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Your Marketing Sucks

Your Marketing Sucks

2.5 10
by Mark Stevens

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• Stop throwing thousand-dollar bills out the window and camouflaging spending as marketing—demand that the money spent on marketing bring in more money in return.

• Cut through the myths that claim marketing is about advertising, public relations, or direct mail—learn that it is about growing the revenue, profit, and valuation of the


• Stop throwing thousand-dollar bills out the window and camouflaging spending as marketing—demand that the money spent on marketing bring in more money in return.

• Cut through the myths that claim marketing is about advertising, public relations, or direct mail—learn that it is about growing the revenue, profit, and valuation of the business.

• Fire your advertising agency if it even thinks about applying for a Clio or other creative award.

• Implement the marketing moratorium—stop all marketing until you know how each component of your program justifies itself in dollars and cents.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Clear, sensible suggestions for making money through marketing.” —Time

“I love Mark Stevens’s Your Marketing Sucks. . . . Clear language. Strong point of view. Actionable as the dickens. And . . . extreme. (My favorite word.)” —Tom Peters

“Your marketing may suck, but this book doesn’t. Every single page has a story, an example, or a concept you’ll find yourself repeating to colleagues within days. Powerful stuff, not for amateurs or anyone too lazy to succeed.” —Seth Godin, author of Free Prize Inside and The Purple Cow

Publishers Weekly
Most companies don't have a clue about good marketing, argues entrepreneur Stevens (Extreme Management) in his slender but vociferous book. What they need are the principles of "extreme marketing," in which every dollar "is set in a strategic context," is part of an integrated plan and brings in more than a dollar in return-strategies Stevens lays out in his readable, thought-provoking and sometimes outrageous book. He bashes marketers' "conventional wisdom" with an almost immoderate glee, and proposes big changes too: stop all marketing if you can't prove it works; don't use your competitors' marketing as a benchmark; don't depend on the results of focus groups; fire sellers that don't sell; cross-sell to consumers; and try direct mailings are just a few of his ideas. With charges like "Be persistent, relentless, inventive, counterintuitive, challenging, combative, strategic and tactical," readers may be tempted to think: easy for you to say. But this gem of a book is brimming with anecdotal evidence of advertising strategies gone awry, and full of examples of better plans. Diversification of programs is key, as are market testing and tracking. And if Stevens's examples aren't enough to convince (though they should be), his passion for his subject may carry the day. At the book's conclusion, Stevens instructs readers to not return to the office until they have figured out how to implement his advice. This is as different from more traditional and staid marketing how-tos as its title suggests. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The president of MSCO, a marketing firm based in Purchase, NY, Stevens (Extreme Management) here argues that the measure of marketing success is whether every dollar invested is returned in more than a dollar of sales. Once companies establish a marketing budget, their marketing departments often try to spend the entire budget, regardless of whether the marketing program is effective or profitable, simply to avoid having the following year's budget cut. Stevens counters that scenario by proposing marketing that works: infomercials and the ads that people love to hate (or at least ridicule) are effective because they deliver measurable results. This book does not present any new theories or practices that would define it as groundbreaking, but it does serve as a reminder that marketing is all about generating new business, not just building "mindshare." This is a good acquisition for secondary-school libraries interested in the basics of marketing and for business-school libraries where case studies are emphasized; public library systems may also consider adding it to the main branch.-Stephen Turner, Turner & Assocs., San Francisco Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
How to Profit From Extreme Marketing
In his effort to turn lazy marketers into Extreme Marketers, marketing guru Mark Stevens has created a game plan that focuses on helping them make the most of a marketing budget and getting more than a dismally low return on investment. His recipe for Extreme Marketing includes tips for effective branding, creating a unique selling proposition, and creating memorable marketing that drives sales. Stevens writes that playing it safe doesn't make people fall in love with a product or service, and those who think it does will be left by the wayside as Extreme Marketers use shock value, sex appeal, pathos and humor to lure people to their own offerings.

