Five Marketing Lessons Everyone Needs

This week’s post will be a bit different than the others here on Smokehouse.

Usually, we focus on how to become a better digital marketer, whether that’s using SEO, Social Media, Email or another channel but this week, I’m going to talk about how to be a better marketer in general.

These five rules are things I’ve noticed from my time in marketing and even some things I learned during my super early career as an aspiring web developer that can apply to marketing.

5. If Your Tactics Aren’t Changing, You’re Done

This one is so basic, I’m sort of angry I need to cover it and yet, here we are. As a marketer, digital or otherwise, you need to keep up with the times.

I mean let’s be real, I know for a fact there are some of you out there still doing things like buying lists of postal addresses and sending out junk mail, buying lists of email addresses and sending out spam, hiring teenagers to spin signs on the off-ramp and other old-school marketing stuff that either went out with the Mad Men-era or never worked to begin with.

Stop wasting money on nonsense.

Those postal addresses you bought and all those postcards and flyers you paid to have printed and paid postage to send? Half of them come back return to sender from bad addresses and the other half are trashed within seconds without a glance.

I mean, what do YOU do when you get junk mail?

Those email addresses you paid for and that email you built and sent? Either didn’t hit an inbox thanks to smart spam filters or were either deleted or reported as spam.

Congrats, you wrecked your sender reputation, could have gotten blacklisted as a spammer by ISPs and paid for the privilege.

I won’t even dignify the kid spinning a sign thing with a comment. If you pay for that, you get what you deserve.

The point is that you need to stay current with your marketing, your channels and always know what works and what doesn’t. If you’re not and your competitors are, you will be left behind in terms of sales and I didn’t even mention the fact that your brand is going to start being looked at as a dinosaur – a relic of an age gone by.

The world has moved on, Roland, and so should your marketing.


Nobody wants your fifty page long, boring ass white papers that you had laying around that you decided to call a ‘lead magnet’.

Nobody wants your email spam and people definitely don’t want your junk mail in their physical mailbox.

If you’re going to market like that, save yourself a lot of time and money and just fire your marketing staff and just take out an ad in your local Pennysaver, you’ll get about as much response – but most likely you wouldn’t know the difference because if you still market like that, I can almost guarantee you’re not tracking any type of ROI.

4. You Don’t Dictate the Trends, You Respond To Them

You know that brand that keeps on trying to tell you what you want to buy? The one that swears that the ‘next big thing’ is whatever it is they’re trying to push on you this week.

What about the brand that keeps putting out content that they think is super interesting but in reality, nobody cares. Or, even worse, the brand that has a blog but every single article is about something they’re trying to sell so it just ends up being a ten-page long commercial?

Yeah, that doesn’t work.

Whether its products, methods of delivery, content topics or brand messaging, unless you’re a huge name like Nike, Nestle, Amazon or Google, you cannot tell people what they want.

Allow me to repeat this:



Sometimes even if you’re a huge name, you can’t tell the market what they need to buy from you (remember Google Glass? Crystal Pepsi, anyone?). It doesn’t work.

Yes, you can try to fill a demand in the market but even then it needs to be based on the market, not just something your company decided to make one day and say, ‘Hey, suckers, buy this!’


If your company is in the business of trying to tell people, ‘No, you really DO want red rectangular widgets, you idiots!!’ even though all market trends are pointing to people buying blue, circular doodads, you know what will happen?

Yup, a wasted marketing budget and a warehouse full of unpurchased red, rectangular widgets.

Let me tell you something that I’ve learned from years and years of doing marketing for everyone from huge, international respected clothing brands and international non-profit organizations to mom and pop t-shirt drop shippers and national chains of tire shops:


Which leads me to my next point…

3. Your Brand Is Only As Valuable As Your Customers Say It Is

Everyone thinks their business is the best thing ever in their industry, I get that. I really do.

Here’s a wake-up call: you’re not.

Guess what else: everybody else knows you’re not, too.

Your company is only as great as customers say it is.

That’s it.


Your brand value begins and ends at customer perception.

I don’t care who you are, this applies to everyone from the biggest corporations to the smallest business. Hell, this even applies to individual social media influencers, celebrities, industry blogs, websites, non-profits and nearly anything else you can think of. I really can’t think of a situation where this doesn’t apply. In fact, I’m going to bold this and add two words for emphasis so this sticks in your mind:




That’s right, ‘right now’.

Just because you were able to live on your reputation 20 years ago and sell your products for a grand each doesn’t mean you still can. What was seen as valuable and a must-buy item just a few months ago can now be completely irrelevant to people.

Don’t believe me? Let me ask you a few things:

How much you gonna get in 2018 for those Beanie Babies that were such a ‘great investment’?

How’s all that bitcoin you bought doing right now?

Don’t be the brand version of the guy who was the high school quarterback still trying to live out their glory days while working at the Tastee-Freez. You need to keep up with what people think about your brand and your products or services right now.

Maybe the only reason your brand was ever able to charge a grand for a product or service was because twenty years ago, you were the only game in town but now you have competitors.

Maybe the reason was that the demand for whatever you had was much higher back then and then the market downturned.

Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. It’s your job to change with the times. There’s nothing worse than an entire brand with ‘Old Guy In The Club’ syndrome.

And if you think people can’t tell you’re irrelevant, you’re wrong. Want to find out? Just look at your sales or search your brand name online. Your sales are either flat or crashing and you either can’t find anything about your brand online in conversations or what you find is people talking about how you ‘used’ to be something but fell off.

2. Communicate With Other Teams

This is absolutely critical. Many people have talked about breaking marketing silos and combining your SEO with your PPC and your Social Media to bring everything together to optimize a solid omnichannel strategy (wow, that’s a LOT of buzzwords, no?) but what I mean is a little different.

