A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be given a set of audio tapes featuring advertising greats like: Claude Hopkins, Albert Lasker, Leo Burnett, Rosser Reeves and David Ogilvy.

Listening to these pioneers of marketing, I am struck by how so little has changed when it comes to successful marketing. These tapes are wonderful reminders of the fundamentals of marketing and there is no B.S. about how the internet has changed everything. In fact I think these people would have been the stars of the internet if they were still alive today.

Last week while driving to an appointment, I was listening to a tape about Rosser Reeves – Reality in Advertising. He said something I have not been able to get out of my mind since then.

“A gifted product is mightier than a gifted pen.”

This may be one of the most simple but profound pieces of information you ever receive as a marketer.

His view is that true success lies in the product and not in the marketing and advertising.

He means that if you have a “me too” product, no amount of marketing and advertising is going to change that. For most businesses the biggest challenge is too many people selling exactly what you sell.

I believe the problem is compounded by the fact that most of us reinforce our sameness by the way we describe our products and services.

We say the same things about our businesses as our competitors do. We make the same claims and the same promises and wonder why we cannot out market our competition.

If you make the same claims as your competition you promote them as much as you promote yourself.

If you merely describe what you do like most advertisers, you do nothing to create interest. Unless people actually need what you do right now, this kind of marketing simply flips the listeners “off” switch and they move onto more interesting things.

Unless people feel they need your product, marketing can do very little to help you; all it can do is convey your offer. It can convey all the reasons why someone should want your offer. But if the offer isn’t compelling it won’t help you.

On the other hand, if you have an exciting product that people want, then marketing is relatively easy.

How difficult do you think it is to market something as appealing as an IPod?

Fortunately we are not rational beings. No one needs an IPod, but for emotional reasons we want one. The reason we all work so hard is to satisfy the emotional needs we all have. Marketing helps you tap into these. An IPod makes you look and feel cool, they provide you with pleasure, they can educate you, etc.

The real talent was coming up with the idea and bringing it to market. That’s not to say their marketing isn’t good. It is, but it is so much easier to create marketing for a great product that everybody feels they want.

OK, so marketing an exciting product like an IPod is relatively easy, but what if you don’t have a unique or exciting product?

Well, all is not lost. You have to rethink what it is you are selling and create an exciting offer that people really want. Bundle some additional services; package your offer in a way that makes it more comprehensive, useful and valued.

Most of us have never thought about this, but it’s easier to achieve than you think.

If you don’t have a product that people immediately want as soon as they hear about it, you have work to do.

Today’s Action Plan

The best way to create a product or service that people really want is to set aside some time for brainstorming the answer to four simple questions.

It doesn’t matter whether you sell plain old vanilla accounting services, business consulting or manufacture electronics, answering these questions will guide you to the answers you need.

Set aside a couple of hours to do this.

Start with four sheets of clean paper. At the top of each sheet write down one of these four questions:

  1. What are the flaws with current ……products and services? In the gap insert what you do. E.g. Marketing Mentoring Programs.
  2. What’s selling well now in this category?
  3. What’s missing in the products and services that are selling well right now?
  4. What can I do to overcome these challenges and make what we do a top seller?

In this process quantity is more important than quality, make sure you capture every idea. Don’t judge them, just write them down. If you fill up one sheet go onto another. Just make sure you include the question at the top so you can identify what the suggestions mean.

At the end of this brainstorming process you begin a review process and begin to select ideas that you can make work. Don’t expect instant results, so keep thinking and questioning.

Once you have an idea of how you want to improve your offering, test your ideas with clients and prospects to find out if they are excited by what you intend to offer. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.

Do this a few times and you’ll create exciting products that prospects want. When you do, you’ll find your marketing challenges far easier to overcome.