Laws of Marketing: Do They Exist?

The Answer is Yes.

A number of years ago, I was introduced to a short, pithy book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Ries and Trout, which is possibly the best marketing book of all time.

Why go into this on a blog dedicated to C-Level Priorities? Simply put, effective marketing should be a C-Level Priority in every company. Companies that don’t follow sound basic marketing rules spend a lot of money, waste a lot of time and fail to realize their full potential.

strategy-streetI want to touch on just the first two of the laws- The Law of Leadership and The Law of Category. In combination, these two laws position a company, a line of business or a brand to win and to remain a winner over the long term.

In late 2008, I took over a business that described itself as a “Marketing Services Provider”, and in fact they were the largest independent company in the Northeast in this line of business. I am going to call this company MSP. Unfortunately, in their largest division, MSP was making the mistake many other companies do- they had an executive with a VP of Sales and Marketing title, who really was the head of Sales. In truth, marketing in this company was sales support, and that was not being done well either. Coincidentally, MSP owned and operated two Direct Marketing Agencies, so they knew marketing. They just weren’t applying it to themselves (shoemaker’s son?).

There was a very talented marketing executive in one of the Agencies and we asked her to head marketing for the entire company. We knew we had to re-position the business and this marketing executive knew how to do that. We also knew the Marketing Services Provider “category” was too broad and we could never “own” it. Let’s take a break from this story and go back to the 22 Laws. We will return to the story after that.

22-lawsHere is a synopsis of the first two of the 22 Laws:

Law #1
The Law of Leadership- It’s better to be first than it is to be better.

Law #2
The Law of the Category- If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.

It’s important for a company to be first in their chosen area of business. If they’re not first, then the stronger competitor sets the pace and others follow. It’s also difficult under these circumstances to differentiate yourself competitively. We recognized this right away, and took a deep dive into a positioning exercise. After a thorough external search and an internal self-assessment, we settled on a new category we termed Personalized Communication. It was a segment of the services provided by a marketing services provider, and MSP was particularly good at it.

Now we had to implement. It was first necessary to get everyone in the company aligned around this concept- we began with the senior management team. From there we addressed the sales force, client services group, and on into all customer-facing units in the company. Then the tactical marketing began- website, direct marketing/lead generation campaigns, webinars, thought-leadership communications… all centered around Personalized Communications.

No need to get into more details, suffice it to say it worked- and here are two proof points. First, a Google organic search for Personalized Communications placed this regional provider consistently above the fold. Second, business performance improved dramatically, enough that the company received an unsolicited offer to be acquired.

Back to the main point- yes, there are laws of marketing. It’s a C-Level responsibility to make sure they are being applied effectively and not violated. In the words of Ries and Trout “Violate them at your own risk”.

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