Marketing Myths That Bite
SMALL BUSINESSES CAN'T AFFORD TO BLINDLY ACCEPT MYTHS ABOUT MARKETING...
Big businesses can often, if not always survive marketing mistakes. We've seen, for example, CocaCola and Netflix do it. However, big businesses can do it because, in large measure, they have sales revenues and frequently strong working capital to carry them across the Canyon of Broken Companies, without falling into the abyss.
However, most small businesses walk a much thinner tightrope and, indeed, are frequently just one deep sales valley away from finding themselves added to the docket in bankruptcy court.
Consequently, small-business people need to be especially vigilant not to fall prey to marketing myths that can really bite them in the ass...
Wrong! Although commonly embraced these days, this advice is widely misunderstood and, for the most part, ineptly applied as a guide to small-business management.
One such myth is that providing a "first-rate customer experience" is what their primary focus should be...
The "customer experience" is like the garnish on a good hamburger; it ultimately makes the eating either spectacular or just so-so. But it is not the primary part of the sandwich since, without the meat patty, you don't have much of a sandwich at all.
The "primary" or core focus of a small business needs to be delivering the goods or services promised to the customer or client, and doing so in a timely manner and at a level of quality commensurate with or exceeding that which was promised and paid for. In the absence of this, all else amounts to no more than a walkway built of smoke.
It does little for customer satisfaction or loyalty — and even less for brand-building — if you provide great telephone engagement during the sale, online ordering and delivery tracking, a follow-up customer experience survey, a coupon for a free Starbucks Grande Donde (or whatever), and a personalized birthday greeting every year — if the WackyWidget you sold the customer is a piece of crap that doesn't work even the first time the customer tries to use it. Or if it's flimsy or stops working within a week of delivery.
All the complimentary lunches, flower bouquets, emailed jokes, soothing telephone conversations (during which you refer by name to the client's spouse and children as supplied by your CRM software), won't matter to your client, if the work you promised is late, or the analysis and conclusions shoddy, or the list of deliverables uncompleted.
Big business people can sometimes get away with glossing over this fundamental truth (at least for a little while), but small-business people ignore it at their peril.
Another myth with alligator teeth is that it is preferable in marketing a small business to "under-promise and over-deliver"...
While this is common wisdom for an employee negotiating the parameters of a project with his or her boss, it is a formula for disaster when applied to small-business marketing.
This myth arises from the wrong-headed belief that if you minimize what you promise the customer or the client, and then deliver more than promised, the customer or client will be overjoyed at getting more than expected.
Which just might be true — for a few days or a week, until the customer or client realizes how much less he or she received from you and your small-business than what others are getting from some of your competitors.
Not to mention that, by adopting this strategy, a small business is most likely chasing sales away to the competition, which has the brains to promise as much or more value... and then, of course, deliver as promised.
If a small business can't deliver equal or more value than its competition in the marketplace, that is a problem which cannot be solved by scaling down its commitments to customers and clients. Rather, it is a fundamental management issue, not a "marketing" problem at all.
And yet another myth that can chew up a small business is that social media and social networking have upended and rendered obsolete the traditional principles of marketing...
It's often said — and with dogmatic fervor — that the need to cater to the largest current market, the Millennial Generation, has changed all the rules of marketing.
That seems to me a proposition propagated by millennial marketers who want you to believe that only they understand marketing because only they understand their peers and contemporaries.
It is also a position pushed by many digital marketers because they want to convince small-business people that social marketing is the only path to success these days — a proposition which they support by pointing to the alleged habits of millennials and other generations of still younger people.
But although millennials may, at this time, make up the largest single population group on the planet, it does not follow that they represent the strongest buying group. Not in general. And not in particular.
Not in general, because the strength of a market sector needs, in most cases, to be measured in terms of discretionary buying power, not in terms of population numbers.
And not in particular, because millennials, as a group, do not exhibit a uniform economic profile or demographic.
The means of marketing (the medium or media) may have changed with the emergence of our contemporary digital environment, but the traditional principles of marketing still hold across generations...
You still need to identify your target market and create a marketing campaign that will tickle the fancy of that market. For example, if you're marketing expensive, upscale product(s) and service(s), you need to find and reach people with the money to buy them, not some group arbitrarily delineated by date of birth.
You still need to convey perceived value and benefits. And you still need to build credibility and confidence in the product and the brand, in order to be able to convert prospects to customers and clients.
None of which changes depending on whether you're dealing with Millenials or Matures or Baby Boomers or Gen-Xers or Gen-Yers.
If you show me a small business that targets Millennials to the exclusion of all other potential markets, and independent of any and all consideration of the nature of the product or service being marketed, I will show you a small business that is headed for the abyss.
It's often said that running a small business is like standing knee-deep in alligators.And there is some truth in that. Therefore, it's a good idea to avoid marketing myths that also bite.
— Phil Friedman
Postscript: This is an excerpt from my upcoming eBook, Small-Business Primer: Real -World Tips for Starting and RunningYour Own Small Business. For information on securing a copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put "small-business book" on the subject line.
Author's notes: If you found this article of value, you might also want to look at some of my other writing about small business operations, management, and marketing:
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About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I taught logic and philosophy at university.
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