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Warning: The biggest business mistake you’ll ever make

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Kiwi companies are sleepwalking into a trap, and they don’t even realise it. Only the smartest business owners will be able to avoid disaster…and it will mean doing the exact opposite to everyone else.

Marketing is like sex. Everyone thinks about it. Most of us would like to be doing more of it. Very few people are doing it properly. And if you need to pay for it…you’re a bit of a loser.

Personally, I spent many years doing it badly. Then I found someone with more experience who showed me how to get really good at it. Before long, punters were offering me money to do all kinds of crazy things, and I gladly accepted.

Perhaps that makes me the biggest loser of them all.

But the fact I’ve spent years learning the dark arts of my craft does put me in a slightly awkward position for what I’m about to tell you … As a marketer who has advised the likes of Coca-Cola, Heineken, Virgin Atlantic, Microsoft, Vodafone and many more, I can say with some authority: Investing in more marketing for your business could be the biggest mistake you’ll ever make.

Getting Naked

Yes, I know, spouting such blasphemy will probably get the marketing gurus spluttering their flat whites all over their beards and checked shirts.

One of these days you’ll walk up the Mount and find me at the top, naked and hog-tied, as a warning to other souls who dare criticise the cult of S&M (Sales & Marketing – get your mind out of the gutter).

So please allow me to reveal a little more about why I – as a marketer– am warning you against marketing.

On the surface, it all seems so innocent: Marketing brings customers. Customers bring sales. Sales bring money.

But what if you looked at things a different way?

Maybe it’s because I’m British, but I tend to see things upside-down.

Here’s my perspective: Businesses must only focus on selling because they failed at marketing. They only did marketing because they failed at their product. They failed at their product because they failed to understand their customer.

Then, when they get themselves in a pickle, they crack the whip on the sales team, shovel some more coal into the marketing furnace and hope for the best.

It’s like the designers of the Titanic throwing a few more trumpeters into the band and adding some more deckchairs … while totally ignoring the fact that their product might not be serving the needs of their customers.

Sink or Swim

I have a phrase that’s as old as the Titanic, but in the modern era of jazzy influencer marketing and shiny social media ads, it’s quietly gone out of fashion. So it’s time for a revival: ‘A good product sells itself.’

But here’s where we get really controversial; Because I believe that to thrive in 2022, businesses need to change course: Focus LESS on the shiny creature comforts of marketing, and MORE on understanding their customer.

When you understand your customer better, you can create products and offers they love.

If they love the product and the offer, then you don’t need to worry about ‘marketing’ or ‘selling’ it.

Do you need a ‘unique marketing hook’ when you spend thousands of dollars on braces for your kid’s teeth, or an engagement ring, or new boat engine, or a new garage door because your son wanted to test out his go-kart ram raiding skills?

No. You needed a company that perfectly understood your situation and was able to solve your problem in the most effective way.

So, if you want to spend less time, money and effort making messy S&M mistakes (Sales & Marketing, remember) … how do you give your customer the product they truly want?
Do you get me?

Yes of course YOU know your customer, don’t you? You’re the one person who really ‘gets it’.

Except you’re not.

Business owners kid themselves that they know their customers. Usually, it’s because they’ve been in industry for decades, or they’ve had the same customers for years.

Occasionally, a real crazy maverick even takes the time to ask a customer what matters to them. Madness.

But when it comes to designing products, offers and services that sell themselves, we have to go a little deeper into how our customers behave and think.

For example, men and women buy differently. Men seek status, women seek security. Men like logical sales processes, women are more drawn towards insightful, creative stories.

Women see more vivid colours than men. Men are 20 times more likely to be colour-blind than women.

Before you send a hateful protest down to the Bay of Plenty Business News offices, let me say that these are merely scientifically-proven generalisations, and there will always be exceptions to the rule.

But too many companies are burning precious marketing dollars selling products to their audience in the wrong way.

To give you another example that’s less likely to get me cancelled by the ‘highly-offended’ brigade: If your customer is more of a process-driven type (engineers, technicians, IT, building and construction, etc) they are going to be asking lots of questions about ‘HOW’ your product and services work.

But if your customer is more of a creative type (retail, recruitment, consumer goods, media, art, etc), they will want to know ‘WHY’ your offering does what it does, and the story that led to its creation.

If you take the time and care to get to know the demographics and psychographics of your buyers, and tailor your messages and products accordingly, then you won’t have to make the biggest business mistake…
…which is resorting to using sales and marketing as a battering ram to crush your prospect’s spirit and wear them down until they begrudgingly hand over their credit card.

My approach is slightly longer, but by golly, your customers will love you for it. And you’ll like the person you see in the mirror as well.

That’s why I’m an ‘ANTI’-Marketer…and I’m proud of it.

So if you spot me looking a little tied-up at the top of the Mount this weekend, please come and say hello.

Related: Are they cheating on you?

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Freddie Bennett
Freddie Bennett
Guinness World Record Holder, podcast host and bestselling author, Freddie is known as ‘The Profit Hunter’. He helps business owners enjoy more time, money and freedom by discovering and extracting hidden profits in their companies. Freddie@conqueryourmedia.com

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