When in Doubt Do the Opposite

Many people start up businesses and wonder how they should market them.

Some cling to the “if you build it, they will come” idea or the “if you build a better mousetrap, they will beat a path to your door” myth. But, remember, the movie was called a Field of Dreams. If you want to live your dream, you’ll have to do something else.

I know that I’ll be dating myself when I tell you this story but so what.

Back in the day when we still played movies in cassette tape recorder players there were two competing brands, Betamax and VHS. Betamax was the superior technology. But did it win the day. No. Field of Dreams again.  VHS took over the market. Inferior technology but far superior marketing.

Remember all businesses are at their cores marketing businesses.  If you can’t get people to come in the store or go to your website you can’t sell them anything. And if you can’t sell anything, eventually you won’t be in business at all.

So, if they’re still in business after their Field of Dreams experiment, most business owners decide that they need to get into this marketing thing.  So what do they do?

They copy what they see on TV or what their competitors are doing.

There are a few things wrong with those approaches.

First of all big businesses, e.g. General Electric, have enormous amounts of money to spend on advertising. This is mostly image and branding advertising.  I don’t believe they have any idea what their ROI from that is.  I’m not sure you can even measure it.

You don’t have that kind of money and you do need to know what your ROI is from your advertising so that you can allocate your marketing funds to targets that will spend money on your products or services.

Your competitors are doing what their competitors are doing  and getting the same mediocre results. Since you know this, why would you copy them? You can’t think of anything else to do.

So beware of these two poor marketing models, big business advertising and copying competitors,  and listen to what Earl Nightingale had to  say and it’s still valid, “If you don’t know what to do and don’t have a mentor to advise you, look at what your competition is doing and do the opposite.”

Want some examples?  How about Apple?

Or FedEx. FedEx’s founder’s PHd thesis advisor told him that the FedEx concept in his paper would not work because nobody did business that way.


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