Cardinal sin of marketing

Home Columns Cardinal sin of marketing

 by Jim Armstrong

Recently I was having a terrible time falling asleep, and after a week of insomnia I went to my doctor to get help.

“Doctor, I’ve tried sleeping pills, reading, watching the Weather Channel, counting rolls of carpet—nothing works,” I told him, desperation in my voice. “I’ve barely slept in seven days. Can you help me?”

He stroked his chin and gazed out the window, as if struggling to make a decision. Finally he said, “I can prescribe a treatment that will virtually guarantee you will fall asleep. But,” as he held up a cautionary finger, “I only use it in extreme cases, and must warn you to be very careful. Do not drive and make sure you are lying down because this treatment works almost instantly.”

“I’ll try anything; what is it?”

He opened a drawer and handed me an envelope. “Remember, be careful.”

I opened the envelope and began pulling out what turned out to be advertisements for flooring. As I thumbed through the ads I felt my eyes grow heavy; my head swam and then suddenly everything went dark.

The sharp odor of smelling salts jolted me awake, and the next thing I knew the doctor was helping me off the floor.

“What happened?” I asked.

“You fell asleep,” he replied. “A long time ago I discovered most flooring ads are an excellent cure for insomnia.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because they’re so boring,” he replied. “C-SPAN can seem like a Bruce Willis action movie by comparison.”

“Thank you, doctor,” I said, throwing my arms around him, tears of gratitude filling my eyes.

What a relief to have a guaranteed cure for my insomnia. However, because my business is helping flooring dealers increase the size of their bank accounts through effective marketing, I couldn’t help but be alarmed so many are throwing away their money on ads and websites that put their prospects to sleep.

I knew it was my responibility to take action, which is why I’m writing this article.

The cardinal sin of advertising is being boring. If your ads are boring, then they won’t hold your prospects’ attention and compel them to take the desired action.

There are some common ways dealers bore consumers with their ads and websites. First, many using ones that look the same as everyone else’s. Most dealers use the name, rank and serial number formula: business name at the top, a list of products (sometimes with teaser prices) and contact information. These ads and websites may have cosmetic differences (different colors, different graphics, etc.) but they mostly say the same thing and overall look similar.


They don’t answer the unspoken question on every prospect’s mind: Why should I do business with you versus every competitive option available to me, including doing nothing?

These methods contain no “unique selling proposition.” Instead, they mostly contain slogans, which are meaningless to the prospect. For instance: “Number One In Customer Satisfaction,” or “Serving the Tri-State Area For 267 Years,” or “We’ll Floor You With Our Service.” Zzzzzz.

Boring ads do not educate the prospect. The offers are weak, copycat, me-too proposals. You seldom see anything the consumer would find compelling, interesting, fun, different or engaging.

Here’s an exercise: Pull up your website and any ads you’ve run in the past six months. Using the list above as a gauge, would a prospect find your advertising compelling or boring?

Be honest; it’s your business and your ad dollars that are at stake. If your advertising is on the boring end of the spectrum—and you are courageous enough to admit it—then you can take meaningful action to correct this problem. If this describes you, then stay tuned.


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