Marketing Mistake #3: Believe You Know Everything

Ant brains are proportionately larger than those of any other creature. Is that what it takes to be a know-it-all?

The “Big Idea” is a time-honed construct of advertising agencies. It’s a notion that one brilliant creative concept will win the day with an advertising campaign. It’s an idea that dominated advertising ideology until recently. In the past 15 years our economy has changed from supply-driven, where markets bought whatever was made and sold, to a demand-driven economy, where supply is saturated and only the really desired or lowest price products are bought.

Marketers know this intellectually, and yet many continue to operate this way. For example, product development often leads the process, which is followed by backing marketing into the product, teasing out some functionality and developing the advertising and PR to launch.

What are the costs to “knowing everything”? Unsold inventory; low margins; underutilized resources; lost competitive advantage.

On the other side, there are companies that have accurately identified the demand pools of their markets. They are growing, seemingly impervious to the softness of the economy that stymies so many. Or perhaps it isn’t the economy, but it’s really over-supply. Either way, business demands more clear-minded thinking than ever.

Here are 11 ways to avoid know-it-all business and marketing planning, and to dial into what the market really wants:

  1. Design numerous inexpensive pilots to test your ideas. Office Max is famous for its low-cost marketing campaigns, including Elf Yourself. How did they get it right? They developed 20 other viral websites. Elf Yourself took off. They didn’t know in advance. They built on the response to the one that worked.
  2. Leave product, offer, message and channel decisions flexible. It may be any one, or a combination that must be aligned before the plan is sticky with customers. Domino’s had to fix their pizza before the marketing could work.
  3. Go beyond focus groups & interviews to get marketing insight. Find ways to look for, listen to and analyze behavior. The internet is a wealth of data.
  4. Be ready to change the plan in mid-stream
  5. Listen to what customers say
  6. Watch what customers do
  7. Invite contrarian thinking
  8. Invite outside perspectives
  9. Ignore your competitor’s marketing
  10. Borrow ideas from other industries
  11. Stay curious

This list is only a beginning. See something that’s missing, that has changed your approach to marketing? Please comment!