“Too many [marketers] assume that mere ‘difference,’ [or] ‘cleverness’—like the philosopher’s stone, for which the ancient alchemists sought—have within them some mysterious essence which can transmute lead into pure and shining gold.
Unfortunately, lead remains lead.
We must start with gold.”
— Rosser Reeves
Everything we do in our business either reinforces or damages our market position. Including, or even especially, how our product works and looks.
Which means, at our business’s very core, we must start with gold. We can’t assume that a clever advertising campaign will save us if our product is lacking.
As Ogvily once said, “The quickest way to kill a brand that is off in quality is to promote it aggressively.”
So the question we must always ask ourselves is, “Do I have an advertising problem, or a product problem?”
The easiest way to answer that question is to ask ourselves another: “Is there demonstrated interest in my product—are people willing to pay me profitable prices for it—and can they do so easily and quickly?”
Often we’ll find that, no, our purchase process is inefficient. Or our website is confusing. Or we don’t have any calls-to-action or links in our social media posts.
Or we’ve had many people tell us they like our idea, but nobody’s bought it yet.
As Porter once wrote, to create a real competitive advantage, operational effectiveness must be a given. We can’t have problems with our product. We can’t have a slow or inefficient purchase process. We must be able to serve our current customers quickly and profitably.
Otherwise, advertising won’t help, it’ll hurt. We’ll just end up churning through prospects and one-time customers who will never return.
So we must ensure that our product is clearly positioned in the market, and serves a true job to be done for real customers.
We must have proof that people are willing to pay money for what we’re selling (not just congratulate us on a good idea).
And we must make sure that the people motivated to buy from us can do so easily—and want to again and again.
We can’t assume that advertising can turn our lead into gold.
We must start with gold.