Marketing – Three Important Lessons I Learned Early

Marketing Lessons That Make A Difference

Business Challenge


Long before I became involved in marketing, I was just a green hay seed in the big city of Chicago looking for a job.

Out of a series of strange events – too long to share here – I joined a sales promotion company.  It turned out to be one of the biggest sales promotion agencies in the country with some premier clients.  Most of the clients were manufacturers of cigarettes and hard booze as these industries were not allowed to advertise on television but they had lots of marketing dollars to promote their brands.  So they spent those dollars on grass roots efforts and in-store sales promotion.

Looking back, this was the best job and the best environment for me.  Why?

Well, there are a number of reasons.  One is that my tolerance for boredom is pretty low.  But in all of the time I was with this company, I was never, ever bored.  I was always being presented with new challenges and learning new things in marketing.  I absolutely loved it.

Perhaps the primary reason this my best job was it instilled three valuable lessons I continue to use today.  What are those?  I’ll get to them in a minute.  First, let me give you some background.

Everything about the company and about the business of sales promotion was new to me.

I quickly learned that successful sales promotion campaigns involved a lot of moving parts and the risk of something going sideways was always possible.  It didn’t help that many of the promotional ideas were very elaborate because the Creative Director always felt they had to come up with better and better ideas.

For starters, I was involved in orchestrating contests in the Rockies, at the Indie 500 and in Daytona and handled the implementation of a London sweepstakes with 1001 prizes including a Scottish castle and an in-flight fashion show on a trip to London for prize winners.

I might add, these were the days before a computer on every desk, the Internet and speed dial on every phone.  My only business tool was the old fashioned phone…not a cell phone…just a push button, plug it into the wall phone.  Makes me sound and feel pretty old.

Management also wanted to expand the business services it offered its clients.  I recall one afternoon one of the VPs plopped a 6 inch thick print media directory on my desk and said: “You’re going to learn about print media to help support our promotions.”  Really?  I did and learned everything I could.

But what are the marketing lessons I learned?  This job taught me a lot about what is possible.

1.   No idea is too far-fetched.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what demitasse cups were or why we needed to give away a Scottish Castle.  All that mattered is that I needed to make it happen.  That was my job and I became damn good at it.

Had I sat back and thought about any of these requests, the hay seed in me would have said “no way”.  Instead,  I blindly took action, asked questions, found sources and made the unusual doable.

2.  We experience success by embracing challenges.

It would have been easy for me to avoid learning print media or to simply tell the Creative Director “it can’t be done”.  But I never did.  I always embraced these crazy ideas and put effort into making them happen.  And as if by magic, they did happen.

3.  Ask and you shall receive

Asking questions of people in the know helped me to get answers quickly and to avoid many, many mistakes.  Many times, the simple act of asking a question saved the day.  It also eliminated the guess work.  No matter what the topic, I could always find someone who was knowledgeable and willing to help me.  But I had to ask for help.

A Business Challenge

I’d like to challenge you to put these three lessons into practice for your business.

  1. What is that far-fetched idea you’ve been thinking about, but haven’t yet taken any action?
  2. Can you put aside all of the thoughts that say it won’t work and blindly move forward to make it happen?
  3. Who can you ask to help you take the right steps and make the right decisions?  Will you ask them to help?

You should feel free to share your far-fetched ideas in the comments section below.  Who knows?  Maybe I or someone reading it may be able to help you turn your idea into reality.


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Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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