The science of marketing

by Mark Zweig ([email protected]) 92 views 

If there is one common thread among small business owners I have observed over the past 44 years of my career – especially those who aren’t very successful — it is that they absolutely do not believe marketing and advertising work.

They think spending anything on it is wasted money and will instead tell you that “word of mouth” is the best advertising, and that’s what they rely on. Even when their revenue is declining, rarely is their response to increase their marketing and promotional efforts. Instead, they will usually hunker down and cut costs further, making their situations even worse.

Why is there so little belief in the power of marketing, you may ask? Don’t they see what larger companies or their most successful competitors are doing? Don’t they get tired of the endless pharmaceutical commercials on TV, or the ads that continually pop up on their favorite social media platforms?

I think they see other businesses relentlessly promoting their products and services as being able to afford to “waste money” on advertising, as opposed to seeing the advertising as one of the keys to the success of their businesses. For some reason, the “cause and effect” relationship is lost on these business owners.

I was lucky that I realized early on in my entrepreneurial career that marketing would be crucial to my success. When I started selling used bicycles from my childhood home’s street corner, I could see that a good location was one of the four variables in a business’s “marketing mix.” There is no way I could have sold as many bikes as I did without being able to display them directly in front of cars that had to stop for a stop sign on a busy street that T’d directly into our property.

Mark Zweig

Then, I worked for a small bike shop that was failing miserably for years. When my friend Tim Dunn and I decided to put a sign up that we were “The Home of Happie Cycling” (sic because we didn’t have enough “Ys” in the old, illuminated sign kit we found there and resurrected) and answered the phone that way, we helped turn the place around.

Later, I worked for a bike shop chain owned by an entrepreneurial economist from West Memphis, Don Humphries, who relentlessly promoted. We had huge sales, which we advertised on the radio with crazy ads that ran all weekend. Because of our volume, we were able to buy bikes by the thousands at a time and pay less than any other shop. Don eventually had 10 stores and dominated the market.

When I was in grad school at Southern Illinois University, I got a grad assistantship in the marketing department, working for a brilliant and caring professor named Dr. John Summey, who taught me the power of statistics and probability theory and how one can use that to create nearly certain success with promotional efforts.

Fresh out of grad school, I learned how to sell from an absolute master at Michael Latas and Associates. The founder, Mike Latas, was instrumental in creating Xerox Corp.’s sales training program.

When I finally got my own business — Mark Zweig & Associates (today Zweig Group) — we used direct mail and spent about 15% of our revenue on it. We increased our budget by 30% annually, allowing us to grow by 30% annually for 13 years in a row, landing us a spot on the Inc. 500 list twice.

I know there is a science to marketing. I have used it and seen the results time after time. But most small business owners haven’t had the benefit of that education and experience. Their lack of belief and investment in the power of marketing and promotion is a major barrier to their growth and ultimate success, and that saddens me.

Editor’s note: Mark Zweig is the founder of two Fayetteville-based Inc. 500/5000 companies. He is also entrepreneur-in-residence in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and author of the award-winning book, “Confessions of an Entrepreneur.” The opinions expressed are those of the author.