How to Ruin Your Marketing
by Chad Rueffert

I’ve always loved Ben Stein.  He’s a talented entertainer - from the droll and monotone teacher in the classic comedy Ferris Beuller’s Day Off to the nearly unbeatable trivia whiz in Win Ben Stein’s Money.  But it’s the wealth of other accomplishments that make him so interesting.  Who would have thought that the actor playing a bit part in more than 30 moves could also have graduated as Valedictorian from Yale Law School and served as a speechwriter for Richard Nixon?

I just finished reading Stein’s self-help book “How To Ruin Your Life.”  This is a must-read for almost any teenager – and a lot of adults who still act like teenagers.  It’s written with a truly sardonic tone, actually giving 35 tongue-in-cheek tips on how to fail.  What struck me while reading it is how appropriate much of the advice was to marketing and advertising.  Perhaps it’s that Stein spent a lot of time as a trial lawyer in false and deceptive advertising cases.  Wherever the wisdom comes from, I’ve borrowed the chapter titles of a few of his tips and present them here as gospel truths in how to quickly and effectively ruin your small business marketing.  As noted in the book, failures have a lot in common, and in most failed marketing you’ll see many or all of these mistakes.


Don’t Learn Any Self-Discipline

You don’t need a plan.  Market whenever the mood hits you.  Wait until sales hit rock bottom to begin advertising.  When times are good marketing is a waste of money, anyway.  So stop marketing as soon as you’re successful.  If you need new customers you’ll be able to go out and find them.  Right away.  Every time.  Besides, most things never turn out the way you plan them anyway, so why bother planning.  Instead, rely on your cat-like reflexes and just deal with every situation when it comes up.  Even if it means you have to drop everything you’re doing.  You don’t need to worry about tomorrow.  Today is hard enough.


Convince Yourself You’re the Center of the Universe

As Ben Stein says:  “Face it.  You’re the only one who matters in any given situation.”  You don’t need to know anything about your customers.  You built a great product, they should be proud to pay you for it.  Place all of your media buys on TV shows YOU watch and radio stations YOU listen to.  Never bother to ask a customer why they want a product – tell them why they need it.  If they don’t buy it it’s their own fault.  Making a sale is about making YOU money, not about satisfying your customer’s needs.


Know That You’re The Source of All Wisdom

Do all of your marketing yourself.  Don’t bother with research.  Never hire a professional copywriter or graphic designer.  You’ve got a degree in history and a computer, that ought to be worth something! 


Don’t Save Any Money

Spend all of your money inventing a product or starting your company.  Heck, your product is so good you won’t need to advertise at all, so don’t bother setting aside any money to do it.  And just because your competition advertises, doesn’t mean you should waste your money doing it.  When times are good, spend your money frivolously.  When times are bad, hoard it jealously. 


Never Accept Responsibility for Anything that Goes Wrong

It’s always somebody else’s fault.  It’s not that your product doesn’t deliver on its promises, or that it’s priced too high, or that your competition does a better job than you.  If people aren’t coming to your store, it’s the radio station’s, or the advertising agency’s, or the newspaper’s fault.  Obviously, people just aren’t watching TV, listening to the radio or reading the newspaper. 


Hang Out With the Wrong Crowd

Your product is foolproof.  It doesn’t matter if the receptionist who answers your phone is rude or your salespeople are uneducated and lazy.  You’ll make up for that by advertising more.  What David Ogilvy said about good advertising just putting a bad company out of business faster doesn’t apply to you.  Good people are just too expensive to hire, and probably won’t want to work for you anyway.


Live As If The Truth Is Relative – A Distant Relative

Make any claim you want in your advertising, even if it isn’t true.  Why not?  Diet pills and hair restoration products do it all the time.  So what if Blockbuster just lost millions in a deceptive advertising lawsuit.  You’re too small for people to notice.  And who cares if a dissatisfied customer never returns, at least you made that first sale. 


These are only the highlights of the 35 ways to ruin your life.  Good lessons for life and equally good for business.  In marketing, it’s a good bet that if what you’re doing will benefit your customer, it’s a good idea.  If your marketing practices are purely self-centered, or insult, deceive or outright ignore your customer than you can be certain you’re right on track to ruin your marketing.