Marketing Wisdom

Father's Day is a time of year that I share an essay written to my Dad with seven values he taught me simply by being a role model. Today I reflect on how these seven philosophies and leadership qualities are influential to marketers.

I was raised on a MIdwestern farm. My Dad is now 90 and retired, but for his 75th birthday in 2001, I wrote my thoughts about him in an essay I titled “What I Learned From You.” 

In 2004, I sent it to advice columnist Dear Abby for consideration in her Father’s Day column. She published it, and it was distributed to hundreds of newspapers, representing over 100 million combined circulation. I have a scrapbook of clippings from around the world of where it was printed, along with letters of thanks from readers for sharing these words of wisdom.

Using the titles of the seven values from my original version (with some adaptation), but with descriptions and values adapted for leaders and marketers today, I offer these recommendations based on what I learned from my Dad, my role model, while growing up on the farm.

1.    Make Hay When the Sun Shines. 
Not every marketing campaign, nor every quarter or every year, will be profitable. Count on it. So when business is good, capitalize on it. Test more and outside the box, probably with more risk, while you can afford it. Someday your control is going to fatigue and you should have three tested campaigns ready to go.

2.    Sharpen Tools on a Rainy Day. 
When things are slow, invest in yourself and develop your team. Go to an event. Read books and discuss what you learn together. Review your Unique Selling Proposition. Take a critical eye to your marketing message and ask if it’s confusing, unbelieveable, boring, or awkward. Reinvent often because marketing today is evolving and changing at a dizzying pace.

3.    Do Two Things at Once. 
Whether you’re the leader of your organization, or a manager, in this day and age you must master the art of multi-tasking. Now, I’m the first to say that you can overtask your mind to mush (especially with so many interruptions from email, texts, or IMs). But you must juggle efficiently to double your effectiveness.

4.    Keep Machines Cleaned and Maintained. 
Take care of stuff. Like the tools and technologies you use to get your work done. Learn about new technologies that could apply to your business. Get in front of change and you’ll find it a more satisfying experience than when you’re behind the curve.

5.    Stay Between the Lines. 
Don’t be the marketer who drifts into a gray area of ethics. Don’t risk your reputation thinking you can make a few more bucks with a questionable offer. A reputation takes years to build, and seconds to destroy. Bad behavior will catch up with you.

6.    Take the High Road. 
Business culture today is vastly different than when I first started in direct marketing in 1978. It’s more competitive and tougher. Treat your staff, customers, vendors and others as you would want to be treated.

7.    Trust.
Customer trust is earned and built over time. It needs to be consistent. When you’re true to your customers, they will stick with you. That’s powerful. And trust is what leads to long-term business success.

You can read the full “farmer’s version” of What I Learned From You on my Values page.


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.