I mean you need to communicate with everybody in the whole damn company.

How many times has this happened to you:

  • Customer service will have no clue what marketing is doing so when they have someone asking about a promotion, they’ll have no idea how to answer it.
  • Your graphics team will design something for use in your email marketing campaigns and your social teams will have come up with something completely different so you have disjointed product branding.
  • Your social team will promote something out on the channels that the product marketing managers had no idea was coming so now you have multiple campaigns for different products in the same line bidding against each other
  • IT implements something (or, help us all, they relaunch the site) without talking to the SEO team that wrecks organic traffic or worse yet, causes the page to be penalized or deindexed

All this could have been easily prevented if your teams talked to each other. These days, there is no reason not to communicate. With all the pointless meetings companies inflict on their employees these days, you’d think you could wedge in one with a valid reason like these.

Even if you’re like me and loathe meetings with every fiber of your being, you can at least hit up the customer service team lead or manager on Slack or email and say ‘Hey, we’re about to launch a new promotion on Facebook, here’s a copy of the creative and the offer, let me know if you have any questions.’

It literally takes five seconds to avoid tons of potential problems.


At a bare minimum the teams that always need to be in constant communication are:

  • Customer Service & Marketing
  • Product Managers & Marketing
  • Digital Marketing (especially SEO and PPC) & IT
  • Digital Marketing & Traditional Marketing (if you still have one of those)
  • Graphics & Social
  • All your digital marketing teams (PPC, SEO, Social, etc.) need to talk to each other

If those teams barely speak, you’re doing it completely and totally wrong.

If you don’t know how to get them talking, get Slack, its free and it works.

1. Trust The Data, NOT Your ‘Gut’

This one is simple as well but you’d be stunned how many people fail to follow this basic tenant of running a business.

If you’re sitting there trying to ‘I have a feeling this will work’ your way through marketing in 2018, you’re wrong. Sorry, not sorry.

So you have a strong feeling that people will just love your latest unsolicited email even though no one opened the last three you sent?

Your gut is telling you that maybe if marketing just sent out more postcards to that list of purchased postal addresses about your product that costs over $1000 you would have had more than two site visits?

Something inside tells you that the market is going to just go nuts over your new product offering that you totally didn’t do any type of market research on before launch?

Well, you need to see a doctor. Maybe you’re sick or something because your gut is all kinds of jacked up.

Stop being, and let’s be real with it if we’re going to talk about it, stupid.

This type of marketing is just bad and there’s no excuse for it in 2018. It’s literally just putting your hand on a hot stove over and over again and hoping you don’t get burned this time.

You need to be tracking every single thing that leaves your business. Putting UTM codes that you can track in Google analytics should be in every single link you push out at a bare minimum but I suggest you go one better and create entire dashboards and data sets using a tool like Microsoft’s Power BI (shout out to Wil Reynolds and the Seer team for this incredible idea) because if you don’t have data, you have garbage. If you have garbage, well, we all know what GIGO stands for, right? It ain’t just for code.

Speaking of garbage, here’s a bonus pointer for you…

Bonus: You Can’t Market A Knuckle Sandwich

This goes back to product and market research so while it’s technically outside the scope of marketing, it hits marketers hard when people fail on this one or don’t even bother to try to do this. Ready? Ok:


Think about it. Let’s say you’re walking down the street and a guy comes up to you and says, “Hey! Punch you in the face, Fifteen bucks?” what do you say?

Well, unless you’re a weirdo, you say no, right?

What if the guy continues,

“OK, how about I give you a coupon code for five bucks off? No? Ok, what about a free T-shirt and photo souvenir of me punching you in the face? Still no? Ok, Fine, what about five bucks off, a free shirt and photo and I’ll throw in a kick in the shins, absolutely free! How could you pass up that incredible offer?? Hey…where are you going??”

So, why didn’t the guy make a sale and get to punch you in the jaw? I mean he offered a coupon, threw in a T-shirt and even had a two injuries for the price of one sale. He did everything right, didn’t he?


Now you’re sitting there thinking, “This is stupid, who would try to sell a punch in the face? Nobody would want this!”

How do you know that’s not exactly what people are saying about your products or services?

It’s the same thing if you think about it. Sure, you’re not trying to sell bodily injuries but the basic problem is the same. Even the best marketing campaigns can’t sell something that people either think is overpriced, isn’t valuable to their life, doesn’t solve a problem or they just flat out do not want.

If you’re getting a ton of traffic to a landing page or a product and you’re not making any actual sales, what do you do? Well, if you’ve checked and determined all your ad targeting is on point and the traffic is relevant to the people who you think should want your product or service, it’s time to look at your product.

Ask yourself – and more importantly, ask the industry:

  • Is this product useful or do I just think it is?
  • Does it solve a problem people said they actually have or do I just think it does?
  • Is this thing overpriced for what it is?
  • How much are other people offering similar items for?
  • If I was a customer, what are the objections I’d have against buying it?

Sometimes, it’s better to simply go back to the drawing board on your product instead of taking the easy way out and just going ‘our marketing team sucks’ and moving on to the next thing that won’t sell because you failed to do R&D.

Also when I say R&D, I mean do R&D on THIS product THIS year.

Not on something similar to this product. Not on something you had R&D done on like five years ago. I mean this product and this year.

Do your due diligence and I promise you’ll have a much better time in terms of moving products. I mean, yeah it’s a lot more work than just blaming marketing and moving on but in the end, when the company sinks and everyone is going to file for unemployment, you still going to blame marketing?

You know what, some of y’all probably will…forget I said anything…

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