Insights – May 20091

Pundits are debating whether marketing as we know it is in crisis mode. The industry information I read from time to time reports brand loyalty is in steady decline, return on investment is bottoming out, and traditional marketing as we know it is changing forever.

The reason, they claim, is due to the way consumers and professionals are receiving and processing the information that is aimed at them every day. Television, for instance, has created problems for those hoping to reach the masses with their message due to the sheer volume of choices we now have. I think it was Bruce Springsteen who complained in his song a few years ago “57 Channels and Nothing On.” Now there are 250 channels to choose from with the same results.

It is certainly true there are more and more ways to communicate today, making it more difficult, and perhaps more critical than ever, to find the appropriate medium for taking your message to more of your target audience. There are a number of different ways to do that. The old way is to sit around throwing out ideas, hoping there are a few gems in the bunch that will provide an innovative way to tell the world about your company and the services you provide.

The new way is to go ask the real boss – your customers – what they want. How many horror stories have you heard about businesses failing because they stopped providing their customers what they wanted and needed? By the same token, the truly successful businesses have made their customers the most influential link in their policy chain, dictating the direction these companies should ultimately grow.

I once heard a presentation by a marketing expert who compared the history of Sony and Apple. Sony owned the music industry in the 80’s with their “Walkman” portable cassette player. Then along came Apple’s iPod and the ease with which users could interface their new music box with their home computer (Apple or not). Sony tried to counter with a competitive product, but their divisions could not improve on a finished product that was easy to operate and allowed customers to download their favorite music. Today, Sony is almost out of the music business, and Apple continues to wow their customers with their innovations.

During these tough economic times, the old “stay the course” mentality may not be the recipe for future success, especially if you are off course to begin with. Simply keep the main thing, the main thing. Your customers will show you the route to victory.

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