Most people overcomplicate marketing with talk of image, brand, feel, look, style, and culture. These are all important, relevant factors — if you are a multinational company — and all are of little importance if you are not!
What is important is the simple fact that there are only three ways to grow your business.
1. Increase the number of clients.
This is where most businesses focus their effort, although it’s very often the hardest of the three ways to increase income. Large growth in number of clients usually comes from a change in pricing or a change in marketing focus. When we changed one partner’s prime marketing media from print advertising to targeted direct mail, we were able to add over half a million dollars in income the second year and over a million the third — with a small decrease in spending!
Do you want to sell me a house? A car? A vacation? A club membership? A new credit card? A funeral plot? Life insurance? Stocks? Whatever it is, I am, like you, on the “A” prospect list. People like you and me make a decent income and we are not afraid to part with a little money to buy things. But — and it’s a BIG BUT — most of the marketing we receive to entice us to part with our money is doomed to failure.
This week American Express/Delta sent me six letters (all the same letter) addressed to every company I have ever owned, two of which I dissolved a decade ago! I left all of the letters out on the dining room table to take a picture of them, which I was going to use to illustrate waste and poor mailing list quality — especially interesting since American Express sells their mailing lists! Unfortunately, my wife, who has a cleaning fetish, threw them away. She thought they were junk mail since they were all the same letter!
Most innovations are not the invention of something completely new, but rather an improvement on something in existence.
Change the Color
When General Motors offered cars that were any color you wanted, rather than Ford’s “any color as long as it’s black” approach, they immediately and critically dislodged Ford’s firm grip on the automotive marketplace. As fashion changed, Levi’s blue jeans had a hit on their hands when they went black. When SKYY vodka went to an unusual blue bottle, their distinctiveness soared.
Many businesses provide a total experience rather than just a product or service. These owners often focus in on the technical aspects of their businesses—making sure the place is clean, the greens are cut, the coffee is hot, or whatever general standards are applicable to their types of businesses. In paying attention the technical aspects, they sometimes miss the boat on other just as important experiential aspects of marketing their products or services.
Take restaurants for example. There are plenty of local restaurants near my home that sell good food: Casa Norma, The Rusty Duck, and Romano’s come to mind, but none of these quite delivers when it comes to the total package. While each of these places has its own charm, they are not the type of modern, upscale bistro that you would find in a big city.
Then came the Crystal River Wine & Cheese Company. It was the total package: the type of place you would expect to find in Los Angeles or Manhattan, but not in Crystal River—which of course is what made it so special. The place was small, the menu a little quirky, but the food tasted great, the service was very friendly, the jazz band good, and the whole atmosphere produced a great evening’s experience rather than simply dinner.
Recently I visited several prospective clients, including a golf school, a new resort, and a couple of semi-private golf clubs. All were struggling for business, but the golf school, in particular, reminded me of my days in the karate business: several talented technicians with the latest equipment and years of teaching experience in an exquisite, brand-new facility. Like the karate instructors, the golf pros can talk shop all day long, exchanging the latest techniques in their quest for perfection. Unfortunately, as in the karate business, their facility, talent, and experience mean NOTHING if they can’t sell!
It’s the entrepreneurial curse on steroids. A mechanic fixes cars but has no clue how to attract and maintain customers—sales just sort of happen. I’d say 99% of all small business owners fall into the trap of focusing on what they do rather than running a business. In every business, from IBM to single person lawn-care services, there are five key departments that must be run with more or less equal efficiency:
• research & development
Sitting here looking at the yachts in the Monaco harbor, each one worth millions more than the next I can’t help wondering how each owner made his money. Having studied the biography’s of hundreds of the world’s most interesting people I suspect that most of these fortunes were fueled by the power of a single great idea!
One of the interesting parts of being a marketing consultant is trying to get people to pay you for great ideas. For while people will gladly pay you for designing stuff, writing stuff or building websites few people truly understand the value of a great idea!
A single great idea can launch any business or turn any business around, but instead of searching for the great idea, most businesses are resigned to looking only at cutting costs and incremental growth at best!
Where are most great ideas found?