The 16 Biggest Myths in Marketing


Article by: Jeffrey Dobkin

Myth # 1 "Sure you'll get lots of direct orders - you have no competition, you'll be the only mail order ad in the magazine."
Fact: If you're marketing with a direct-selling mail order ad, there should be lots of other mail order merchants in the magazine - the synergy will help your ad get better response. Readers will be shopping that section with a pen and checkbook in hand. If there are no other mail order ads, there's a reason: they don't work.

Myth #2 "You can sell anything from this publication, all our ads work."
TRUTH: You can tell in advance what works, those ads keep repeating month after month. You can tell if your ad in a magazine will be successful to a good degree by studying the last year of issues: competitors' ads appear in it monthly; so do ads for similar products. This is the only way to tell, everything else is a crap shoot. So is this, but at least the dice are weighted slightly in your favor.

MYTH # 3 The 3 Ad Exposure MYTH
When you ask magazine publishers for an discount on your ad (you do always ask, don't you?), most usually respond with "Sure you can get a discount. Run your ad 3 times and get the 3-ad rate." Unenlightened advertisers then mistakenly place three ads in three succeeding months, and oops! Magazine production time is 3 months, so when the first ad appears on the newsstand, if it's not successful it's already too late to cancel ads 2 and 3. You just lost 3 times the amount you should have. Oh boy, how many times have I heard this story.

Here's the MYTH: "Your ad needs three exposures for the best draw!" Hogwash. I don't think so. If your first ad sinks like a stone, your other 2 will follow it right down to the bottom. So will your money.
Recommendation: If you want the 3 ad discount, by all means, take out a 3 ad insertion order. BUT what the ad salesperson probably forgot to tell you: you have a FULL YEAR to fulfill the 3 insertion contract - so place the first ad, and enjoy the discount. Place the second ad to run in the magazine 3 or 4 months later - so you'll have plenty of time to cancel it if the first ad doesn't draw well. Then, if your first ad - your test ad - doesn't work, cancel: the rest of your ads won't either.

You'll get either orders, or experience with your 1ST ad. (Experience is what you get when you don't get any orders). You don't want to get more experience with ads 2 and 3. SO DON'T SCHEDULE 3 ADS IN 3 CONSECUTIVE MONTHS in any untested magazine - unless you have really deep pockets can take the hit.

If you cancel your remaining ads, you may have to pay the "short rate" (the difference between a single insertion rate and the 3x ad rate), and that's a fair charge, but it will be a hell of a lot cheaper than running the ad a second and third time. If your first ad works, you'll have the rest of your life to place additional ads. You'll thank me for this if your first ad doesn't test well. Send a nice bottle of champagne with that "thank you" letter, will you?

MYTH # 4 The Magazine Readership MYTH
"We have 300,000 readers. Our circulation figures are audited to prove it." Audit bureau figures may show 300,000 copies of the magazine were really mailed, but don't confuse circulation figures with readership figures. Is everyone who gets the magazine actually reading it every month? Nah. Actual readership varies: it goes down from that circulation figure.

FACT: The circulation figure doesn't tell you how many people actually read the magazine. For example, a magazine with a circulation of 300,000 may well mail 300,000. But in any given month do you think all those are actually read by each and every subscriber? Not likely. Readership is dependent on lots of different elements, from quality of the editorial to the weather. Let's suppose 20% of the recipients don't read any particular given issue. Suddenly readership is at 240,000. And I'll guarantee summer readership is less than half that. See Myth # 7 for the details.

MYTH # 5 This is our best issue - you need to be in this issue.
Is this true for every issue? I've never heard a magazine advertising salesperson say, "This issue isn't too good, wait for a couple of months before you place that ad." Magazines - like streetcars - come along with tremendous regularity. Don't rush into any issue. So what if this is the "Special Show Distribution" issue; or the "Big Buyers" issue or "The Giant Christmas" issue or the

MYTH # 6 Our Readership is actually 2.5 times our circ rate.
What a bunch of crap. Often called pass along readership, thought up by an overzealous ad man in the late 70's who needed to increase his readership figures overnight, this unsubstantiated figure is now spoken of in the 90s like it's real. Sure, some magazines have pass-along readership, but who's counting?

I remember when this "pass along readership" figure came out, and it suddenly doubled publishers' figures. All the publishers jumped on the bandwagon - and then everyone's figures suddenly exploded. So did the truth. Pass along readership figures are pretty unreliable.
Granted, some magazines have better quality editorial, and they get passed around a bit. But there is no credible way to verify this readership figure. Do the magazines sent to physicians' offices have a pass along rate of 200 people each issue?

Worse: some association publishers send their house-organ magazine to all their association members, then boast high circulation figures. While circulation figures look good, some of these magazines are so poorly written that readership is nil. I receive 125 magazines each month. I glance at them all, scan most, read a few articles in some, and read only 3 or 4 cover to cover. I leave them in the bathroom to make sure they get read.

MYTH # 7 Every issue is good for advertising. Readership is consistent year round!
Circulation figures stay constant, but readership goes way down in the summer. In fairness, seasonal merchandise finds some issues better quarters, but generally the Best Months to advertise are: Jan, Feb, March. Reason: the country is cold, people stay in more, and read more. The worst months to advertise: June, July, August. Summer readership, ugh. Would you rather be on the beach sipping a mint julep, or inside, reading a magazine?

MYTH # 8
My product is so good, I won't need to market it.
Word of mouth works, but it's slow. If you have to pay for overhead, staff or inventory, you need to have a better plan than "word will get around!" You'll also need some kind of budget for marketing. It doesn't need to be a lot, but it has to be budgeted in terms of man-hours (if you're going to do it yourself) or dollars. Even the business practice of the finest architect in the world can fail if he doesn't market correctly, and fails to bring in new business, regularly. Poor marketing will result in no new business coming in the front door. An absence of sales can be sustained, but unless you have really deep funding, not for long. No sales, nobody eats!

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Jeffrey Dobkin, author of How To Market A Product For Under $500!, Uncommon Marketing Techniques, and Inside Secrets of Direct Marketing, is a specialist in direct response copywriting. He writes powerful, response-driven sales letters, TV commercials and scripts; persuasive catalog copy; and exceptionally hard-hitting direct mail packages that increase sales. He also analyzes direct marketing packages, ads, catalogs, and campaigns. Mr. Dobkin is an acclaimed speaker and a direct marketing consultant. Call him directly at 610-642-1000 for free samples of his work. You can visit his web site at:

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