3 Core Marketing Principles

November 17, 2013 , 58 Comments

There are certain fundamental principles in marketing that don’t change, no matter what you market, who you market to or what media you use. When we focus on the nuts and bolts of our particular marketing efforts – optimizing content, writing sales-copy, creating e-mail follow-ups etc. – it’s easy to get lost in details and forget about what really matters.

Here’s a short video, detailing what I believe are three of the most important, core marketing principles that can help you get more sales, more clicks, better conversions, or whatever it is that you are aiming for. What’s more, you can apply these principles straight away and test them out for yourself in the very next piece of content you create.

Here are the three core marketing principles:

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Thanks for watching! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


[thrive_text_block color=’light’ headline=”]P.S.: This is an update of an older post I created. For the truly dedicated and especially if you enjoyed my sales-video analysis post, you can click here to watch the old video. You can compare it to the new one and see how I improve it and how my style changed in the span of about 3 years o video creation practice.[/thrive_text_block]

About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • These are three top principles that everyone should apply to their marketing, thanks for sharing your knowledge Shane.


    • thank you so much for your information, we thank you for every thing, so we are waiting to see how best we can move ahead in this business for us to start this, we need to do
      some thing that will generate income so that we can move ahead in this business.
      thank you.
      your faithfully
      john peterson.

  • Looking back at the content I have been producing I have used at least one of these principles but without really being conscious of it. I do agree that it would be much more effective to use all three.

    I will all three into my next article and see how it turns out.

    Thanks again for the tip.


    • Would love to hear how it works out for you!
      It can be difficult to get used to implementing these principles and I can’t say I implement them for every piece of content I create. But I always remind myself of them when I create a piece of content that has a conversion-goal.

  • Hi Shane

    Thanks for telling me that I’m doing it correctly. I use the following;

    I offer a benefit to;

    A particular group of people (as you say…specific niche)so that they can have it/get it…. better, cheaper, faster, easier)…followed by an ‘even if’

    Then I try to show the worst case believable scenario, such as ‘even if you tried it before and failed’


  • Hi Shane

    Very spooky – I sent an email to a client today and pretty much said what you have just reiterated in your video.

    I think one of the tricks is to always imagine you are writing to your most perfect customer. That way your writing is more likely to have the right tone and flow as well.



    • Will do. But you have to make a “how to make products instantly” product, first.

      • I second this. Now, I want to learn how to make such awesome videos. Does your “Screencast Blueprint” product cover this?

        Also, yes, I would love to see some form of “product launch” product.

      • Yes, the screencast product is exactly about how to create these types of videos. :)

        I’ve been wanting to do a new product about product creation for a long time, but I’ve always been too busy creating other products…

        I think the time will come, though. The longer I do this, the more in-depth my own experience becomes and the more valuable I can make a product about this topic.

  • Hey Shane,

    Keep this up and we are going to be the best out there ladd!

    I was just talking to an associate about focus and appealing to emotion.

    I am glad to be here! I’m in the right place at the right time!

    Thanks for your hard work.



  • Wayne Cochrane says:


    1) Generally people will be more open to a marketing message more if they are familiar with (and like and trust) the seller. Talking about “me” can help the person to understand who I am and give them some basis for choosing to trust (or not). Complete lack of “personalization” on website salespages, squeezepages and advertisements generally, is, in my opinion, one of the main causes of failure of marketing messages to get “prospects” to take the intended action.

    Sure telling people “how wonderful I am” is probably not going to have the desired consequences.
    But telling them who I am and why they may wish to listen to me may help them to understand that I am trustworthy and understand what I am talking about. (Of course if one is not trustworthy and does not understand what one is talking about then this [fortunately!] may not work.)

    2) I have heard the “benefits not features” message so many times (ad nauseum) and I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH IT.

    I get so frustrated with salespages that try to suck me in emotionally and do not tell me actually what the product is or what it does or how it does what it does. That is, I need to know the FEATURES of the product. As I actually have more than one brain cell actually still functioning I can usually work out most of the BENEFITS for myself.

    An almost sure sign for me to keep right away from a product (as it is almost certainly fluff or worse) is that it focusses almost exclusively on the BENEFITS without explaining the FEATURES.

    So my recommendation if one has been sucked into the fright of “I won’t sell anything unless I sell the BENEFITS” is to make sure to include the FEATURES as well as the benefits, otherwise you will lose people more like me, who are less open to being manipulated.

    3) Once again, appealing to EMOTIONS not LOGIC for me does not work. A marketing message that relies on manipulating emotions to sell is for me a huge red flag. If it is apparent that a marketer is trying to manipulate me emotionally (as most do) I will immediately be suspicious and will have severe resistance to buying the product even if it appears to be something I need. In this case I will need to use my logic to overrule my emotional (AND logical) resistance. I will need to to overrule my LOGICAL resistance to buy? Yes. Because my logic tells me that if a marketer is trying to manipulate me emotionally:

    * he/she/it does not meet my required level of ethics


    * the product is more-than-likely garbage (otherwise the features could sell the product.)

    (I haven’t got to watch point number 3 of your video yet but…)

    I will be selling what people NEED.
    I have no interest in what people WANT (and I won’t sell it.)
    (And if all the marketing experts are correct I should go broke!… But I won’t.)

    There is some serious generalising happening here!
    “…driving that car will make me feel like like James Bond..” will NOT “make” ME buy that car. What will influence me to buy that car is that it is economical, environmentally friendly, reliable, efficient shape and is not full of unnecessary electronic luxuries that I do not need. If I am told “this car will keep my family safe, why should I believe it? I will only believe it if I am told of the features that will help to keep my family safe! (And then I will need proof that these features are real. That the car really does have seat belts etc.)

    My recommendation is that if one really feels that one has to try and manipulate the emotions of “your” “prospects”, appeal to their LOGIC as well. (Some marketers say that people buy with their emotions but justify the purchase with their logic.) So, give them some logic to justify with – you will make more sales and get less refund requests.)


    A really good “marketer” respects his/her/it’s prospects and treats them as people and as INDIVIDUALS.

    If the product is rubbish , then

    1) “BENEFITS” (emotional manipulation) will be needed to sell it
    2) EMOTIONS will need to be manipulated to sell it.

    If a product is good:

    * FEATURES will sell it. (REAL BENEFITS can also be included.)
    * LOGIC will sell it. (EMOTIONAL manipulation will not be needed.)

    Shane, as we have recently communicated, people are individuals.
    You and I are individuals.
    Our buying choices and decisions are influenced by different factors and based on different criteria.

    We are all different.

    To me a good marketing message appeals to as many INDIVIDUALS as possible, not just the lowest common denominator.

    The bottom line is that we need to treat people with respect and provide them the opportunity to buy what they need (useful and good quality stuff [and maybe good value as well?]) – not just try and manipulate them into buying whatever we happen to be selling.


    • I too, skip as much of the emotional appeal and look for the features first, however, most people, particularly those not used to seeing IM marketing pitches, are not as savvy as us marketers, who instinctively analyze the marketing message.

      The best formula, I think, is to name the feature, then describe the benefit that feature provides. People like to think their buying decision is based on logic, even when the emotional appeal is what really sealed the deal for them, and this allows them to respond to the emotion (“I want that!”) and then justify it rationally (“It is a good purchase because…”).

      Give them both.

      • Wayne Cochrane says:

        I agree Garth,

        I too look for the features first.

        It is rare but does occasionally happenthat someone points out a benefit that I was not aware of.

        So yes, give them both.

      • Wayne Cochrane says:

        Damn, missed another one of those imperfections (typo) that proves I am not a perfectionist!

      • You have to realize that you are part of a tiny minority, if you react more positively to features and logical statements than to benefits and emotional appeal.

        And the way I see it, it’s certainly not about talking about benefits exlusively and “emotionally manipulating” your prospects.

        Crafting an effective piece of “coversion-content” is about making a connection to what really matters to the people on the receiving end of that message. It’s about taking your offer and showing people: “Here’s what this has to do with YOU.”
        It’s about getting out of your own head, to a certain extent. And, for product creators, this kind of thinking needs to begin when you do your market research, so that you can create a product that is made to suit what people in your target market really want and need, rather than just based on your own ideas of what they “should” need.

        It took me a long time and many, many failed business ideas before I finally learned this. That’s one of the reasons I made the above video.

        Yes, you can focus strictly on logical arguments and features only. But if your offer is truly good, is that the right thing to do, as it excludes the majority of people who could benefit from the offer?

      • Hey Shane…I am wondering if when you say “narrow Focus=More Customers” if you are saying… using a longer tail search term will get you traffic from a searcher looking for something specific like “loose 10 pounds before your wedding”.

