How to Achieve Marketing Success: Don’t “Sell”

Everyone likes to buy—but no one likes to be sold. So why do so many marketing pieces scream “marketing material”?

I see this marketing misstep every day. Whether it’s a blog post, a direct mail piece, or a company brochure, too many marketing efforts focus on singing the praises of something the buyer likely doesn’t give a hoot about. The result? Nothing gets sold. Even worse, there’s a good chance that the material has alienated its intended audience and made future sales less possible.

At Mamu Media, we put our marketing experience and our graphic design expertise at work every time we create a new issue of our branded and custom magazines. Our clients trust us to come up with materials that sell without selling. Every once in a while, though, we have a new client who tries to use designs that don’t achieve the desired effect.

For example, I was recently working with a new client who created their own custom cover for an issue of the magazine. The result came off as a marketing piece rather than a magazine cover. I told them:

My concern is … if we can’t tie your custom cover into the content of the magazine, it will feel too much like a “marketing” piece. Although the ultimate goal is marketing, I’ve always maintained that the results are much better when they don’t feel like marketing to the recipient.

Fortunately, the client took the feedback very well. They shifted all the magazine design responsibilities back to Mamu Media and have been very pleased with the results.

This cautionary tale applies not just to magazines, however, but also to brochures, newsletters, flyers—whatever sort of marketing material your organization uses. With some pieces (such as brochures and flyers), it’s hard to get away from an outright marketing approach: your audience will have a very difficult time seeing them as anything but sales material. Magazines and newsletter, though, aren’t bound by readers’ rigid expectations about form and content, and thus lend themselves to more flexibility.

When communicating with clients and prospects, your goal is to build a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship. Yes, you are selling something, but you also want to sell it repeatedly to the same client over time, not just make a one-off sale. In other words, think about how you can sell your services without trying to sell your services with that particular piece at that particular time.


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