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Let the market view in

There have always been marketers who rely on subjective data and unsubstantiated hypotheses. They have a point of view, are comfortable with their perspective and only accept information that confirms their opinions. They also tend to surround themselves with others who agree with them and reinforce this perspective. Unfortunately, social media, and the ability it provides to locate like-minded individuals, has made this even more prevalent.

Marketers can be overly swayed by hype and the latest “shiny new object.” Some marketers, who like to think of themselves as fact based, support their views by pointing to the latest LinkedIn poll, their Twitter feed, articles their Facebook friends post or some list of “top tens” that has gone viral.  That these polls may be completely biased, that their Twitter feeds and Facebook conversations reflect their associates, not the world at large, and that “top ten” lists may be made up by some copy editor, does not dissuade them from using these sources as proof points.

In addition to an over reliance on biased but readily available information, many marketers suffer from an “internal out” view of the world. Like true believers, they accept their company’s optimistic perspective and fail to appreciate true market realities. For these folks, failure often comes as a complete shock. We see this phenomena often in the political arena. These individuals get lost in a bubble and simply fail to realize that they are in one.

Whatever the root cause, the consequences of making decisions without true market-based facts can be quite dramatic, leading to unrealized sales, campaigns that fall flat and products that fail to excite those they are intended for. The following are some ways to avoid falling into a bubble:

  1. Do not get lulled into believing you are an expert – It is easy to get followers, have one’s musings retweeted and find communities of like-minded people. Do not start believing your own press clippings.
  2. Seek out experts – You may not be an expert, but there are those who are. Find them, pick their brains and read their writings. Learn from those who have gone before you.
  3. Associate with those who disagree with you and challenge your assumptions – Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t stop being innovative, but do not assume every new idea is a breakthrough. Sometimes the nay sayers are right. And always remember, context matters.
  4. Figure out what clients want and need and create value – Even game-changing offerings, such as Facebook, had to fulfill needs. While early adopters may not have articulated a specific desire for Facebook, the ability to engage with friends and share experiences was something that was very desirable. Facebook caught on because of this. Remember that very few things succeed without creating value and those that do are often simply the “flavor of the month.”
  5. Invest in a broad program of market research – There are many good social listening tools available and they provide a great perspective. But these do not always provide a deep enough understanding of the subject being investigated. Definitely use social tools, but also consider controlled experiments, well-designed surveys, focus groups or depth interviews. These may not be new approaches, but they still yield insights. Remember that humans are more adept at detecting hidden meanings than computers. Don’t completely eliminate the human element.
  6. Study the competitive landscape – Very few things exist in a vacuum. Understand what choices are available for clients and prospects. Study competitors and find out what makes their customers loyal or if there is something specific that is locking customers in. Remember that to get customers to try something new or switch from an existing vendor, you may need to provide an incentive.  Another approach is to be cheaper, better or faster than competitors. You will not be able to achieve this if you do not know what they are offering, at what price and how their distribution channels work.
  7. Communicate using the right vehicles – You may want to use all the channels available to you to raise awareness and consideration of your product, but understand how your customers get their information and who their key influencers are. Prioritize the channels that they use, and remember to target messages to reflect the way customers view the world, not the way you see it.

I learned long ago that the best marketing vehicles are not always the ones that are the most creative or win industry awards.  They are usually the ones whose messages resonate and make sense to those they are trying to influence.  And, they most often reflect a deep understanding of their target audiences. Knowledge is power, knowledge also makes one a better marketer.

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