        In other words that person is looking for an answer to a specific problem…and BAM there is the answer to what they are searching for…

      • I’m not talking about it from and SEO perspective, but it does apply to some degree. More specific keywords are usually higher-converting keywords, for example. As you say: when the keyword is very specific, you can actually offer exactly what the visitor is looking for and that makes it much easier to sell something.

      • Joe Garma says:

        I was about to respond to Wayne and Garth w/ basically the same message in your response, Shane.

        I wish to reiterate that we need to beware universalizing our own predilections. What I mean by that is to think that everyone has our own preference set is a faulty presumption.

        So, yes, you might ignore benefits and only focus on features, but the data is pretty clear on this — buying decisions are often emotional and benefits cultivate the emotion.

        And that fact is true regardless of whether you or I first examine and respond to features.



  • Thank you Shane

    Regarding point one, I’m off to make a couple of slight changes to the sticky page of one of my blogs!

    • Excellent! Here’s hoping you’ll quadruple your conversions (at least). :D

  • Hi Shane,

    Interesting post and definitely food for thought.

    I can see what you’re saying about the three principles and agree in part. I also find Wayne’s comments interesting and am looking forward to your response.

    One thing that strikes me re: Wayne’s comments … might that be true for a small segment (more of the analytical types) of the niche but not necessarily for the majority?

    Something to ponder and experiment with …


    • An after-thought … if Wayne is right, does this mean you advocate what you have been hashing around with Paul on the podcasts? … just thinking out loud :)

    • Wayne Cochrane says:


      Certainly there are people that will buy more if there emotions are appealed to, but there are others that this approach does not work.

      In fact some people will find the emotional appeal approach a complete turn-off and will be lost, possibly for good.

      So why not cover both bases and provide the features and possible benefits.
      (Benefits are different for different people.)

      I recommend covering both bases without attempting to manipulate.

  • Hi Shane, I have only been away for a few days but found some great stuff from you on my return – you have been busy!
    I would just like to add to your excellent video that I prefer to combine functions and benefits – to get my point across.

    For example, I was recently writing about a baby high chair that has two removable trays – when I wrote about the two trays feature, I needed to sell the benefits of this, so I imagine I am writing to just one person, the mum of a small baby who is going to be buying a high chair soon – “The top ‘dinner tray’ can be popped in the dishwasher for cleaning at that stage in every baby’s life when just a small amount of food can go a very long way!” – every mum will relate to that stage!

    In my opinion you cannot write just about the function or just about the benefit, you need to tell your customer how the function can benefit them and preferrably convey that this function is so brilliant that they just could not possibly do without it now they know about it!

    Keep ’em coming!

  • Great advice Shane, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the shiny features of a product and forget about the emotional appeal.
    I think I’ll put these three points on a sign on my desk.

  • Shane, I want to thank you so much for everything you are doing. It’s incredible. Just incredible. I read evrything you put on your blog and listen attentively to you in your videos. Also, Switzerland is a country I dream to live in)

    We need what you are doing. And along my journey in IM (I have made 1.07 Euro off the Internet so far) you are an immense inspiration and help (I found you through Andy Williams newsletter). Once I become advanced marketer (1000 USD a month at least) it’s going to be very interesting buying your stuff and discussing advanced stuff with you.

    Thanks tremendously,


  • I like that principle: it is not about you. Getting the ego and self absorbed attribute out of the way could really help. I find this part easy.
    I think I am finding it hard to emphasise the benefits in the most effective way though, due to being new in my niche. Good advice re talking about benefits and not features.
    I like appealing to their emotions. I could really implement this principle. You gave some really good examples of this works to help produce a conversion.
    That last one is key for me and once I am able to put that into practice and define my website in this way I am sure it will start to do well. Being specific makes a lot of sense rather than being vague and not properly defining what you are offering. The video is great and common sense and sensible when you look at it but probably overlooked by a lot of entrepreneurs and not thought of by newbies like me.

  • “…and there is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9)

    I read some here that seem to want to reinvent the wheel. What Shane has so succinctly addressed here are time-tested truths of copy-writing.

    For success in any print medium, you need to learn these skills, or farm them out to those that do.

    I would strongly suggest everyone look at the works of some of the masters, some several decades old. It matters not if it is a pamphlet, direct mail, or a website, these techniques are proven to directly affect sales and conversions.

    For instance, one of the most powerful books ever was written over 80 years ago by Claude Hopkins, “Scientific Advertising.” You can get a free illustrated copy (has some of the actual ads written by Mr. Hopkins) here: http://www.scientificadvertising.com/ (Just unsubscribe if you’re not interested in receiving anything more from Mr. Galletti – a fine copywriter in his own right and a bunch of free stuff to help learning the ‘trade’.) See his special offer for another classic, *The Robert Collier Letter Book*
    To find some of the most compelling copy-writing see Gary Halbert’s stuff: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/newsletter-archives.htm. Just read some of the headlines of his old newsletters.
    {A note: I am sad to see that some of Mr. Halbert’s ‘friends’ have more or less hijacked his site to promote their own stuff since his passing. But, if you want to see the power of marketing as yourself and the power of words, this is a great place to start.}
    Lastly, Mark Twain said something that is always in the front of my mind, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

  • Hi Shane,

    Awesome Video. One of the most incredible Marketing Videos i have seen for a while. Cuts through all the”crap” and straight to the point. i recently bought Backlink Battleplan and still going through my first round and its pretty awesome. I have to say that i have recently following your blog and your posts are to the point and HONEST. Keep it up Shane, love to hear from you more. Had a quick question? Can u recommend any free video making softwares for MAC? I believe the ones which u have mentioned in BB are only for windows?



    • I don’t know much about Mac software, I’m afraid.
      For video creation, check out Screentoaster as well as screenr. Both let you do screen capture and perhaps they are Mac compatible (not sure, though).

    • Fred Gillen says:

      Screenflow is the screen caputre software for the MAC, fantastic piece of software.

  • Hello Shane,

    Good useful video, straight to the point without taking up too much of my time!

    If I am in the market to buy a solution for a problem, I already know what I want to achieve and I am only interested in the final result. However, I will require proof that the product works before I part with my money.

    If, on the other hand I am casual about a problem I have and have not yet decided to do anything about it and you present me with an impelling headline that grabs my attention, I will want to know more. The more benefits you list, the deeper you will dig into my emotions as you will be highlighting many positives that had not occurred to me. At that point I usually buy and ignore the rest of the sales page.

    If I was buying something on a subject I know, I will want to know everything about that product including the benefits and features. I won’t be led by emotions and will subsequently investigate that product thoroughly before making a buying decision.


    – Paul –

  • Shane,

    This is an interesting subject indeed and we can tell from different comments that there is a lot to discuss.

    I read an article written by someone PhD and I can’t think of the name but it was about four different learning styles if you will.

    1) Tell-me-how or the teacher style
    2) Tell-me-details – or the engineer style
    3) Tell-me-the-benefits or the sales style
    4) How-else-can-I-use it – the expert figuring out a new way to use a product

    On top of that we have visual, auditive and kinesthetic people. Visual people learn best from seeing things and use expressions like “I see”, “I get the picture” while auditive people say “I hear what you mean”, “I like the sound of it”. Kinesthetic people use words like “touch”, “feel”, “I get the sense of it” and so on.

    I think we can see that in the comments to a certain degree.

    If we use this in our marketing messages I think we will get a bit further.

    Best wishes

    • That’s a very good point.
      And it’s one of the reasons sales-letters and sales-videos tend to be very long.

      Especially with the letter-format, you can address all possible objections and write about the product in a way that communicates to many different types of people.

  • Great blog! and great content. Many of us are trying to make it in the online marketing business. You provide quality and up to date info here.

    Best regards,
    J Anderzon

  • Bob Warren says:

    Thanks Shane, Very helpful with my work with local businesses who want to include everything they offer into their ads and always complain when they never get any response. I will share these hints and hopefully get them to focus their ads on the prospect instead of their company name, address and how long in business.
    Enough said, Great stuff.

    • That’s a great example!
      Big mistake when a company wants to include everything and basically say “look how great this company is!”. Because no one actually cares about that, apart from the company owner, maybe. No doubt response will be better when you offer a message that focuses on a benefit to the customer.

  • Thanks Shane for a wonderful video with great information. I’d certainly be trying these useful tips in my next venture. Thanks again.

  • I don’t know how I found you, but I like your information. Great Post!

  • Good points.

    I would like to know what software you use to create such nice, animated videos?

    I use Camtasia, but need something to add simple boxes and animations.

    Please let me know.


    • Hi James,

      I use PowerPoint. I don’t use 90 of the features and effects, though. Just the very basics. The same results can be achieved in Keynote, Open Office Impress, or pretty much any other slideshow software.

