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Agrimarketing : April 2008
I decided to call these mistakes "Brand Busters" because of the dam- age they do to a company's most valuable asset: its brand. Let me now tell you a little more about the two Brand Busters I just mentioned --- with the hope that I can help you avoid them. To learn about other mistakes, I refer you to my new book: "Brand Busters: 7 Com- mon Mistakes Marketers Make --- Lessons from the world of technical and scientific products." (Paramount Market Publishing, 2008) "NEEDS" INSTEAD OF "WANTS" From board rooms to cubicle farms, everybody talks needs. You've heard the comments. From the division director: "We've got to deliver what the market needs." The marketing manager: "This product truly meets the buyer 's needs." The head of R&D: "We looked at what the market needs, and this new generation development aims directly at meet- ing those needs." But what if they don't want what they need? We all need to watch our diet and exercise regularly. But is that what we want to do? Folks, people don't often do what they need to do. But they always do what they want to do. Same goes for the way people buy stuff. Surprised? Take a look at the graphic about want versus need in car purchases. Do people buy what they "need"? A study of new car purchases shows want or desire was the biggest motivator in purchase decisions. (Center for Media Research, 2005) (See Figure 1.) Does the market really need any- thing? If your product is delivering what the market needs, how come you're not selling more? And just who exactly is judging what the mar- ket needs, anyway? "Need" is not only overused, it's dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Dangerous because it's thrown around haphaz- ardly. Dangerous because it's so wrongheaded and it seems so innocuous. Dangerous because of what it represents: marketers out of touch with how and why their cus- tomers buy. Dangerous because it represents the height of arrogance. It conveys: "I know best what you need --- according to me." And dan- gerous because it's so terribly overused as a marketing concept. Don't believe me? Just for fun, type meet your needs into your search engine and see how many hits you get. Google gave me 111 million. I hope one of them isn't yours. One of my former clients recently relayed a bit of sage advice he re- ceived as a sales trainee while riding with an "old pro." The veteran's advice: "Selling is easy. Figuring out what the customer wants is the hard part!" Figuring out what the customer wants --- that's what the very best brand managers spend much of their time thinking about. BELIEVING YOU MUST SELL YOUR PRODUCT ON AN ECONOMIC BASIS Here's an inside secret. Despite protests to the contrary, lots of peo- ple in your market don't really care about money. They care about things like how they feel about their job or getting work done in less time. Or discovering the next big thing in their industry or taking a vacation. The money they save, or the return on investment (ROI), isn't often what trips their trigger. In fact, unless it's a very small business, the money isn't even theirs. It's the com- pany's money. But the pain or prob- lem your product might happen to alleviate is theirs completely. So, the economic hoop they make sellers jump through is just an exercise so they can show the boss they weren't being stupid with the company's money. Granted, for the owner of a small, independent family-run farm, the money is indeed all his or hers. But given consolidation, this market continues to diminish. But don't take my word for it. Audiences in all sorts of markets for technical and scientific products will admit they don't make decisions on an economic basis. Purdue Univer- sity's "Commercial Producer Sur- vey" revealed the number-one goal of large-scale producers was not to reduce cost or even to make more money: it was to have more free time. Yet the majority of marketing "arguments" I see focus on econom- ics. Hmmmmmm. Let's face it; no one's marketing products (and no one's buying prod- ucts) with the expectation of damag- ing their ROI. Every marketer knows how to make their ROI look good. Buyers know this. And so, they're uniformly skeptical of ROI claims. Blowing off the marketer 's ROI claims has become second nature to them. Some other factor --- ease of use, dependability, process improvement, etc. --- will trump ROI and actually lead to a sale. So if you're stopping the marketing message at ROI, you've ground to a halt before you've even gotten started. Don't be confused. Am I telling you not to have an economic work- sheet for customers --- or a cost sav- ings calculator feature on your web site? No. Am I telling you to clear the economic hurdle and then get back to the pain? You bet I am. That's the marketing high ground where you can differentiate the brand and win the business. Seriously, how distinc- tive is your brand when it's reduced to a few numbers on a spreadsheet? Not very. Believing you must sell your product on an economic basis is a mistake you can easily avoid. A FINAL THOUGHT We've only scratched the surface on identifying and rooting out common marketing mistakes. To learn about all seven mistakes, you can order a copy of "Brand Busters," at www.agrimarketing.com.AM April 2008 AgriMarketing 67 Chris Wirthwein is CEO of 5MetaCom, an advertising and marketing firm in Carmel, IN, that specializes in scientific and technical products. E-mail: email@example.com.
May 2008 Supplement