Before you read this article, please be aware that I’m not sharing a secret you don’t already know. I decided to write this as a simple reminder to all marketers of a point we forget too often and how it continues to turn our industry into a playing field of guesswork that wastes both time and money.
A few weeks ago a colleague asked if I had read “Scientific Advertising” by Claude C. Hopkins. Written in 1923 and hailed as a must-read by advertising and marketing greats alike, the book’s principles remain as relevant as ever in the age of digital marketing. But as the world of marketing continues to evolve, it seems like we lose sight of those few basics that should not be optional parts of our job, but requirements.
The Simple Truth: We Should All Be Salesmen
The simple truth that Hopkins so kindly reminded me of was that we are all salesman. As he puts it, “Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship.” I don’t believe that this concept stops at advertisers or marketers, but extends to every function within our teams. I feel this is something that we often forget – especially as teams and specialties within teams grow. Does your data analyst believe that he’s a salesman? How about your web designer? If we don’t ingrain this simple truth into the purpose of their careers, how can we expect them to realize the bigger picture? One of the driving factors in their success will always be the bottom line.
We Tend to Think Salesmen Are Slimy
Most of us hate being called a salesman. The thought of going door-to-door pushing our wares (as if we would actually do that) on to the average housewife makes us feel dirty. But the point of our job, whether you are in traditional or digital, SEO or PPC, UX or development, is to increase sales. Some of us believe that happens in different ways, but if we don’t realize that we’re all salesmen, we are probably lost to begin with.
Which statement do you feel would help you get promoted?
A. Our ad won an industry award!
B. Our ad boosted sales by 32 percent!
If the answer is A, then you should question the leadership of your company. I’m not saying there is no point in brand advertising and that companies shouldn’t strive to create an identity that connects with their customers outside of what they are trying to sell. What I’m saying is that the minute we take our eyes off the bottom line, we become performers who seek applause instead of sales (another point Claude C. Hopkins makes so elegantly in “Scientific Advertising”).
An Industry of Mixed Messages
In my Feedly app (which you should download immediately if you don’t already have it), I came across an article titled, “What Makes an Ad Worth Spreading?” Each year, TED and YouTube come together to recognize 10 ads that “elevate the craft of advertising.” As I watched the different videos that are considered the best of the best, I was shocked to see how many seemed to have completely forgotten the bottom line when trying to showcase their brand’s values and beliefs.
Yes, if an ad is simply engaging, it can lead to increased authority through new links, social media signals, and brand mentions, thereby improving online visibility, which will likely have an impact on sales. But, can’t an ad be spreadable while keeping the bottom line front and center? Why do we have to give up being salesmen when trying to be creative?
Great Ad Made for the Wrong Company
“Find Your Understanding: Expedia Find Yours”
The video is part of Expedia’s Find Yours cross-channel campaign that focuses on the emotional quality of travel. This particular video from the campaign is touching and I do applaud Expedia for taking a stand on a controversial topic, but the ad didn’t make me want to use its website to book my next trip. What makes me want to book through Expedia is its best price guarantee or the 24-hour customer service. The ad would however make me want to give a donation to an LGBT organization.
Perhaps there was a long-term strategy for the ad to build off a controversial current event to gain free press and links. The problem with that strategy is that it might fail, which would mean wasted advertising dollars.
Safety Campaign That Will Cause Controversy No Matter How Many Awards It Wins
It would be easy to write an entire article on the viral video created by McCann Melbourne for Metro Trains. Is it catchy? Yes. Does it show you dumb ways to die? Yes. Does it show you dumb ways to die around trains? Yes, for about 15 seconds out of a three-minute video. Did it cause a 20 percent reduction in “dumb behavior” on train platforms in the Melbourne area? They say it did. Do I believe that the video really reduced train accidents by that much? Let’s just say I’m skeptical.
Whether you believe the numbers or not, the video had over 56 million views and won more awards in the last Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity than any one campaign in the festival’s 59-year history. I guess that counts for something, right?
Proof That an Ad Can Make You Want to Share and Buy at the Same Time
Not only is the Follow the Frog ad engaging, but it actually makes me want to seek out items that have the Rainforest Alliance seal. Right away, the ad levels with its target audience: let’s face it, we’re all selfish. It’s OK. Let’s accept it and figure out a way to help that fit into our daily lives. It didn’t leave me feeling dirty for not booking a flight to Nicaragua. It entertained me and then gave me an option to do something simple that will have a big impact.
Being a Salesman Is a Good Thing
In the field of optimization, testing allows for an easy way to tie back your work to an increase in performance. Example: I created B, tested it against A, and saw a 17 percent lift in registrations. Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward in other roles. The goal of this article is not to provide solutions for tying back sales to every role under the marketing umbrella, but to encourage management teams and individuals to remember the concept of salesmanship and to promote it in all functions within an organization.
As marketers/advertisers we work to carve out niches in our industries that provide us with unique identities. What I realize more each day is that we can still be [insert job title here] while at the same time being salesmen. It doesn’t make us slimy or dirty. It makes us better and more effective at our jobs and will likely be the quality that leads to a promotion.
“Advertising nourishes the consuming power of men. It sets up before a man the goal of a better home, better clothing, better food for himself and his family. It spurs individual exertion and greater production.” – Winston Churchill
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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