by Evan Junker | July 13, 2020
Every week we receive calls business owners who say they need help with their marketing. After about ten minutes of conversation, we have to tell them something no consultant wants to advise a potential client: marketing is not your problem. I give them the painful truth – some stay with us, and others call the next firm who will tell them what they want to hear.
For business leaders who stay in the conversation, I lead them on a journey. I ask them to look at what they have been doing and where they are trying to go. Frequently, these are relatively new businesses, in the one to three years since founding range, and these questions can sting. But being able to look at things objectively is the first step towards creating a business that can succeed. Here is an example of the questions we typically ask.
1. Who is your client? To whom are you trying to appeal?
This may seem like an obvious question, but it needs to be addressed practically, especially for those dealing with a new product launch, a new geographical market, or limited resources. In these circumstances, it is much easier to begin with a small target market to whom you can appeal with a level of specificity. For instance, let us assume you are offering a consumer-oriented product, perhaps aimed at parents of children. Imagine designing a product for all parents of all children of all ages in all areas of an entire country. Well, the marketing may not be the issue at all. The product was likely designed around a stereotype of parents of children, based on assumptions of the product developer’s personal experiences, or created for a particular niche within that subset.
Was the product field tested? Has the market been segmented to determine the applicability and probability of adoption? These are all things that should be taken into account long before a product is launched in o the marketplace. Failing to do so can not only prove costly but can cause a product to fail at launch.
2. What are your customer’s pain points? What problems are you solving?
Too often we find people designing either products or services that revolve around what they would want. Little-to-no market research or testing is done to find out what an ideal customer wants! Start by identifying the main pain points that are most likely to lead to a purchase. Identify what core problems you are solving first, then develop the solutions around that. This works for everything from automobile design to toys in a consumer-facing business and every service or product imaginable in the B2B environment. Even in mature markets, understanding your target customer and whether the main pain points are design flaws and product longevity or price is critical in pre-marketing stages of development.
3. What reasons have you been given for why people use your product or service?
4. What reasons have you been given for why people did not purchase from you?
These questions lead to silence more often than not. If you can ask your customers one question, let it be, “why did you purchase from us?” That one question tells you how you have value in the marketplace, gives you ideas for how to increase your competitiveness, and allows you to establish your key selling points – all before you develop your next marketing plan. When organizations go about marketing without understanding where their product or service fits in the competitive marketplace, it generally leads to problems. While this certainly impacts marketing, the problems will most likely impact deeper in the bottom line as this information should inform an organization’s business strategy and strategic planning, its portfolio of services and products, and its branding. Whether taking a Blue Ocean or Red Ocean Strategy, launching in a new country or market, or establishing a Joint Venture, being able to answer these two questions can significantly support deeper strategic conversations.
5. Describe your customer journey to me. Walk me from the point they become aware of your existence to the time they buy from you.
Admittedly, this is more of a request than a question. It is also a request that actually does touch on marketing – but also much more. This line of inquiry gets at the core of brand awareness, market penetration, and strategy (once again.) Too frequently, businesses put something out there and expect instant-adoption and market share. But left out of the strategy is brand awareness, consumer education, engagement, and defining the need. For products and services that require anything beyond impulse purchasing, planning for a customer journey as part of a strategic business plan is vital for long-term success.
By the time we finish the conversation, most business owners see the need to engage their business at a deeper level. At the very least, they have hope. Business leaders who can see the need to focus on the customer when designing products and services succeed at a much greater rate than those who go by gut. Too many businesses assume if they provide something great, customers will want it and be willing to pay for it over the other demands on their resources. Business leaders who understand the need for a strategic approach to market entry are the most likely to achieve market domination.