4 Amazing and Profitable Lessons From a Marketing Legend

Getting our message out to the right people and getting them to take action is the lifeblood of our success as entrepreneurs. So one of the smartest steps we can take is to learn from the best marketers in the business.

That's where Richard Viguerie comes in. A true pioneer and legend in the direct marketing space, Viguerie started American Target Advertising in 1965 to market directly to conservatives on behalf of conservative causes. Today he boasts the largest list of conservative donors and activists in the world, and his research and insights are sought out by key conservative influencers.

I recently asked Viguerie to sum up the biggest lessons about business and marketing success that he's learned during his 50-plus-year career.

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1. Get a mentor. It doesn't matter if you're a newbie or a successful serial entrepreneur: You need a mentor, says Viguerie. "I was mentored in my early days by three direct marketing giants, and they allowed me to really have an unfair advantage, quite frankly, over the competition," he says. "I wouldn't have accomplished a fraction of what I have achieved without them."

One of the biggest values Viguerie sees in mentors is their ability to keep entrepreneurs on track. "When you've got people really holding you accountable, you're going to be much more disciplined. It won't be as much fun sometimes, but you'll achieve a great deal more than you would otherwise," he says.

Indeed, in my own experience working with mentors, I find that they have walked the path I'm on--so they know both the short cuts to take and the pitfalls to avoid.

2. Focus on your unique ability--then find other talent to fill in the gaps. If you devote your time and energy to the one or two things that you do best--and find others to handle the rest--you will position yourself for great success in and out of the office. Handing over some control to others may be a tough pill to swallow for hard-driving entrepreneurs, admits Viguerie. In fact, he struggled with this when a firm that did an analysis of his company recommended he resign as president and CEO to become the chief creative person. "I said, 'That's the dumbest thing I ever heard. I'm the President. This is my company. I'm not going to turn it over to somebody else'," he says.

Ultimately, though, he took their advice and turned over the reins to an employee. The result: "It changed my life. I've got so much more freedom now. I'm able to focus on my unique ability, and she focuses on her unique ability, and life is so much better now," he says.

3. Follow the Four Horsemen approach to marketing. Succeeding in today's environment means being adept in four key areas:

  • Positioning. Privately decide the space in your marketplace that you can occupy with your product or service. Viguerie highlights Fox News as an example of perfect positioning: "It doesn't matter what your political affiliation is, you can understand this concept. When Rupert Murdoch decided 22 or so years ago to start a cable television news network, he didn't try to duplicate what his competitors were doing. Instead, he sees that nobody's focusing on the right-of-center community in America for news and he decided to occupy that hole in the marketplace," says Viguerie.
  • Differentiation. Publicly separate yourself from the pack. In Fox News' case, for example, Murdoch differentiated his network by hiring people like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.
  • USP/Benefit. Your unique selling proposition is what tells your audience how you--and you alone--can solve their key challenges and issues. Again, in the case of Fox News, the USP/Benefit is the right-of-center commentary that other big networks don't offer.
  • Brand. This is how you combine the first three areas to create a buzz that causes you and your business to be singular, unique or one of a kind--and become, in the words of entrepreneur Seth Godin, a "purple cow" that stands out from the herd.

4. Always be prepared. As with the four horsemen, Viguerie breaks down any major task or responsibility into a four-part plan: vision, goals, strategies and tactics/projects. Then he commits those four parts to paper. Says Viguerie: "As you write the plan, it clarifies and crystallizes your thinking. You thought you wanted to go over here, but then you realize you need more of one thing and less of another."

This not only helps ensure that anything you do goes well, it also stops you from getting distracted and chasing rabbits that aren't part of your core business (a problem that many entrepreneurs suffer from, myself included). "When you get clear on the vision that you're working toward and specifically what the goal is and how to pursue it, you can say more easily say 'no' to the things that could get you in trouble," he says.

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