Practical Ecommerce

The Most Powerful Word in Ecommerce Marketing

The word “no” may be the most powerful marketing tool available to ecommerce owners and marketers. If used properly, the word “no” emphasizes planning, encourages making good choices, provides freedom and control, and recognizes that every ecommerce business great or small has limits.

In some cases, “no” will be applied to good ideas or good marketing tactics, but when that happens, it is at its best.

An Example of ‘No’ in Action

Consider the case of a multi-channel retailer in the northwestern United States. Back on October 21, this retailer began working on a promotional flyer that would be distributed to a quarter million potential customers just before the end of the Christmas shopping season in an effort to get shoppers to visit the company’s online and brick-and-mortar stores. The flyer had been through two proofs and was about three days away from final approval, when a new marketing opportunity popped up.

A vendor, whose products were already listed in the promotional flyer, released a new, and somewhat alluring offer. If a shopper purchased $150 worth of the vendor’s product, that shopper would receive a $25 online gift card to a popular entertainment site. The vendor knew about the merchant’s forthcoming flyer, and wanted this new offer to appear. The vendor even offered to pay co-op, meaning that it would cover a portion of the flyer’s production cost. But the merchant said, “No.”

However good the offer was, the merchant had not planned for it. There were questions about how the online gift card would be distributed. How customers would respond to the offer, and whether the offer was best suited to attract shoppers to the store, which was the promotional flyer’s goal, or encourage shoppers to spend more.

‘No’ Emphasizes Planning

Saying “no” to some marketing campaigns and tactics will help an online retailer emphasize marketing planning.

Good marketing begins with business goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Next, a marketer will develop a series of actions or tactics intended to achieve those business goals. Once a complete marketing plan is in place, the word “no” should be deployed frequently to prevent changes to that plan and prevent refocusing efforts on something other than the underlying business goals.

In the case of the promotional flyer mentioned above, the business goal was to encourage shoppers to visit the retailer’s stores online and off. But the offer was focused on increasing the size of an individual order. While this is certainly a worthy goal for any Internet retailer, it was not the desired effect. Saying “no” showed that the merchant was emphasizing planning and goal setting.

‘No’ Encourages Choices

Applying the word “no” to a marketing campaign, advertising offer, or even a particular business goal enforces the idea that ecommerce marketers have choices. This may sound a little obvious, but in nearly any small or mid-sized company you can find examples of a marketing department doing things simply to please an owner, a vendor, or even a particular customer. In effect, that marketing department is doing things because somehow its marketers don’t feel like they have a choice.

In the promotional flyer example, a vendor told the retailer that it wanted its offer to appear in the flyer and even said it would pay a portion of the costs, but the merchant demonstrated that it still had choices. The merchant said “no.”

‘No’ Provides a Measure of Freedom

In 2011, communication coach, Carmine Gallo, wrote a great article in Forbes titled, “Steve Jobs: Get Rid of the Crappy Stuff.” In the article, Gallo described a conversation between Apple’s iconic founder, Steve Jobs, and Mark Parker, the chief executive officer at Nike.

“Do you have any advice?” Parker asked Jobs. “Well, just one thing,” said Jobs. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” Parker said Jobs paused and Parker filled the quiet with a chuckle. But Jobs didn’t laugh. He was serious. “He was absolutely right,” said Parker. “We had to edit.”

Think about this story along side of another bit of wisdom from Jobs.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

The point is that using “no” means that you have the freedom to say “yes” to those things that can truly improve your business.

‘No’ Recognizes that You Have Limits

If an Internet retailer has unlimited resources both in terms of time and money, there really would be no need to say “no” to one marketing tactic over another, but the final reason that “no” is so powerful in marketing is that it recognizes that every marketing department and every ecommerce business has limits.

Saying “no” to something is saying “yes” to a goal, campaign, or tactic that will better serve the business given a finite set of personnel and money.

Saying “no” emphasizes planning, encourages making good choices, provides freedom for innovation, and recognizes that every business has resource limits. Taken together these concepts make “no” one of the most powerful words in a marketer’s vocabulary.

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Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Laura November 21, 2013 Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. “Once a complete marketing plan is in place, the word “no” should be deployed frequently to prevent changes to that plan and prevent refocusing efforts on something other than the underlying business goals.” AMEN!

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