The Best Marketing Advice You Ever Received

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What was the one piece of Marketing advice that you read, were told, heard or saw that has stuck with you?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been very lucky. Over the years, I’ve worked with some amazing people, read a ton of business books and – to this day – follow some of the most fascinating and smartest people online (Blogs, Podcasts, Twitter, etc…). With that, there is still one passage I read in the book, The Cluetrain Manifesto (written by Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls and David Weinberger), in 1999 that not only re-framed everything I thought I knew about Marketing and Business but – to this day – acts as a guiding light and one of the best pieces of Marketing advice I have ever received.

The best piece of Marketing advice I ever received…

"Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do. But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about ‘listening to customers.’ They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf. While many such people already work for companies today, most companies ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of markets literally too smart to buy it."

How far we’ve come. How far we must go.

As fast as the world changes, not that much has changed. The Cluetrain Manifesto is twelve years old. The ideas are close to fourteen years old. The Cluetrain Manifesto was written long before platforms like Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and almost anything else we all use daily to make more real and human connections happen. The term "Social Media" didn’t even exist back then. That gem of knowledge signified that change is here, and that people are smarter than we have, traditionally, given them credit for. Having connectivity makes us more informed and that is a very powerful thing. To this day, I can look back at some of the biggest (and worst) Marketing snafus and think to myself, "had the people who created this mess read that one paragraph from The Cluetrain Manifesto, things may have turned out differently." 

What’s the best piece of Marketing advice you ever received?


  1. I would say it was to avoid over analyzing everything to get it perfect out ofthe gate. Have b@lls to make a decision and go with it. Learn form what doesn’t work and get better.
    Sounds like three things but really, it is saying that you have to get going.

  2. “Differentiate of Die,” book title and best advice among a lot of best marketing advices co-authored by Jack Trout of Ries and Trout fame.

  3. “Nobody cares about you or your product. They only care about themselves and their problems.” This is really the foundation upon which you have to build your content. Customer centric. Be a solution.

  4. When I was a young copywriter/producer and producing my first TV spot, my creative director just let me go out there and completely and utterly fail, producing a real stinker, messing up the budget in the process. When he finally came to my rescue, he told me this. “Everyone learns a lot more from failure than from success. Advertising is momentary. No one will remember this spot in a few months, but you’ll always remember what you learned this week.”
    He was right, that was over 25 years ago and I still remember the lessons I learned then. It shaped my future as a leader and mentor. I’ve been more successful and become a better creative director because of those failures.

  5. The best piece of marketing advice came from my late father. A retail salesman for almost 60 years, he worked for employers and also owned his own businesses. He was respected and liked by everyone who met him. This, to him, was success. Humble, generous and modestly successful, his sage advice to me was this: “Be a mensch.”

  6. Terry O’Reilly has mentioned this quote a number of times, though he doesn’t recall the source:
    “People don’t buy 3/4″ drill bits. They buy 3/4″ holes.”
    What you sell and what people buy are different. Learn that difference and you can start having meaningful conversations with your customers.

  7. When I was a rookie copywriter (many years ago), working for Mike Hughes, the great creative director of The Martin Agency, creative types were always struggling to be conspicuously clever.
    I was trying to come up with a “great” poster headline for a free Coke with a fill-up at Mobil stations, without much luck. It was one crappy pun after another, and none of it was any good at all.
    So Mike told me a story about when his bank client was giving away free steaks with a new checking account. Yes, you read right. This was when beef prices were soaring due to inflation and shortages in the 70s. The bank took advantage of the situation to bring a butcher with a freezer case into the bank lobby.
    Mike’s advice: If your client is giving away free steaks, the best headline probably goes something like: “Free Steaks!”
    In other words, if marketing communications doesn’t make a point, its… pointless.

  8. It sounds like a good book.
    It seems like everyone thinks that they can do marketing. It is not so easy!
    My take from sitting in a marketing class: stop thinking like an engineer:)
    Some good comments up there too.

  9. The best marketing advice I ever received came from Tom Peters’ classic “The Brand Called You”. I remember like if it was yesterday the first time I read that article and the huge shift it created on my perception of my career in that particular moment.
    I can actually say that after reading that article I completely transformed the way I designed my career path and I am were I am thanks to the decisions I have made after being influenced by Tom’s wisdom.
    So … here it is:
    “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.
    To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You”.
    I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your remarkable work and for introducing me (us) to so many great ideas and concepts, as well as remarkable authors and thinkers through your podcast. Thank you very much!

