We can make things complicated. I can make things complicated.
And there’s no shortage of frameworks and methodologies you can power through in search of the perfectly crafted strategy and the well-honed marketing plan.
There are the 4 P’s (or is it 5?) and the 7 S’s. There are the classic constructs put forth by Porter and Christensen and the like, not to mention whatever newest bestseller helps you find your strength, lean in or whatever.
There are the people who will tell you it’s all about the product (spoiler alert: they’re wrong).
There are the people who will tell you it’s all about value (sorry, too vague).
There are the people who say it’s all about price (well, that depends. So partial credit for them).
If you are in a business category that is more or less a commodity, where the lowest price defines who gets the sale, then three things are true: you are engaged in a race to the bottom, you had better be sure you can meet or beat whatever price point is likely to clear the market and you must become the low-cost provider. Otherwise, you’re toast. If not today, then soon.
For everyone else–and that’s most of us–there are plenty of things that are table-stakes. Don’t deliver on them and you aren’t in the game.
But the three things that ultimately matter are these:
- Cultivate the right customers. Customer selection and focus is essential. If you’re complaining that too many of your customers only buy with deep discounts, guess what? That’s your dragon to slay. If your customer base is mis-aligned with your value proposition and how you can make money, it’s time for a shift. If you’re not sure, get to work to understand the needs, desires and lifetime value of each segment. And it’s okay to fire the wrong customers.
- It’s the experience, stupid. Product is important. It’s not everything. There is a reason that some people pay $1 for a bottle of water and others pay $4 for essentially the same stuff. There is a reason that people stand in line at the Apple store for the newest phone when they can get the same phone more quickly and (some times) more cheaply elsewhere. People pay vast premiums and/or select one competitor over the other for virtually identical stuff all the time. And it’s the total experience that matters. In today’s world of endless choices and relentless downward pressure on prices, it’s up to you to find your secret sauce or purple cow. Otherwise you might be seeing your pink slip.
- A story that must be told. It’s always been a good idea to encourage word-of-mouth. In the connection economy it’s a must. The art of storytelling must be woven into your DNA and that starts with remembering that people engage with emotion more than reason and that in order to be remarked upon you must be remarkable. Stories that connect emotionally and personally, that demand to be shared, are what matter more and more
Here’s a brand that puts it all together in a funny, on brand (albeit not totally SFW) marketing piece.