Breaking marketing’s rules and livin’
The traditional concept of ‘an industry’ is crumbling away. It presents the perfect opportunity for breaking the rules of marketing and livin’. By Dave Duarte. From Mark Magazine (Blueprint Issue, Pages 6 & 7)
I often have people come up to me, people who have successful businesses, who say: “I’m really good at what I do, but I’m bad at marketing.”
To which I often reply: “How do your customers feel about you? How do new customers get to hear about your business most of the time?” Then these people – the down-to-earth, short-sleeved, checked-shirt tucked into jeans, not-stylish-but-practical type – usually respond: “They’re happy, but word-of-mouth seems to be the main way we get customers.”
Of course, professional marketers know that word-of-mouth promotion is not easy to pull off, and you generally need to be doing something remarkable if people are going to be making, well, remarks about your business.
The point is these checked-shirt chaps wouldn’t be doing as well as they are if their marketing weren’t up to scratch. They wouldn’t have relevant products or services and their innovations would be out of touch with what people need or want. Marketing is fundamental to what a business does, and whether you have a marketing department or not – if you’re kicking ass and people are paying you for it, then you’re marketing.
Let’s take a step back though, and just clarify what I mean by “marketing”. In the most fundamental sense of the word, “marketing” is making sure that people will buy whatever it is that you produce – ensuring that there’s a market for it. It doesn’t require a department in order for it to happen. In fact, it gets better when it’s more of a mindset than a job title.
If you went to marketing school, you probably would have been taught about the 4 Ps of the Marketing Mix: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. All are fundamentally important, especially, as the Dalai Lama once pointed out: “You have to know the rules in order to break them properly”.
What I find interesting is that marketing tends to be more effective the less conventional it is. I’m not talking about advertising here, but marketing as a whole – the Mix, if you will. Its champions are those mavericks who break the rules, don’t follow the established order of things, and make decisions based on original insights about their customers, rather than broadly acceptable “best practices” for their industry.
The fact that benchmarking is becoming less relevant is perhaps indicative of the fact that our traditional concept of “an industry” is crumbling. It is becoming difficult to pigeonhole the best performing new businesses into an “industry” and still understand them properly. For example, is Google in the “internet industry”, the “media industry” or the “search industry”? Depending on how you look at it, each has different norms, benchmarks and best practices. In fact, as with most market leaders, it’s in a category of its own and defines its own industry.
Is Aston Martin in the business of creating vehicles to get people from point A to point B, or are they in the dream fulfillment business? Furthermore, with a product or experience of that level of exclusivity, I’d venture to say their customers are not just those who buy their cars, but those who buy their vision too.
One of the truest things I’ve heard recently is that because of the cornucopia of new products and services we all have access to, we’re moving from an era of finding customers for our products to an era of finding products for our customers.
So, a blueprint, which I base on the principles of Evidence Based Management:
# Face the hard facts, and build a culture in which people are encouraged to tell the truth, even if it is unpleasant.
# Be committed to getting the best evidence about and from your customers and use it to guide actions.
# Look for the risks and drawbacks in what experts recommend – most medicines have side-effects.
# Avoid basing decisions on uncritical “benchmarking” of what winners do.
# Treat your organisation as an unfinished prototype. Learn by doing.
Often, breaking the rules is the only way to ensure that you aren’t engulfed in the brutal competition of statically defined market categories. So, know the marketing rules, but more importantly: be prepared to rewrite them for your particular context.
– Dave Duarte is an internet and mobile marketing consultant for Huddlemind Labs. You can catch him on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/DaveDuarte