Jeff Goldsmith

Jeff Goldsmith

by Jeff Goldsmith, Marketing Consultant

Have you ever felt distrust for the marketing department? I’ve heard it said that marketing is “evil”, “manipulation”, “spam”, and “the dark side”. Still, everyone expect results, glowing stories in the press, high quality leads, droves of downloads, viral growth. Good buzz early on in a startup can convince investors to fund a project, and perhaps that is manipulation. However, buzz is not marketing’s strongest potential contribution. The greatest good marketing can do is to clarify the core message of a company – and prove it with analytics.

Many early startups and even mature ones fall short simply being clear about the primary benefit of their product or service. Without knowing what problem a market segment really needs to solve, marketing will be weaker and less cost effective. One B2B client of mine was spending $600 to acquire a single lead – a cost which we reduced to less than $20 per lead after three months of testing various messages. Imagine spending $2,000 to acquire 100 new leads instead of $60,000 – simply by identifying the right benefit, honing the language to express the benefit, and then placing the messages in the right media.

It’s not manipulative to clarify a benefit, because if it’s seen as your company mission, it can affect more than marketing. A clear benefit can strengthen a product. When a “easier” message in Adwords coverts the most clicks into customers the most inexpensively, for example, a product development team can consider putting budget against streamlining and automation. Indeed, we learned from a marketing test for a client that an “easier” promise worked best – and greater automation grew their market to include those with less technical skills.

Clarity of message is the core of a business’ communications – and that message defines your brand far more than an expensive logo. The problem with an unclear brand is multifold – potential users will not know why to chose your service or product, word of mouth about you will be vague, and your company will have trouble internally with its mission. If good marketing provides data-driven feedback that “less filling” is key, the whole company will rally to reduce calories in your products and make it “lite”.

Your marketing spend doesn’t have to be evil – quite the opposite if you can see the ROI. Once your core message is clear and known to be effective, investing in awareness acceleration will make a measurable difference. That message can affect your product, your product can affect your brand, and your brand can then redefine your position in the market, generating more sales and revenue. And thus, marketing can tip the balance between an evil, and a good business.

NOTE: Jeff Goldsmith is a Marketing Consultant located in San Francisco, California. More info at