Britt Beemer's "How Do I Avoid the Wrong Decision?"

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 decision?

There is no one simple answer. This question has a six-part answer.

  1. 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!

  2. 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 featured!

    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.

  3. 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 good.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.


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