To be a great marketer, you have to want to be a great marketer. This is one of the factors that separates the wheat from the chaff, the true entrepreneurs from the wannabes and dabblers. In other words, you have to spend some serious time and effort deeply studying the field of marketing, so that you understand it fully — both in general, and in your particular marketplace. Soak up as much information in your field as you can, until you become an expert at what you do. People love to buy from experts. That’s one way to get a leg-up in the marketplace, especially among people who don’t know you yet and have no reason to trust you or your company. If you’re an expert, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.
You should also know what your competition is doing — always. I’ll never forget reading the autobiography of Sam Walton, the man who founded Wal-Mart; I learned a lot from him, and it’s stuck in my mind for years. One thing that especially appealed to me was that Walton spent hundreds of hours in Kmart stores in his early days, just studying what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong. In fact, he said he’d been thrown out of more Kmart stores than any other person in history. Why did he do this? Because Kmart was his #1 competitor at that time.
He took the best of what they were doing well, did the opposite of what they were doing badly, and built Wal-Mart into the mercantile empire we see now. He outcompeted them in almost every market, and they were unable to adjust to the challenge. He set out to serve the customers the best, most profitable way he could, while taking away as much market share from the competition as possible.
This is a lesson for all of us. As a marketer, you must learn from your competition, regardless of your field. If you’re already the #1 provider for your marketplace, then you’re the target of all of the others who want to be #1; so you have to stay on your toes. If you’re not #1, find out what #1 is doing, both right and wrong, and take the proper steps forward based on what you’ve learned. If you do that, you can achieve major marketing success — because they’re doing many things right if they’re already the leader in the market. But chances are, they’re also making some key mistakes. Turn those mistakes around, and you can’t help but get ahead of them.
Another thing that’s ultra-important is that you have to meet the customers. Too many small business owners sit in the back, overseeing the help as they handle the customers. Instead of being remote, come out of your office and meet the people buying your products and services. Find out what they’re really looking for; what are their true desires? What can you do to provide them? If you get a lot of business by phone, then you’d better handle some of the sales calls yourself, so you know exactly what’s going on in your business. According to some rumors, Steve Jobs of Apple fame used to take technical service calls occasionally to keep his skills sharp.
To be a great marketer, you have to understand your business, you have to understand the customers in your business, and you have to understand the competition. Once you develop a good understanding of all three, you’re going to make a lot of money. This is such a simple principle, and yet most people just never seem to get it. Maybe that’s because it’s all based on learning by doing: on becoming a master marketer simply by going out there and getting started.
That’s how you become the next billionaire: you get out there and start marketing, absorbing knowledge like a sponge, trying new things out, and rolling out big with the things that really work. Just like in pro sports, you only become a superstar by becoming a star first. You have to put a lot of work into it, and become great over time. No one has yet figured out how to turn greatness on and off like a spigot; it’s something most people don’t recognize anyway until they’re looking back on it.
This isn’t something that just happens by magic, or like a lucky lottery win. You get there because you’re committed and because you’re dedicated to doing what it takes to become a master marketer. Just like a superior athlete or a top actor, you reach superstardom by training and hard work and dedication. Sometimes people become “overnight successes,” but usually these successes were preceded by many, many years of effort, training, and study, all focused on becoming the very best they could be. They just seemed like “overnight” successes because they were under everyone’s radar before then, working their tails off. It usually happens as a result of being completely sold on the goal you’re trying to reach. Becoming a master marketer doesn’t happen by accident. You don’t just stumble upon greatness.
Now, I can imagine some people saying, “Why should I go through all that work?” Well, how else are you ever going to make a lot of money? No matter what anyone tells you, there’s no way to build a fortune without putting your all into it. This is what drives star athletes to spend 5-6 hours a day in the gym every day for a decade, constantly pushing themselves beyond their limits. If they hit the peak of their prowess, they can make millions of dollars and be set for life. Becoming a great marketer can do the same: it can make you a multimillionaire, if that’s what you want to achieve.
Business is the great equalizer. I know there are problems in America, but I thank God that in this country, you can still start a business for next to nothing. You can go from poverty to being a multimillionaire simply by getting involved in the game and putting your heart into it. There are plenty of people who have done so already, and there are more who are doing it right now. Great marketing is the secret that makes that happen. Marketing is all about attracting and retaining the largest possible number of the very best buyers in your marketplace. Those people are out there right now. Learning to become a great marketer will help you to attract those people and get them coming to you rather than your competition.
Everybody should read Sam Walton’s biography. He was an incredible man, a man who put his business at the heart of everything he did. His family knew that his business was his central focus. They hated going on vacation with him, because that meant they had to stop at every single discount center along the way. The kids would sit in the car with their mother in the hot parking lot, while Sam was inside with a legal pad, walking up and down the aisles, taking it all in and monitoring the competition.
Incidentally, this kind of monitoring is much easier to do today, now that we have the Internet. The Internet has got to be the greatest tool ever for the marketer, because you can easily find competitors’ sites, borrow good ideas, and see what they’re doing wrong. Everything’s right out there in plain sight — all kinds of ideas for making tons of money, if you can adopt or adapt those ideas to make them your own, and find ways to implement them.
A few years ago, my mentor had the chance to meet Jerry Buss, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. If Buss isn’t a billionaire, he’s very close to it. Jerry asked him, “What do you do?” and my mentor replied, “I’m into marketing and business.” And Buss said, “You know something? With all the star status we have with the Lakers, from Kobe Bryant on down, the one thing I’ve learned is that if you want to be super-successful, you can never stop marketing.”
Take it from a man who’s richer than most of us put together: marketing is the one thing that makes you the most successful. Even if marketing isn’t your forte, if you’re in business I think you should learn the difference between good and bad marketing. Now, you don’t have to be a copywriter; you don’t have to prepare jingles for TV and radio. You can hire that out. But you do have to be able to tell the difference between good marketing and bad, that which will serve you well and that which will not.