Why Marketers Fail
Stevens presents numerous examples of how different companies have failed to capture the attention of customers even though they have great products or services. After he explains what each of his examples failed to do, he describes the marketing efforts that would have helped them reach potential customers.

One example is his personal experience with Salomon Smith Barney, a financial services company. Stevens points out the many resources on which the organization should have more effectively capitalized. By failing to connect with its customers through the mail and telephone, he writes that it was missing numerous opportunities that would have brought it millions of dollars in additional revenues. Stevens describes how he called a vice president at the company one day to tell him that his marketing sucks, and how the company took his advice and hired Stevens' company to help it strengthen its glaring weaknesses.

Lazy Marketers' Mistakes
According to Stevens, three common mistakes that lazy marketers make are:

  • Mistake #1: Create a budget first, goals second. (If at all.) The problem with this idea, Stevens explains, is that companies should first figure out how they will use marketing to grow, who will be the target of its marketing campaign, what its message will be, what goals it seeks to achieve, how the campaign will be measured, and how its results will be tested, executed and monitored. Putting a budget before the goals, he writes, is a great way to create a money-wasting marketing plan.
  • Mistake #2: Be a one-day wonder. Great marketing takes great leadership, so senior management's involvement, support and commitment is essential. The everyman personality of Dave Thomas was essential in creating the fusion of leader, marketing and company that helped Wendy's become a fast-food leader in a tough market.
  • Mistake #3: Delegate. Stevens explains that chief executives should not be hands-off. When they delegate marketing to functionaries who only go through the motions of creating brochures, Web sites, and the like, they can end up losing the alchemy it takes to turn these elements into a powerful sales-building force.
  • Mistake #4: The gullibility factor. Stevens writes that if a marketing agency tells you marketing is all about image making, fire them. Great marketing generates customer relationships and sales. Anything else is nonsense.

Remain Committed
Marketing leadership, according to Stevens, requires:

  • The ability to paint a picture of what the marketing will accomplish.
  • The determination to monitor the logistics and measure the results.
  • The staying power to remain committed throughout the course of the campaign.
  • The willingness to create a tight alignment between the president's office and the marketing campaign.

Stevens writes that effective marketing is all about being sure that a business is perceived in a compelling manner that provides a powerful competitive advantage and an overwhelming motivation to purchase its products and services. To round out his advice and help companies improve their marketing strategies, he provides a blueprint of a public-relations campaign his firm developed for a company that includes and describes the many facets of a successful action plan.

Why We Like This Book
Using plain English and a no-holds-barred approach, Your Marketing Sucks describes what ineffective marketing looks like and offers solutions that can win customers and save money. Mark Stevens minces no words as he delivers a real-world guide to marketing success to those who might have forgotten that ads must sell, and that leaders must firmly grip the reigns of their marketing and fire all lazy marketers. Copyright © 2004 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

1.Why your marketing sucks

Stop throwing thousand-dollar bills out the window and camouflaging spending as marketing


Your marketing programs are not as successful as you want. Or they are not successful at all (in ways you can measure).


Scrutinize everything you are (and are not) doing. Put it all under a microscope. Be a skeptical SOB about every dollar you are spending. Keep those programs generating the highest returns. Eliminate everything else, no matter what.


Your company will grow--profitably.


Marketing is not about spending money on such things as advertising, direct mail, and P.R. Those are just tools. Marketing is about growing your business--its revenues, profit, and valuation.

If you saw someone open an office window and start tossing out handfuls of thousand-dollar bills, you would have every reason to think that he's nuts. Yet that's what happens in business day in and day out, as company after company wastes millions of dollars on spending camouflaged as marketing.

These three quick examples are representative. Consider:

*Auto and truck companies spend a fortune sending camera crews to exotic locations to film expensive cars going down twisting, scenic roads. Great imagery. Beautiful direction. Stunning visuals. Now, find me one single human being who bought a car or truck as a result of one of those ads. In fact, find me someone who can tell all those ads apart. Or better yet, someone who can link one of the cars being advertised to a particular scenic road.

