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21 timeless marketing tips, part 1

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It’s been 21 years since I left my corporate marketing job in Washington, D.C., to open my own marketing and creative services firm in Cleveland, Ohio. So to celebrate my company’s 21st anniversary, here are 21 timeless tips for your smart marketing strategy.

  1. Marketing is about selling. Everyone loves a brilliant creative campaign, but marketing has to sell. If the creative marketing and not the product is what you remember, the ad has failed. Never let a creative approach overpower your sales message.
  2. Channels change, but marketing principles don’t. Websites and social media didn’t even exist when I started my marketing business. Advertizing channels may come and go, but the proven principles of marketing always apply — whatever the medium.
  3. Every business needs a marketing plan. No matter how small your business, you need an integrated plan outlining marketing tactics, channels and messages. Without a plan, you’ll have a scattershot approach that fails to reach people and wastes your money.
  4. Great marketing can’t sell a weak product. A marketing agency can develop a high-impact campaign for almost any product or service. But good marketing means nothing if the product or service doesn’t measure up. That’s what we call the lipstick-on-a-pig principle.
  5. He who has the best data wins. Data is an increasingly critical competitive advantage. Build the best database in your industry and use it to gain insights into your prospects.
  6. Listening is the #1 marketing skill. Effective marketers are exceptional listeners with natural curiosity and empathy. To create marketing messages that truly resonate with prospects, you need to be a great listener.
  7. Prospects care about themselves, not your product. People are focused on their own self-interest. They will care about our organization only if you can make their lives better. Show prospects how they’ll benefit by choosing you.
  8. To engage, you must be relevant. You have mere seconds to grab a prospect’s attention and engage her in your marketing. Your message must be relevant to her interests or you’ll lose her at the start.
  9. Your brand is defined by how you make people feel. Emotions drive human behavior. How people feel when they use your product or service or interact with your staff defines your brand and creates (or destroys) customer loyalty.
  10. Brand identities don’t last forever. With rare exceptions, brand identities and logos evolve over time as design trends and companies shift. You may love your brand, but the time will surely come when it needs a makeover. Be open to a fresh approach.

Marketing is an art and takes years to master. But you can benefit now by following these expert tips.

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Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at


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