Leaky BucketBucket_water_ARTTICLE

To do well at marketing, you don’t have to know everything about everything. There are, however, are a few things that you need to get right if you’re going to succeed. Below is a list to get you started. It isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll set you on the right path…


There is no magic in marketing that turns an average product or service into something people want. In fact, someone once said that good marketing makes bad products fail faster. How? By getting more people to try it, discover it’s rubbish, then tell 20 friends not to bother.

So the first thing I’d ask a client is WHY SHOULD ANYONE WANT YOUR STUFF over the other guy’s stuff? Why you? Or I’d ask, HOW COULD YOU BE REMARKABLE? What could you do to either (a) make your product or service remarkable, or (b) make the way people use it remarkable, or (c) make the delivery of it remarkable, or (d) make the cost of it (or how they pay) remarkable.

Another way to look at the Remarkable idea is this: if you weren’t allowed to spend a single dollar on advertising (of any kind), but had to solely rely on customers spreading the word, what could you do/be/offer that would get them talking to their friends about you?


Think about this: When was the last time you felt good about being interrupted by a TV commercial or radio ad or telemarketing phone call or email? When was the last time a company pleasantly shocked you in a way that made you want to tell others about them?

Most marketing is uninspired interruption. It feels like a jarring assault on our mental space. We mentally bin it, but not before being a tad ticked off. Or if it’s not jarring enough to annoy us, our brains simply filter it out as white noise unworthy of conscious attention.

Now think about the ads that you love. In some shape or form, they sneak around your cerebral defences through Surprise and Delight. The offering is surprisingly good. The solution is marvellously convenient. The images and sounds are creatively brilliant. The presentation is irreverently hilarious.

If you’re going to interrupt a stranger (which is what most marketing attempts to do), make them glad about the interruption. Surprise and Delight them somehow. Here’s what I mean: If you run a shop in the CBD where parking is an issue (Hamilton, NZ), what would happen if you started giving your customers $1 coins for their parking? They’d be completely surprised and delighted. Not only would that goodwill gesture keep them coming back, I guarantee they’d tell a bunch of friends.

Surprise and Delight people. It’s the best marketing tactic there is.


When you start creating a piece of communication, you’ll be tempted to start thinking about a Target Audience, the group of people whose profile fits with your offering. The problem with Target Audiences is that they tend be tidy demographics – Woman, aged 25-35, single mums, 2-3 kids, working, etc, etc. But real people are not so tidy. Their problems are more specific than that and they’re after solutions that match. Also, how they feel about the situation might differ.

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you will win more people over by trying to talk to less. The reason is simple enough. When you picture one specific person (a member of the target audience), the way you try to talk to him/her will be more concrete, more specific, more believable. You can interview such a person, hear them describe their problem in detail, and explain exactly what they need from you by way of solutions. Now you’re ready to write a great headline that speaks to them. Now you can write believable copy that answers her questions, and remove her doubts. You know what call-to-action will work best. Whether it’s radio, TV, newspaper or Facebook, you now have a better ad.

The reason why this approach works is because there are plenty of others who are just like the one person you were talking to in a powerful super-specific way.


Most people don’t react to a marketing message the first time they hear them. Or the second time. Or the third. Unless you’re practically giving something valuable away, people will not respond until the stars come into some crazy alignment (figuratively speaking). Here’s what I mean: I listen to Radio Sport in NZ. Love it. For years, a guy came on and promoted his product called WET N’ FORGET. It takes care of moss, mould, and gunge. It’s less caustic than table salt. The phone number is 0800 222 302. I know it off by heart, without trying. How? Because Mr Wet n’ Forget kept telling me day in and day out, all year long. Have I bought some? NO. Will I ever? YES. And the moment I’ll pick up the phone and reward this guy for his relentless repetition will be the day one of my family takes a nasty fall on our slippery deck. When that happens (or some other event), Wet n’ Forget will be the only product I think about.

And that’s how repetition works. You keep saying the right things in the right way, knowing that a customer’s circumstances will eventually turn them toward you. Does such repetition require a big budget? Maybe. But I’d work the other way round. Start with how much you can realistic afford and then ask yourself “how can we buy creative cut-through repetition with this?”


People are used to hearing sweeping generalisation: “Dozens of shoe brands.” “Up to 50% off.” “In no time at all.” “Satisfaction guaranteed.” We don’t believe much of that stuff. It doesn’t ring true because it’s too general.

Now if you claimed to have “41 shoe brands.” or “27% off all jeans.” or “in 17 minutes or less.” or “If you don’t love it, you can have it for free.” people will take notice. The numbers are specifics, the details sound concrete and believable.

