The three legged stool, or the perfect metaphor for a marketing plan

Every few weeks, my wife grabs the remote, points it at the television, presses various buttons and then, after failing to achieve the desired outcome, declares, “This thing doesn’t work.”

Of course the thing does work, but she was pressing the wrong buttons.

Small business marketers are often like my wife — blaming this thing or that thing for a failed campaign when, in fact, they’re pressing the wrong buttons.

I’ve heard it all. “Direct mail doesn’t work. Email doesn’t work. Telemarketing doesn’t work. Social media doesn’t work. Blogging doesn’t work.” A prospect recently told me, “I’ve tried marketing. Marketing doesn’t work for my business.”

Come on, man! All marketing doesn’t work?!?

I understand the frustration. I know many businessmen who have struggled to market their businesses, and I know how easy it is to assume that nothing will work.

But email, social media, direct mail and all of these other marketing channels can work — if you get the other parts right.

Marketing is a three-legged stool. The first leg is audience. Whom are you targeting? The second leg is message. What are you saying and showing that will resonate with the audience? The third leg is media. What channel(s) have you selected that are best suited to deliver this message to that audience?

When marketing fails them, business people tend to blame the media first. It’s email’s fault or social media’s fault or direct mail’s fault. But those media are just tools — like remote controls — that work properly only if you press the right buttons.

Like a stool, your campaign will topple if any of the legs falls short. And before you blame the media-channel leg for your campaign’s shortcomings, ask first whether you got the market and message right.

A businessman who told me telemarketing doesn’t work had a successful calling campaign when he reworked the call script to emphasize benefits that address the target audience’s primary needs.

A businesswoman who told me email doesn’t work changed her tune after cleaning her list and target a better audience with her lead generation campaigns.

A pair of business owners who declared that direct mail doesn’t work gave it one more try and succeeded when they purchased a better list and improved the call-to-action in their letter.

Of course, all media channels don’t work for all people and purposes. For example, email is better suited for nurturing existing prospects than introducing yourself to cold leads. Snapchat and Instagram are not the right channels to market to senior citizens. So, yes, sometimes the remote control doesn’t work.

But more often than not, you’ll have better luck with your marketing campaigns if you examine your target market and message first. If you don’t get those right, it doesn’t matter what media channel you choose.

Leave a Comment