THE SEARCH FOR SILVER BULLETS
In my two decades of experience thinking about marketing related problems, a number of observations have impressed themselves upon me so that they have now become personal marketing principles. Among these I include the well worn maxim, “There are no silver bullets.”
I know that a lot of business people wish there were indeed a silver bullet, a top secret marketing tip that they might be privy to. This would help them find relief from having to do any further homework, any further study or thinking or work.
When you stop and think about it, virtuosity in any endeavor is the result of a hours of practice, preparation and sweat equity. Some people have natural abilities, but unless sharpened and honed the most gifted musician, athlete or sales professional will falter. Applying oneself to think from a marketing point of view is not natural to many of us. It is a skill, however, that we can learn.
Unfortunately, most books on marketing are an attempt to chronicle universal truths that apply to all businesses. They do not and can not necessarily address all the particulars of our specific situations. Each of us in a different set of circumstances. Thus we must each do our own homework to think through how this principle applies to one’s unique place.
Rod Johnson, Director of Marketing & Business Development at Eventis Telecom, once observed that successful people do the things that are necessary, not just the things that are enjoyable. “It is interesting,” said Johnson, “that by doing these necessary things routinely and developing skills in those areas, they become enjoyable or at least not unpleasant.”
So it is with finding business and marketing solutions. We must invest time to think, to gather information, and do our homework.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
“If we would first know where we are, and whither we are tending,” Abraham Lincoln once said, “we could better judge what to do and how to do it.” This is a requirement in our business planning today as well.
Too often we simply blunder forward without a plan. Many people have found early success simply on the sheer force of their personalities. Eventually, without a plan they will come up against a wall or end up in a corner.
Lincoln observed that we need to have a clear understanding of where we are first, before we act. A lot of money is wasted in advertising because we do not take the time to figure out what is really happening. By this I mean, what is our situation? Who are our customers? What is their opinion, if any, of our products and services? Who are our competitors and how are we perceived in relation to these competitors?
In short, our business exists within a context which includes both the market and our overarching business strategy.
POSITIONING FOR SUCCESS
Positioning begins with establishing an identity. The concept is easily understood when you look at examples. McDonalds and Bellisio’s have created two very different identities in the Duluth eatery market. Is one right and one wrong? Absolutely not. Each has targeted a different consumer niche. McDonalds is fast food with no surprises, the same burgers that you get it in Ohio or Michigan or South Carolina. By way of contrast, from the wine racks to the menu selection Bellisio’s speaks to a different class of consumer.
Positioning is more than branding. When you think of McDonalds you not only have golden arches in your head, but you have a product and experience as well. Getting the name Bellisio’s into the market means nothing unless there is also an association made with the identity.
Al Ries and Jack Trout, authors of Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, talk about capturing the mind of one’s prospects. One can hardly talk about this subject without tipping the hat to the two men who popularized this concept (and claim to have invented it, thereby positioning themselves as the ultimate authorities.) The book is an easy read, and widely recommended, with anecdotes and case histories that bring clarity to the key idea.