*The ad agency your company uses is hot. It just won a Clio, the industry's version of the Oscar, for its last campaign, and the very hip, very cool creative director is showing you the storyboards for this season's big ad blitz for your product. You sign off on the idea, which, when it hits, generates all kinds of buzz in the ad community--but not in the marketplace, where it counts. Your sales don't improve. When management starts asking, "Why are we spending all this money and getting so little to show for it?" you start talking about the value of building "mind share" as a key part of your advertising and marketing strategy. What the hell is "mind share"? The only thing that puts dollars in the bank is market share, and Clios don't do that (except for the ad agency that wins them).

*An established, family-owned upscale retailer decides to open a new sales channel by leveraging the power of the Internet. It spends $100,000 to acquire the perfect dot-com name, and it is money well spent. It becomes the first designation that customers think of when they are looking to shop the product category online. But the site is shameful, a disaster. While management was willing to spend $100,000 for the dot-com name, the company spent only $8,000 on the website design--and it shows. The products do not look appealing. It is hard to navigate the site, and worse, you can't find the "hot merchandise" that the company was promoting in its stores and ads. So what appeared to be a powerful sales tool--an industry-leading Web destination--turns out to be the devil in disguise. Instead of spurring sales, it frustrates potential customers.

These three examples are far too typical. Smart people do stupid things all the time when it comes to marketing. Since the art and science of marketing is not their core expertise, not surprisingly, their marketing is far less effective than they dream it will be.

It's a trap that is easy to fall into. Think of it this way. There is a Christmas-morning sense of excitement when you get your company's new brochure with its pretty pictures or see yourself hawking homemade hickory furniture in a cable-TV ad. In the back of your mind, a little voice says, "We're big-time. We're on television. We have a beautiful brochure. We're marketers. Wow!"

But hold it a minute. You know how they say, "Anyone can be a parent. Being a good parent is where the tricky part comes in." Well, a similar dynamic occurs with marketing. All you need to market your business is money. You don't need an iota of creativity, smarts, experience, or savvy. No, all you need is a checkbook. And with that checkbook, you can buy ads up the kazoo, public relations that can make Donald Trump look like a recluse, brochures to fill warehouses, websites that would make Steven Spielberg envious.

The problem is that if you are like most companies, all of that spending will result in a negative return on investment. Your marketing will cost you more profits than it brings in.


Because, in all likelihood, your marketing sucks.

Take the Your Marketing Sucks diagnostic

Before you get all lathered up and start ranting, "How the hell does he know?" ask yourself a few telltale questions.

Do sales rise every time you advertise?

If so, why don't you advertise every day? In more media?

Have you ever performed a cost-benefit analysis to see if your marketing generates more revenue than it costs to produce?

Do people read your brochure? When was the last time someone commented on it favorably? And more important, when was the last time someone was moved to buy something because of it? Can you track one single sale back to your brochure? Why not?

Do people visit your website? How many? Do these visits lead to sales? Do you have a Web strategy (or just an expensive site with all those pretty animations that make you feel soooooo proud every time you visit your own URL)?

Why most marketing sucks

There are seven key reasons marketing sucks at far too many companies.

1. They don't really know what marketing is, but in Kafkaesque fashion, they are going to spend money on it. We had a client, a paint company, that had decided it needed a brochure. We told the managers over and over again that wasn't where they should put their money, but they insisted that brochures were a key part of selling paint. Finally, tired of beating our heads against a wall, we designed a beautiful brochure for them that communicated everything the firm did. They printed 10,000 of them. A year later, when I was visiting the company, I wandered into a storage room and found that 9,850 of the brochures were left. I asked why. "These things cost a dollar-fifty apiece," I was told. "You think we're going to send them out willy-nilly?"

2. They go by generalities.

They've heard, for example, that marketing by e-mail doesn't work, so they don't engage in it. Or they accept popular wisdom, like a 1 percent hit rate for direct mail is terrific, writing off 99 percent of their direct-marketing efforts, blindly accepting that a 99 percent failure rate is a good thing. The truth is that generalities are worthless, because every situation is different. That's why you have to test what works for you. For example, let's say William Rehnquist, chief justice of the United States, unilaterally decides tomorrow that all speed limits are unconstitutional. He sends out an official e-mail, or a notarized direct-mail letter, that says, "Contact me, and I will send you a card that will automatically get you out of every speeding ticket." Do you think the e-mails would work? Do you think he would get better than a 1 percent hit rate from direct mail? He would make the automatons who think a 1 percent hit rate is great look like the fools they are.

3. They do not employ a swarming offense.

Many of these companies do only one form of marketing--print advertising, for example--and write off people who don't read or who do everything online. You need to hit everyone wherever they turn. Coca-Cola does. It's a great marketer. It's omnipresent. You see its trucks, point-of-sale displays, advertisements--you name it. Everywhere you look, you see Coke's marketing. You can do it, too, on a smaller scale. Lillian August is a five-store upscale furniture chain in Connecticut. Its marketing budget is infinitesimal compared to Coke's. Yet with an annual budget of less than $1 million, the company is everywhere its customers might be: in the Connecticut section of the Sunday New York Times. On billboards near its stores. Lillian August gets public-relations placements in the "shelter magazines" like House Beautiful and Architectural Digest, and it is recognized for its charity work with the American Heart Association.

4. They launch expensive programs and campaigns that are devoid of innovative thinking.

Doing what your competitors do, even if you do it better, is not the way to become a market leader. Remember those gorgeous car ads we talked about? It doesn't matter if your car looks prettier than the competition's as it comes down that long, winding road. Consumers can't tell the ads apart. If you watched TV last night, you saw at least five car ads. Can you name all five? Can you name one? Chances are that most of your marketing falls into the same black hole.

5. They ignore readily available research that would allow them to pinpoint ideal prospects.

Databases to reach every conceivable audience are readily available. For example, if you sell annuities, studies show that the most likely buyers of annuities are people who already have at least one, or who have certain demographic (they are sixty-five or older) or psychographic characteristics (they are independent and self-made). Research companies have lists of everyone who owns an annuity and demographic and psychographic lists as well. It's the same for every product or service, and yet the vast majority of marketers don't "profile" the universe of prospects to identify those most likely to buy, even those that glow with neon signs in the various databases. For example, to identify the names of likely buyers of upscale furniture in a given geographical region, we would sort through all of the residents (the universe) by searching for those who live in high-income ZIP codes, are of the thirty-five-to-fifty-five age group, have household incomes of $250,000+, and, to get to the real core prospects, subscribe to three or more home-furnishing magazines. By mixing and matching information from various databases, this profiling can be accomplished. Those with all the right attributes are the ones that "glow." That's where you want to target your marketing first and foremost.

6. Corporate management allows the drivers of the marketing process to remain unaccountable for generating a measurable return on the investment that it takes to produce the marketing programs.

Case in point: When IBM was trying to break into the small-business market, my company created a "mag-a-log" for the giant. It was a magazine-cum-catalog that talked about technology trends--why more small companies were buying servers--and then told you how to buy an IBM server, pointing out what to look for in terms of power, scalability, price, and features. The guy who approved our idea got a raise and a promotion for being innovative. It was innovative. It was also a good idea, poorly executed by IBM. The mag-a-log actually cost IBM money, because it didn't generate enough business to cover its cost. (Why? IBM had no way to sell to consumers directly, and people wouldn't bother to contact an "authorized IBM dealer.") So let's review what happened: The guy who approved an idea without thinking it through got rewarded for costing his company money! Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, would have fired him--not for swinging and missing, but because the guy didn't think! Instead of firing him, IBM gave him a raise.

7. Managers refuse to admit that the only meaningful return on investment is measured by:

(a) the recruitment of new customers and/or (b) the sale of additional products to existing customers. Why are they the sole meaningful measures? They are the key factors that lead to increased growth, profitability, and valuation.

You are trying to move product and/or services. Period.

