Updated April 2012. Originally published in “The Marketing Intelligence Blog” September 2009.
Most of my adult life, I’ve marketed specialty plastics and chemicals to technically sophisticated business customers, while my wife’s family has earned a nice living in insurance sales and marketing. Now, there’s a world of difference between health and life insurance policies – and the mostly Medicare age consumers who buy them – and the high performance polymers used in innovative medical and electronic devices, cars and airplanes, building materials and green energy systems.
But … I’ve learned that, deep down, the fundamentals of marketing and selling are just that – fundamental – regardless of the product or service you’re selling. Here are Four Fundamentals that will pay you big dividends, whether you’re selling insurance or plastics, cars or machine tools or houses, dental care or home remodeling services, music or movies, shirts, shoes or dresses.
What are those fundamentals?
1. Know WHO your potential customers are and WHAT makes them tick. Then FOCUS on the segments that fit you best
“You can’t be all things to all people” is especially true in business. Focus your attention and resources on the people who are most likely to appreciate and pay for what you offer. Make sure you understand what turns them on and turns them off, where they go to find offerings like yours, and who they listen to when they make decisions about your product / service.
2. UNDERSTAND the problems and opportunities your customers face (especially the opportunities they’re not yet aware of)
Few of your potential customers (even the most experienced and astute) really understand how their life or business situation could be better. It’s up to you, the intelligent outsider, to learn the ins-and-outs of their situation so well that you can paint a convincing picture of the better future they could have if they choose you.
3. DESIGN YOUR OFFERING (your product or service plus all the other ways your customers interact with you) to best help them address the opportunity or problem
These days, the ‘better mousetrap’ is often not the mousetrap itself but the training, services, support and friendly accessibility that surround the steel springs and trigger device itself. The more effectively your offering solves your customers’ problem – and the easier it is for them to find and do business with you – the more successful you’ll be.
4. Make sure you STAND OUT from your competitors, in ways that MAKE A DIFFERENCE to the people who’s buying decisions determine your success
Not long after your customers start to prefer your new and improved mousetrap, your competitors will notice, too. Don’t waste energy complaining about copycats, but focus instead on making sure your customers have good reasons to spend their $$$ with you instead of the competition. (Just please, please, please resist the temptation to start down the seductive but often dead-end road of a price war.
Wondering how to get started? A great way to take a fresh, unbiased look at your marketplace is to engage a consultant, for example: