“Ahhh…” you’re thinking. Just over a month until Christmas. Ed’s been shopping for his wife and he’s taking time out to remind us all how lucky we are. How the only thing that really matters is the one you love. After all these months, a romantic blog…
Nope. ‘Fraid not.
More hard-headed marketing. In fact, a question that could well be central to your business. What do you fall in love with? Your products? Or your markets?
Consider these two apparently-contradictory statements.
Henry Ford: If I’d listened to my customers I’d have given them a faster horse.
Sonia Simone: Don’t try and sell what your market doesn’t want to buy.
(If you haven’t heard of Sonia Simone – she’s one of the world’s foremost authorities on blogging & internet marketing and probably read by around 150,000 people a week.)
Conventional marketing wisdom supports Sonia – you should listen to what your customers want and make sure you deliver it. After all, if that wasn’t right big companies wouldn’t spend millions on market research would they?
On the other hand Henry Ford is…well, Henry Ford. And what’s more, he’s got Steve Jobs on his side:
A lot of the time people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
Steve was right. Did we know we wanted an iPhone? Of course we didn’t. But now there are millions of people around the world who would rather give up their car/children/wife/Newcastle United season ticket (delete as appropriate) than their beloved phone.
So they can’t both be right, can they? Yes, I think they can.
Common sense dictates that in a small business you have to give your customers what they want – especially in the current economic conditions. You need to research your markets, focus on delivering the products and benefits that your customers want and need, and make sure you give outstanding service.
That’s the core of your business. That’s what you should be doing 80-90% of the time. Delivering the right product to the right market at the right time at the right price.
But what about the other 10-20% of your time?
That’s when you need to innovate. Always remember – your market provides demand. It doesn’t provide innovation – either you do that, or your competitors will do it.
If you spend 100% of your time being in love with your market, sooner or later you’ll fall behind. Customers will never give you innovative solutions or new ideas. They’ll never say, “Actually, I’ve got this idea that might be even better than a faster horse…”
At some point in every business there has to be a spark, a new idea, a ‘Eureka moment.’ And it has to be followed by a leap of faith. It was there when you started the business – and it needs to be repeated at regular intervals. You need to keep the self-belief that you had when you said, “There’s a business here. Let’s do it.”
Being in love with your market is great. It’s the core of your business. But it’ll only take you so far. Sometimes you need to remember the words of Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.