One of my clients is a building company. In order to put some substance into a campaign, I asked for concrete stats on houses built, deadlines met/missed, budgets overrun, etc. We then ran a very believable campaign that inversely spoke to his company’s incredible track record by highlighting the specific numbers, i.e. 1 budget over run/303 homes built. Specific numbers + admission of imperfection = credibility. Was it a risk? Not really. Nobody believes that a building company has a prefect track record. But they will believe in a company that is almost perfect, but not quite.

Also, use the QUIRKIEST numbers you can find. EXAMPLE: with my spoof direct mailer, THE AMAZING BUYOLOGY PEN, I described it as The World's 17th Best Pen. Why 17? Because it's such an odd number. It's quirky. If you had 20 styles of shoes for sale, tell the public you have 19. 19 sounds quirky = it has to be true. Don't say 90% success rate, say 89.4%. That so specific it sounds like you've crunched the numbers. Specific - Believable. 


Whatever claims you make, back them up with evidence of some sort. People are so used to hearing unsubstantiated claims, they no longer sound believable. If you say the conference will be great, tell me why it’ll be great in very specific terms. Is your car rental service the best in your area; what reasons have you got to back that up? You’re the Personal Trainer I need to see to lose weight? Explain the specific things you do that make such weight loss more likely.

As someone making claims, here’s what’s on your side: customers want to believe. They have something that needs fixing/altering/completing and they want a trustworthy hand to reach up and say, I CAN HELP YOU, PICK ME. The believable supplier represents a problem solved. What they need are reasons to believe you’re that supplier, and that’s what evidence is for.


Think about the decisions you make in life: the people you choose to hang with; the jeans you choose to wear; the stationary you buy; the house you decide to build; the phone data plan you end up going with. Cars. Food. Pets. Pet food. Etc, etc. All decisions involve intellect and emotion - what we think and what we feel.

Despite our desire to be rational in our decision making, it seems that emotion plays a far bigger part than we want to believe. No matter what I buy, I can give logical reasons for my decisions. So can you. But psychologists are discovering that human beings tend to do what their emotions dictate then find the logic to justify it.

Now there are a number of different personality types that complicate the matter, but by and large, human beings seem to work from feelings back to thinking. Or at the very least, emotion plays a role in almost all decisions

The key to being persuasive in communication is to pinpoint the emotional value behind what you’re actually offering. To begin with, figure out what your customer or listener really gets from you in buying your product or service? Does your product or service…
1. Saved them money
2. Make them money 
3. Save them time
4. Reduce their stress/anxiety 
5. Increase their job satisfaction
6. Remove their ambiguity 
7. Remove their confusion 
8. Improve their health 
9. Improve their sexual satisfaction

It’ll be one of those. Petrol Stations aren’t really selling groceries, they’re selling TIME SAVED or CONVENIENCE. One of my clients wasn’t really selling growling motorbikes: he was selling HEAD TURNING attention-getting that most bikers enjoy when they roll up to the lights.

Whatever it is your product or service actually delivers, there’s an emotion tied to it. Your marketing job is to know what that emotion is and to speak to it. VOLVO understood that. Yes, they were selling cars, but more than that, they were selling SAFER CARE = peace of mind. Even if your products and promises are rational, build appropriate emotion into somewhere.


Whether you’re writing an ad, preaching a sermon, chairing a meeting, or holding a family discussion, you’re going to meet some resistance. That’s normal. But if those objections aren’t removed, people won’t go where you want to lead them.

The way to get through this is to raise the objections before they do. Think about their biggest objection (or better yet, research and discover what it is). Then show that you understand it and that it has some merit. Then get rid of it. How? By showing them why it’s not the obstacle they thought. Or by showing a solution that answers the problem. Or by showing them that to NOT take the action you’re prescribing will lead to even BIGGER problems.

EXAMPLE: I have a Kitset Building client. Their kitset homes are brilliant and cost 30-50k less to build than a conventional home. But what’s the biggest objection they’re likely to run into? DOUBTS ABOUT QUALITY. “Sure, it costs less than a conventional home, but is it made from lesser materials? Or are the building systems less robust? Or is the work guaranteed?” Since it was the burning question potential customers would be asking, we boldly asked the exact same question on the website HOME PAGE. We then provided a KITSET vs CONVENTIONAL comparison chart to show that the materials and systems were INDENTICAL. Objection answered.


What’s the customers biggest fear when buying from you? If the purchase is going to going significantly wrong, at what point do they think that’s likely to occur? What does he stand to lose? Money? Credibility? Time? Future opportunities?

What can you do to either eliminate that sense of risk, or minimise it?   




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The human brain is under siege, relentlessly bombarded with product offerings and sales pitches. How does it defend itself? With subconscious filters that screen out 90% of all marketing. How do you compete with that?



one man ad


Not everyone can afford the services of an Ad Agency. But you don’t have to. Hunter has worked in ad agencies for years and has the skill sets they offer. Without the huge office. On the 27th floor. Filled with staff. Overlooking 2/3rds of the planet. Which you end up paying for…