, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and move on to the next thing. But if you ask for action, your audience has to make a decision whether to comply or not,” explains Nussbaumer Knaflic.

“This elicits a more productive reaction from your audience, which can lead to a more productive conversation—one that might never have been started if you hadn’t recommended the action in the first place.”

10. Weathering the First Storm Takes Unity

When you’re starting a business, so many things are on the line – your money, reputation, and all the hard work and time you and your partners put into the project. How do you reach your own tipping point? How do you storm that initial period when things may tip over both to failure or success?

“One of the most important lessons about crossing the chasm is that the task ultimately requires achieving an unusual degree of company unity during the crossing period,” says business consultant Geoffrey A. Moore.

Marketing 101 lesson 10

“This is a time when one should forgo the quest for eccentric marketing genius in favor of achieving an informed consensus among mere mortals. It is a time not for dashing and expensive gestures but rather for careful plans and cautiously rationed resources-a time not to gamble all on some brilliant coup but rather to focus everyone on pursuing a high-probability course of action and making as few mistakes as possible.”

Do you want to expand your knowledge on each of these lessons? Take a look at our selection of best marketing books for business beginners. If you’d rather learn while you’re on the move, tune in for the latest business podcasts on Leadquizzes!

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