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Don't Let It Happen to You: Avoid These Business Killers With a Prepared Marketing Plan

Andrew McDermott

Their product was amazing. 

Zumbox, a hybrid mail service, enabled customers to receive snail mail via email. They digitized postal mail, making it available for customers via their email, desktop and mobile devices.

But in 2014, They closed their doors. What happened? They had a great idea, how could this be? It was an amazing product with an incomplete plan.

You see, there are a number of threats to every business, problems that destroy businesses. When ignored, these problems slowly erode customer confidence and revenues.

Growth slows to a crawl as customers refuse to buy.

These plans are a problem for almost every business. Some companies try to spend their way out of danger. Others simply ignore the problem, hoping it'll go away. Only a small minority focus on actually fixing the problem.

Pretty crazy, right?

To outsiders, yes. When it's your business though, ignoring it seems rational. Customers can't see your value? Well then, "You'll make them see". The horrible problems that need your immediate attention? Meh, they're just speed bumps, a temporary setback.

So what problems am I talking about?

What are entrepreneurs missing in their marketing plans? Let's take a look.

Related Article: The Entrepreneur's Guide To Evaluating Digital Marketing And ROI

Problem #1: Ignoring Customer Objections

Zumbox wasn't the first startup to tackle the snail mail problem.

Each of these companies ignored the majority of customer objections.

  • "Is Outbox's practice of opening and scanning my physical mail legal?"
  • "We looked at Zumbox and the thing we did not like is that there is going to be a ton of spam marketing to account holders down the line…this [is] how I guess they make their money... but paperless post is the way forward."
  • "I still love to receive mail in the mailbox outside. Not looking to try this company in the near future."

Zumbox, Outbox, and Manilla ignored these customer complaints for the most part.

"Our service is free," they thought. "Can't beat that!"

Zumbox pitched businesses, hoping they'd pay for access to their customers. Just one problem. Zumbox didn't have enough customers. Businesses felt it wasn't worth their time.

Naturally, their customers refused to buy.

Every offer comes with objections (even if it's free). These objections act as barriers, keeping you and the customers who want what you're selling apart.

You need to find your customers biggest objections, then defuse them. Use testimonials, case studies and demos. Show customers there's nothing to fear and you increase their willingness to buy.

Related Article: Like PB&J: Customer Service as a Marketing Strategy

Problem #2: No Risk Reversals

Customers had serious misconceptions about Zumbox. "Count me out... can't get my packages via make believe….don’t want someone compromising my mail!!!! Easy identity theft!!!!" was one customers complaint.

There's always risk when money's involved. Customers were terrified. They felt Zumbox employees were untrustworthy, that their company put them at risk for identity theft. Yikes.

Who'd want to do business with a legitimate fear like that hanging over their head?

Risk reversals reduce that danger. Asking customers to assume all of the risk means they're much less likely to buy. With risk reversals, sellers assume the risk.

Which seems risky, to sellers. Who in their right mind would do that?

You, if you're smart (which you are). Studies show that risk reversals increase customer confidence and spending. It also shows that claims against sellers actually go down.


So what does this mean for you? It means it's your job to put customers at ease.

  • Customers afraid your product won't work? Offer a money-back guarantee.
  • Customers afraid of sharing private information with you? Give them complete control over how their info is used.
  • Customers dubious about your promises? Back up that promise with cold, hard cash.

See where I'm going with this? Find the risks then, reverse them. Take the burden off your customers shoulders, and their wallets open right up.

Problem #3: No Uniqueness

Zumbox had lots of competitors. Some competitors did what they did, but better. Some were older. Others were better funded.

They all offered the same end result. Believe it or not, that's actually a good thing. It shows that the demand is there, that customers are interested in the things you sell.

There was no compelling reason for customers to get the service from Zumbox. What made them unique? Why would anyone choose them over a competitor? They didn't have an answer.

Customers have hundreds, sometimes thousands of options available to choose from. Why should they choose you?

Because there's something special about you. Something that can only be said about your business, right?

At least there should be. Yet, the vast majority of marketing plans avoid this topic completely. That's a disaster because it happens to be the most important part.

The other things are important, yes, but your uniqueness, that ties it all together. It shows customers that you know your value. It gives you leverage, enabling you to charge, and accept, what you're worth, without fighting or begging for table scraps.

Sounds nice doesn't it?

Use these ingredients to create uniqueness.

  • Specificity: Remember Domino's pizza in the early days? "You get a hot, fresh pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or it's free. Specific and...
  • Measureable: M&Ms old slogan told customers their candy, "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand." I still remember kids holding their candy in their hands, testing to see if it was true. Customers should be able to measure, confirm or quantify your offer somehow.
  • Equality: Your uniqueness should cover your entire business. Uniqueness that randomly excludes customers can't be trusted.

The right uniqueness deals with a problem, approaching it from a unique angle that customers find valuable.

Related Article: Not So Trendy: 3 Online Marketing Strategies That Are Never Going Away

Problem #4: No Cohesive Plan

It's common for marketing plans to get stuck in the strategy phase. There's the initial feel good plan that everyone thinks is going to work.

You know, the one that's obliterated by reality? Once that happens it's common for businesses to rely on a loose set of ideas cobbled together.

You've seen it before. Looks a little bit like this.

  • "We'll try LinkedIn ads and see how it works."
  • "Our customers are on Snapchat, maybe we should be too."
  • "Let's offer discounts in our newsletter."

Don't get me wrong these are good ideas. But they're terrible if they're not part of a cohesive plan.

What do I mean by that? When I say cohesive, I mean a plan that's working toward a specific, pre-determined goal.

Let's look at a few examples:

1. Samsung attacking/trolling Apple with goal of taking their spot.

2. Nike's "Just Do It" campaign

3. Apple's "Get a Mac" campaign

See what I mean?

We obviously don't have a copy of their marketing plan. But we don't need it to see there's a specific goal they're working toward. They worked toward a single goal, repeatedly focusing on a specific message.

What about the secret ingredient?

Did you catch it? It's emotion. Each of these examples used emotion to draw customers in. They then helped customers justify their newfound feelings.

Your plan needs to be cohesive from beginning to end. There needs to be a greater purpose behind your marketing, besides "get more customers."

Build your plan around your uniqueness. Identify the goal you have in mind. Then isolate the emotions, information and tools you'll need to get there.

This Won't Work for My Business

It's a common complaint, but is it true? It's actually not. These strategies are used by businesses large and small, across a wide variety of industries.

The world's most successful companies use these strategies on a daily basis. They use these strategies to attract customers, build an audience and dominate their market.

This is all a bunch of nonsense though isn't it? Lots of businesses make money without these strategies. It seems like they're doing just fine.

The naysayers are right.

Some companies make money without all this. But the end result is different. These companies are typically forced to...

  • Compete on price
  • Haggle with customers for discounts
  • Pay more to win a customer
  • Risk loss of customer loyalty 

That doesn't look sustainable in the long run does it?

Related Article: Digital Marketing Trailblazers: Who's Changing Our World?

Zumbox Was an Amazing (But Unsustainable) Product

Their marketing plan didn't have the right ingredients.

They weren't prepared for the threats to their business. They tried to spend their way out while these problems eroded customer confidence and their revenue.

It's not too late for you.

Follow the steps I've outlined and you'll have (most of) the ingredients your customers need to buy.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Andrew McDermott Member
Andrew McDermott is the co-author of Hook: Why Websites Fail to Make Money and the co-founder of Subscribe to his 5-day mini course and you'll learn how to attract and convert website visitors, automatically.