  • Shane,

    Thanks for clearing away all the clutter in my brain. It’s always good to go back to the basics. I’ve hear this kind of message many times before but you reminded me to keep it simple and go back to these 3 most important marketing principles. The further I stray from them the worse my results become.

    Keep bring the great content.

    Tim C.
    Murfreesboro, TN, USA

    • Thanks, Tim! Very happy to know you found this video useful.

  • The message remains the same, the package just changes over time.

    I too keep losing sight of these principles in my drive to get my message to more people.

    So thank you for reminding me, again, of what it’s all about…

    • Thanks for your comment, Eric. It’s a reminder I need myself, from time to time. As you say, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics.

  • Wayne’s comment above represents what I call the “well-intentioned novice.” I understand exactly what he’s saying, as I’m sure many of the readers here do, but it’s simply not accurate. More experience is needed to grasp the “benefits” message Shane is sharing.

    We all like to think of ourselves as informed, intelligent folks. And mostly we are. But that does not mitigate the fact that we are fundamentally ruled by emotion. We make buying decisions based on emotion and justify with logic. That’s not my opinion, or Shane’s opinion – it is provable fact.

    If you try on a suit or dress, look in the mirror and think to yourself “WOW, this fits me perfectly and I look damn good” you are not going to hang that suit or dress back on the rack simply because it’s got 20% rayon in it and you were looking for 100% worsted wool. You’re going to buy it because of how it makes you FEEL.

    Features vs benefits is not an either/or proposition as Wayne says in his point #2.

    Shane is not saying to eliminate features from your sales message. Only the naive buy something based exclusively on emotionally-charged rhetoric (aka hype). What he’s saying is that features do not sell nearly as well as benefits do. Features “tell”, benefits “sell”. We all want -and need – to know what the product can do (features). But in order to maximize sales, the marketer must convey, as precisely as possible, what those features mean (benefits) to the prospective buyer.

    Definitely talk about (or ideally, demonstrate) features, but then you must translate those features into benefits. Someone on here referred to Gary Halbert’s website – go read his copy or Gary Bencivenga or Clayton Makepeace or Perry Marshall or Dan Kennedy – and you will see how they employ bullet point copy “fascinations” to deliver a feature plus a benefit (plus emotional triggers). And those guys are the best salesmen in print you will ever read.

    When you wrap features + benefits in emotionally charged language, it is simply proven that you will generate more sales as a result.

    Thank you for consistently reminding us what really produces positive results, Shane. Keep up the great work!

    • That’s a very well made point, Eric. Thanks for contributing like this! :)

      Reading your comment brought another idea to mind: you can also think of benefits as relieving the viewer/reader from some of the burden.

      Let’s say I’m looking for a car and I want it to be safe and economical. If you just show me lists of raw data about a series of cars (pure features, zero benefits), you’re asking me to become a car expert and then dissect all of this information and figure out which one suits my needs best.

      I’m a busy person, so I’d rather not have to go through all of that. By combining features with benefit statements, you make it easier for me. “This car has a new xyz system, which makes it means it gets more miles to the gallon.” -> that’s something I can understand. If you just tell me it has a new xyz system, I don’t know what that means, because I know very little about cars.

      Some people already are total gearheads and they’re probably happy to dissect every single feature and discuss it with their gearhead friends. And they don’t need benefit statements. But 99% of people who ever buy a car are not like that.

      So, don’t ask your prospects to do all the work. Explain what your product’s features mean, for them!

  • Excellent video Shane! I would summarize it this way: first, narrow your focus. Once you have done this and you have your target audience, go to the second step: talk about benefits and not features, talk about what your customers will gain with the product and not about all the features of the product. Last step: this 3rd step should be a consequence of the 2nd step because if you talk about benefits then you are appealing to our emotional part, but we can always try to make it more emotional.

    Please Shane, I sent you an email, whenever you have the time please try to send me an answer. Thanks!

    • Hi Luis,

      Good point. The order you present the steps in does make a lot of sense as an order of implementation. :)

      I sent you an email reply.

      • Thanks for the comment and the reply Shane! Have a great day :)

  • Another great video Shane. Always enjoy learning from presentations. Being new to all this online marketing stuff, it really helps to listen to someone who has been there talk about the steps that one might need to implement in order to do better. You always make it clear, precise and to the point. Thank you for all your hard work, and please keep doing what you’re doing!

    Best Regards

    J Yanero

  • Massimo Allen says:

    Precise, concise and to the point- Good Stuff Indeed.

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