Most businesspeople who should know better (and do know better in every other aspect of their business) equate "creative marketing" (it wins awards) with "effective marketing" (it brings in more money than it costs). Not drawing that distinction is just dumb.

To eliminate this confusion, I have a simple solution: Every company, and every firm they employ, should be forbidden to enter any marketing or advertising contest. No more submissions for Clios. No more "most creative ad by a Midwest agency" competitions. No more nothing that has to do with ego as opposed to sales. The reason for that is simple: Ad agencies and the companies that hire them have opposite goals. Those creative directors want to win Clios on your budget--to them, their careers come before your company's growth. So before you hire an agency, you have to forbid it from entering any advertising contest.

The only exception I would make is when the agency is competing for an award that is given for producing the greatest return on investment, and even then I am not sure I would have firms entering those contests--filling out the entry forms takes away from productive work. If someone wanted to give them the award, that would be fine.

Forbes gave my company such an award for an ad we created. (See page 30.) The ad drove an unbelievable amount of traffic to the Cognet website, and that is what it was designed to do. We didn't enter a contest to win it--Forbes found us.

Bill Bernbach, one of the guiding lights of the advertising business, once said, "The best way to get clients is to create good advertising, and I mean advertising that sells." Amen! And this gospel applies to all of marketing. That is why infomercials, something we will talk about in detail in Chapter 3, are terrific. (And if your first, second, and third reactions are "We would never do infomercials, because they are so tacky," you are probably more interested in how your advertising looks than how it works.)

To be effective, marketing must produce positive arbitrage--that is, it has to generate more dollars than the dollars you invest in it.

Simple? It would appear that way, but in the real world, something gets lost in the translation. Instead of concentrating on the money that good marketing can generate, that Christmas-morning glow ("Look, Ma, we're marketers") replaces the need to demonstrate a strong return on investment.

But when the return on your investment isn't there, there can be no arguing that your marketing sucks. This book tackles the problem head-on. It will help you

*Rid your company of spending camouflaged as marketing, and redirect your dollars to programs that deliver strong and measurable financial rewards. (If you get the Christmas glow too, that's fine, but keep the ego-gratification stuff to yourself. We're in pursuit of dollars here.)

*Stop overlooking simple but obvious ways of increasing sales and earnings. (For example, you will be amazed to see how easy it is to sell additional products or services to existing clients. We will be talking about that in detail later.)

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Mark Stevens, president of MSCO, is one of the nation’s leading experts in ROI-based marketing and the creator of the Extreme Marketing process. Stevens is an entrepreneur, advisor, business builder, and author of such prominent books as The Big Eight, Sudden Death: The Rise and Fall of E. F. Hutton, and Extreme Management.

