With that title, I just pulled the pacifier out of the mouths of marketers…and many of them will start crying.
But smart business people know better. Compartmentalization is a very fundamental human behavior in our personal life and business. In business, the definition of “The Market” is the currency that aims to provide quick answers to everyday questions. The problem with market categorizations is that they are often incorrect, irrelevant, stale, and frankly, the antagonist of innovation.
Here is why:
1/ People buy products; markets don’t.
No matter what the scenario, in the end, people (not businesses) make purchasing decisions. And since people are unique, so are their complex reasons to buy. A unique mix of psychographics and demographics aided by free-market access to the Internet further emphasizes the power of “You” over the power of “The Market.”
2/ Markets are bad type-castings.
Customer surveys show that the compelling-reasons-to-buy rarely match up with the predetermined definition of “The Market.” And since many purchasing decisions rely on factors unrelated to the product (such as budgets, approvals, personal relationships, operational planning, risk mitigation, etc.), a prospect qualification or disqualification within that market means absolutely nothing.
3/ Market definitions are bad currencies.
Since there are no rules for defining markets, and everyone gets to dream up their own, the value of that market definition is meaningless. Imagine the value of the dollar if everyone gets to define how much it is worth and print theirs at home. Market segmentation and negotiations on market positions with analysts further deflate the significance and trust in traditional market definitions.
4/ Time changes everything (but markets).
Market definitions (in technology) change slowly, yet products that attract new buyers change quickly. That means the definition of “The Market” (to which much decision-making is attached) is always far behind the adoption rate of new products and, therefore, far behind the identification of a new set of buyers. The minute “The Market” is defined; it has become irrelevant and ripe for disruption.
So, where does that leave marketing? Is marketing dead?
No, but it is time for technology marketers to grow up. The pacifier must be replaced by something else. Something more substantial and meaningful. Food becomes the new pacifier, and customers will be feeding it to you.
1/ Listen before you speak.
Literally, forget about what you as the marketer think of the product. Early adopter purchasing decisions are much more valuable in determining how the product is perceived and received. The credibility of new customers counts, more so than the ability of a marketer to spin a story. Spend time with your VP of Sales in online forums, set up a Google Alert, and figure out how to market customer perception.
2/ Manage the promise.
Crucial to the impact of marketing is the credibility of the company promise. Marketing, and specifically Product Marketing, is vital in establishing a promise fulfilled to the customer’s satisfaction. A few bad words from customers on the internet can cost the company millions of dollars to repair if it can recover from it at all. So, it is important that the promise to customers does not consist of blatant lies, leads to frustration, or bleeds hundreds of support calls. Manage the critical success factors of your promise.
3/ Enable the dialog.
Orchestrate the interaction between customers and prospects and be sure to listen in. They will give you the marketing messages that truly resonate – on a silver platter.
4/ Manage the conversion rate.
Getting crowds to listen or visit the company website is rather simple; getting them to buy the product is more difficult. The company is only measured on the latter. Since marketing is usually the scapegoat and the first to be questioned when results are down, implementing a mechanism that detects, manages, and reports on conversion rates yield invaluable improvement metrics.
As long as there is a macroeconomic benefit to using your product, marketing is a straightforward process. It requires a new class of people who are not afraid to throw the old-class of market definitions overboard and focus on extrapolating existing sales success by simply listening for and consistently reverberating the truth.