  10. Hmmm “Take care of the customer and the customer will take care of you” would be one of the best business/marketing tips that I got back in the day πŸ™‚

  11. What I learned from developing killer software applies in marketing but only a few marketers & businesses truly get it. The clients we work with are sometimes skeptical or concerned that telling a sales story in a marketing channel will work. How else will your Ideal Prospect ever see what you have to offer as being a valuable long-term viable solution? Marketing’s job is to start a sales conversation. Operation’s job is to make sure everyone in the organization is on board.
    Align your organization to the Buyer’s Journey and never worry about those “Big Empty Words” (Working title of my book) again.

  12. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
    Be yourself-let your customer get to know you and you will get to know them.
    Treat other the way you want to be treated.

  13. The one piece of advice that I came across that still rings true today is to never confuse ‘marketing’ with ‘promotion’. I’m not sure who said it (possibly S. Godin) but I think that it is a point that many companies continue to miss. They may be good at the promo thing, but they do not necessarily get the marketing thing.

  14. From David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing & PR and World Wide Rave: “Lose Control”
    From the Seth Godin Video embedded in your post, Poke, Poke … Who’s There. It’s Seth Godin: “Say what you believe and see who follows …”

  15. At a rather dull seminar about teenagers media habits the speaker suddenly said something that stuck in my mind:
    “You are not seventeen”

  16. Quite right. What is important is a real user benefit over a technical capability. On the other hand, these same people (buyers, evaluators) are impressed when they see tons fo checkmarks on spec sheets…

  17. Separating yourself from the herd is how you succeed in 2011. I fired my previous hosting company because every time I called someone from a different country named Mary Jane picked up the phone. I know use a company who is US based and the people are very friendly. If the herd outsources their call centers, try hiring local people. Customers really appreciate it when they think you care about their needs. Great post.

  18. One of my favorite Cluetrain passages is – “We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it.”
    All too often we forget that we reside on both sides of the counter. I may eat lunch at your restaurant and you may get your car fixed at my garage. We are all customers and we are all providers.
    As the world gets complicated with technological distractions, let’s not forget what is at the core and that is great products, great messages, great conversations and great interactions. If you don’t believe it, how do you expect your customers and prospects to believe it?

  19. authenticity, respect and genuine engagement at a personal, human level :: a big ask in a data driven, time starved work world, short on meaning, significance and outcomes, long on output :: but thats what it takes to ‘connect’ . In addition to the Cluetrain Manifesto, I would recommend Umair Haque’s The New Capitalist Manifesto.

  20. Without question, the best business advice I’ve ever been given came from Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’ when he described the ‘Hedgehog Concept’. Ever since that day, I’ve stripped my life of those things I’m not ‘the best’ at and focused only on things where my talents can truly shine– in business and in life.

  21. The best advice I heard from a friend was;
    “it’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say it”
    I think this is even more imperative in the 21st century, considering the abundance of impersonal communication which can be openly interpreted.

  22. ok Danny, thanks for encouraging me to leave my first ever blog comment as I try to get started in this new (for me) world.
    Someone said this to me which I found helped me to worry less about getting everything perfect before starting out:
    “If you can make a connection with someone then they are much more likely to forgive and allow you some deficiencies”.
    There I’ve done it πŸ˜‰

  23. Never judge a book by its cover, go with your first impression and lead by example!
    Never over think it—just do what is natural and adjust on the fly. You can’t always be a perfectionist, there is always a trial and error approach in being a successful marketer.

  24. Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. – Einstein
    Just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean you should. It always comes down to what are you really about, what are you trying to achieve – then figure out how to measure that, if you can.
    Of course, you can look at other measurements to understand if there’s something new you might want to achieve… but focus on the core stuff first.

  25. Customers will care about your product if it solves their problems πŸ˜‰

  26. I know this post is a little dated, but it’s still great advice. The bigger companies get, sometimes they tend to get a little clumsy when it comes to some of the more logical (and obvious!) aspects of marketing, networking, and social relationships.
    Thanks for the timeless advice!

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