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Your Marketing Sucks 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this book after hearing Mark Stevens on a Dan Kennedy Inner Circle interview. Boy did I feel ripped off. The best thing one can say about this very poorly written book is that the warning is right there on the cover- IT SUCKS! This book is a blatant attempt to get the easily impressed into using Stevens as a consultant. The book is hollow, an uninspired rehash of basic marketing and sales principles all shoved together. If you are expecting real examples of Stevens putting his own theories into play with quantifiable results, dream on... Based on Stevens' stressing "ROI", one would have expected the book to be crammed with testimonials from what should have been hundreds of thrilled and fawning clients. His consulting company must put these principles to work every day, right? He must be orchestrating amazing results on behalf of zillions of clients, right? What? No willing droves of converts or devotees? Where are the real-world examples and verified ROI results?? This book rounds out a long list of Stevens' gems including "How to Borrow a Million Dollars" (credit card max-out schemes?), "Extreme Management" (extreme confusion?), "Rich is a Religion" (I defer to a Rabbi and a Priest to opine on the claim Stevens is making there), "How to Pyramid Small Business Ventures into a Personal Fortune" (borrowing schemes or pyramid schemes?)- you can quickly see where this is heading. For true marketing guru guidance, with an abundance of success stories, check out Dan Kennedy, Robert W Bly, Jay Abraham, among others.
Lloyd2 More than 1 year ago
This book could not even be categorized as a 101 level textbook about marketing. He doesn't have a clue!
Guest More than 1 year ago
According to Mark Stevens you don¿t need to accept any marketing maxim unless you have proven that it works for your company. Mark Stevens provide managers with a process for identifying the marketing mistake that are making and the opportunities. Doing what your competitors do, even if you do it better, is not the way to become a market leader. The author suggest that if you can¿t prove that a marketing program is generating more income than it costs you to run it, and you can¿t correct that, stop the marketing program. The author maybe right, but in the business and especially in marketing departments self reflecting is not one of the strongest points that rules. It takes a lot of courage, strength and political games (depends on your position and professional attitude) to tell that you don¿t accept any marketing maxim unless you have proven that it works for the company. In other words, you must make certain that your marketing process is designed so that it leads to measurable sales. The author give a practical example of a accounting firms that never had a sales culture, in fact, they had derided salesmanship as unprofessional, virtually all of their marketing was created without the vision of a sale in mind. They figured that all that had to do was tell the world they existed, and that they were good accountants, and their firms would grow. Extreme marketing methodology goes about solving problems differently. Instead of seeking to achieve what is virtually impossible by pressuring, cajoling, and pleading with non-business generators to produce client relationships, extreme marketers engage in a process that leaves the professing out of the process of landing new clients, or enhancing relationships with exiting clients, until the point that the professional feels comfortable taking the reins. According to the author, execution of a marketing campaign is often considered the dull stuff. The real genius, it is thought, comes in the idea creation, the epiphany, and the insight threat leads to the overall strategy behind the marketing campaign, whatever it is. Execution is not about following a recipe. It is about enhancing it. The author argue that it you execute outside of the creative/marketing realm, you see another example of its ability to provide the winning edge. The more you can target your massage the better and the execution phase is the right place to do that. Paying attention to execution will also help you avoid mistakes that lead to marking failure. Who will benefit from this book? This book is for students, professionals running small business, and professionals that need a vision about their personal branding. But if you work within marketing departments for an international or global company, this book not broaden your focus.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very poorly written and dense book of zero substance. A vulgar title doesn't make a good book. The author pontificates much but provides no identifiable case studies or practical examples of how his rantings translate into results. Painful and laborious reading. Honestly, it really just seems to be a rather dim brochure for the author's consulting company. He's written better stuff years ago. This is just awful. Pass.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is not the book if you want marketing tactics; but if you want a guide to link tactic to the bottom line, then this is the book. Many books focus on tricks and strategies, but this one brings them together so that your company makes money. Marketing people should be held accountable for every dollar spent on advertising, PR, personal selling etc.--not just wasted for 'awareness' that's not making any money.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for new insights or ideas on marketing, don't bother with this one. Total waste of time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. I just started a new business and it helped me a lot with my marketing strategies.
OTRUELOVE More than 1 year ago
This man just went on national televison and referred to a bunch of hard working American women as "terrorist" His product is a bunch of garbage with out a single original idea. As a New Yorker who lived through two actual terrorist attack I find him very offensive and clueless. Do not waste your money on this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book serves it purpose, and serves it well. It sobers you up. Reminds you of the real reason you're marketing - the big $, otherwise know as SALES. Seems simple enough my friends but too many of us, get carried away in the glitz and glamour of dreamy ad concepts and costly promos. The ones that only boost our egos but do little or nothing for profits. Brand managers and ad executives alike, buy it! Especially the ad executives¿ you'd be in for a good dose of reality when you do.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was very informative. It pointed out how important it is to set up a marketing program that is based on getting a return. Being owner of a design firm I am always trying to help my clients step up the look and feel of their brochures/advertising. Books like this are helping me offer better solutions to my clients by pin pointing their target and offering effective solutions like cross marketing among many other ideas in this book. The book is very easy to read with a lot of useful information that we will be putting to use for our business and offering the same things to our clients. A must read for new marketing people.