Lately, most of my consultations with software developer executives have focused on marketing – at their request, not mine. We discuss best practices in website content, SEO, content marketing, blogging, list building, inbound marketing, outbound marketing, and email marketing. To help spread the word on that last topic, I made email marketing the subject of my latest blog post on the Vantiv, now Worldpay Partner Advantage website: 8 great email marketing building blocks for the POS channel.
Today, we'll pull back from tactics and take a broader view of marketing thanks to the classic book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout. The 22 laws were published in 1993 – before most of the tactics I listed above were conceived – but they’ve held up for 25 years now. That figures because the word immutable means “unchanging over time.” An illustration of that is seen in Law #13 which says narrowly focused specialists are stronger than generalists. Ries and Trout wrote back in ’93: For example, White Castle has never changed its position. A White Castle today sells the same “frozen sliders” at unbelievably low prices. Fast forward to 2018, and White Castle is still going strong slinging sliders.
Here is the complete list of the laws plus some of my favorite passages from the book:
- The Law of Leadership: It’s better to be first than it is to be better. People tend to stick with what they’ve got. If you meet someone a little better than your wife or husband, it’s really not worth making the switch, what with attorneys’ fees and dividing up the house and kids.
- The Law of the Category: If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in. If you didn’t get into the prospect’s mind first, don’t give up hope. Find a new category you can be first in. It’s not as difficult as you might think.
- The Law of Mind: It’s better to be first in the mind than to be first in the marketplace. If you want to make a big impression on another person, you cannot worm your way into their mind and then slowly build up a favorable opinion over a period of time. The mind doesn’t work that way. You have to blast your way into the mind. The reason you blast instead of worm is that people don’t like to change their minds.
- The Law of Perception: Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions. All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect. The perception is the reality. Everything else is an illusion.
- The Law of Focus: The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind. The essence of marketing is narrowing the focus. You become stronger when you reduce the scope of your operations. You can’t stand for something if you chase after everything.
- The Law of Exclusivity: Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.
- The Law of the Ladder: The strategy to use depends on which rung you occupy on the ladder. While being first into the prospect’s mind ought to be your primary marketing objective, the battle isn’t lost if you fail in this endeavor. There are strategies to use for No. 2 and No. 3 brands.
- The Law of Duality: In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race. The customer believes that marketing is a battle of products. It’s this kind of thinking that keeps the two brands on top: “They must be the best, they’re the leaders.”
- The Law of Opposite: If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader. A good No. 2 can’t afford to be timid. When you give up focusing on No. 1, you make yourself vulnerable not only to the leader but to the rest of the pack.
- The Law of Division: Over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories.
- The Law of Perspective: Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time.
- The Law of Line Extension: There’s an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand. One day a company is tightly focused on a single product that is highly profitable. The next day the same company is thinly spread over many products and is losing money. When you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble.
- The Law of Sacrifice: You have to give up something in order to get something. The world of business is populated by big, highly diversified generalists and small, narrowly focused specialists. Typically, the generalist is weak.
- The Law of Attributes: For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute. If you are to succeed, you must have an idea or attribute of your own to focus your efforts around.
- The Law of Candor: When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive. This law only proves the old maxim: Honesty is the best policy.
- The Law of Singularity: In each situation, only one move will produce substantial results. Most often there is only one place where a competitor is vulnerable. And that place should be the focus of the entire invading force. It’s hard to find that single move if you’re hanging around headquarters and not involved in the process.
- The Law of Unpredictability: Unless you write your competitors’ plans, you can’t predict the future. As changes come sweeping through your category, you have to be willing to change and change quickly if you are to survive in the long term.
- The Law of Success: Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure. Ego is the enemy of successful marketing. Objectivity is what’s needed.
- The Law of Failure: Failure is to be expected and accepted. Too many companies try to fix things rather than drop things. If a company is going to operate in an ideal way, it will take teamwork and a self-sacrificing leader.
- The Law of Hype: The situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press. Real revolutions don’t arrive at high noon with marching bands and coverage on the 6 o’clock news. Real revolutions arrive unannounced in the middle of the night and kind of sneak up on you.
- The Law of Acceleration: Successful programs are not built on fads, they’re built on trends. Forget fads. The best, most profitable thing to ride in marketing is a long-term trend. Fad = Ninja Turtle. Trend = Barbie Doll.
- The Law of Resources: Without adequate funding, an idea won’t get off the ground. You’ll get further with a mediocre idea and a million dollars than a great idea alone. Spend enough; you can’t save your way to success.
Jim Roddy is a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services. He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is the author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.