Prior to writing my book, Predatory Marketing, I wanted
to better understand the mind of the business book buyer. To accomplish
this we conducted 1000 interviews of business executives: 500 from
top management and 500 from mid-management. In order to achieve
the level of book sales commensurate with my time and effort, it
became obvious that my book needed to produce enough sales to become
a major business book.
As I have told many retailers opening a store in a new market:
You never get a second chance to create a grand opening. As a matter
of fact, our research reveals the image you create in the first
90 days is the image you will live with for the next seven years.
You want to be sure the image you create in the marketplace is the
image that will bring you the most business!
Too often companies would rather launch and then 'see how it goes,'
instead of investing in serious research beforehand to know whether
a venture will be profitable. But, I could not afford to take a
chance, and neither should you!
So, we studied two very important issues: First, we examined why
do business leaders buy business-oriented books and second, what
are the top marketing questions they need answered?
After you decide on the key issues that need to be studied, then
you must commit to following through with the recommendations coming
from the research. If you are unwilling to offer what the customer
wants today, you can never achieve your maximum opportunity. Today,
it's all or nothing, put in my words, "Be First, Be Right,
or Be Dead."
Our research with 1,000 business executives revealed the top six
marketing questions these persons have.
Executive's primary question: How do I avoid making the wrong
There is no one simple answer. This question has a six-part answer.
- Never act defensively
Whenever corporate decisions are based on protecting the
base rather than expanding the base, your marketing strategy
is limited by two-thirds the number of available options.
Also, the message it sends to your employees is demoralizing.
The true test of marketing is driving the customer most likely
to buy your product or service into your business. In your
soul you must decide: Do you only want to drive those who
have been there before, or do you want all targeted buyers
in the marketplace to experience what you have to offer?
Many times companies never identify how to effectively affect
potential customers, so they believe all future marketing
efforts will fail. With this attitude, they never experiment
with new approaches and ultimately rely on existing customers
to generate sales. But, this limited and defensive strategy
always has the same result: death!
- Always act decisively.
Too many companies agonize over a decision for days, even
weeks. Often by the time they act, the customer has moved
on the a different place so this inability to quickly react
to changing consumer need makes this late decision a detrimental
action. You need to know that those on the front-end of a
consumer trend become tomorrow's leaders, but remember the
marketplace is moving twice as fast today as two years ago,
so you must make decisions faster just to keep up.
Without fully knowing your customer, it is impossible to
be the first to react and to lead. Look at home theatre, a
product where shoppers went from wanting to see three working
systems on showroom display to five systems. Woe to the furniture
store trying to sell home theatre with only two or three systems
Overnight, the consumer moved away from furniture stores
as a preferred distribution channel to audio specialist where
more floor space was dedicated to the category.
- Create an environment for open exchange of ideas.
No one has all the answers and certainly no one has all
the right answers! With little or no exchange of ideas from
the front line, you are doomed. How could you win a war without
counter-intelligence to detect the activities of the enemy
? How could you run a business by shutting off the spigot
of information from your front-line staff ? Always keep in
mind those people talking to your customer become a resource
of information of your company. Their comments may not be
completely objective, but not soliciting or welcoming their
input places your company at an information disadvantage.
In today's changing world an information disadvantage means
you can become isolated, working with old, out-of-date data,
always lacking new ideas. Executives have egos, but the best
executives put their egos in check long enough to learn how
to make their workplace more open. They must become willing
to listen and then act on comments from their employees. But
remember, listening, but never acting, can do more harm than
- Always understand the cause of the problem rather than dealing
with the symptom.
Doctors can bring down a fever, but if the cause of the fever
is not addressed, the health problems will persist and potentially
kill the patient. My salespeople are no good, exclaims one
retailer. My response is, Who trained them? Too many problems
never get solved because 90 percent of the effort is on the
symptom with only 10 percent on curing the disease. Without
quality research, companies wander around, trying this or
trying that to solve a problem. It is often the case that
they compound their problem because experimentation without
supporting data to recommend an action may fix what was never
broken. Identifying the exact cause may also be difficult
because a key person may not be doing his or her job and you
may not consider him or her a source of the problem. For example,
you might be getting the right type of people calling, but
the person answering the phone could be driving the potential
customer away, as I found out years ago when a dentist had
an effective advertising plan but the receptionist had no
empathy in her voice, making the caller say, "Do I really
want to go here for my dental work?" After she was replaced
with a softer, more gentle voice the number of new appointments
grew four times. This person was a loyal and hardworking employee,
putting her above reproach. Only researching the issue thoroughly
identified the cause. Not knowing the customer for this dentist
meant wandering around in the desert, guessing why the advertising
campaign was not working.
- Respect your customer
Every company claims to respect its customer, but do your
company policies truly reflect an attitude of respect? Or
an attitude of respect only when it's convenient to you? Unless
you know your customer's expectation, how can you prioritize
your company's customer-oriented policies? A company that
respects its customer properly trains all the staff, advertises
truthfully, qualifies the customer rather than prejudges them,
and gladly accepts their returned merchandise because it asked
for their money. Respect is a commitment to total customer
satisfaction, even when the demands seem excessive. Consumers
rate their needs differently today from 1995. Are your store's
policies keeping up with these changes? Not understanding
today's consumer is like driving only using the rearview mirror.
- Remember, the other guy can think, too.
Just like the customer who is not planted in stone, the competition
is not going to stand there and let you beat their brains
in. Today's competitive marketplace demands that strategies
evolve and adapt to market conditions. Your competitor may
become more responsive to his customer and thus put you into
a defensive position, reacting to his new, on-target approach.
Never let your company be put into this position, because
every marketing decision should be based on current data.
The only way to always put the other guy in a defensive posture
is to know your customer better than he knows his. Quality
research will provide you with that competitive advantage.
Net: Fewer Wrong Decisions.