By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter
(From my “those dang customers have minds of their own” file)
Once again, I’m serving as an adviser for the annual TVC equity symposium, where entrepreneurs present to potential investors. Adviser teams review the biz plan, help with everything from IP protection to marketing, and assist with developing the 10-minute presentation. I always enjoy working with such excited, optimistic people. And, I learn as much as (I hope) I educate.
However, there are consistent blind spots – regardless of the entrepreneur’s experience, industry or type of company. One of the biggest is assuming that because the customer should (of course!) want your product is that they will want your product (and then it’s a whole ‘nother exercise to get them to pay for it.)
This blind spot affects everything from target market validation to marketing communications. Assumptions become written in stone, if one isn’t careful. For example:
1. The potential customer market sector is spending a bazillon dollars on a technology component. So, of course, they’ll LEAP at your ‘”same performance at a lower cost” solution.
Maybe not. Just how entrenched is your competition (how much golf does the CEO play with the customer’s CEO?) Like it or not, big sales are highly political internally – and the bigger the company, the more difficult it can be to work your way through the power structure. What are the switching costs for the customer? What are the real and perceived risks? (Will you even be in business next year? What happens if something breaks? What’s the potential career-damaging costs of taking a chance on you?)
We don’t talk much about “marketing to women” in the symposium, since many of the products are B2B and women are (still) not perceived as key decision makers, particularly in engineering-dominated companies.
The one company I worked with that decided they were going to give it a go – placed a SINGLE ad in Good Housekeeping, with a cute kid on a tricycle. Didn’t get any sales so decided that “marketing to women” didn’t work. ?!
So, let’s talk about those women…
2. The target customer is – ta-da! – women. You’re offering a product that will make children safer, so you put a lot of kids into your ads and make revenue projections based on total number of women consumers in the U.S. (and we “all know” that women make over 80% of all purchase decisions). Easy-peasy! Who doesn’t want to make the world safer for their children? You’ll be a multi-million dollar company in no time!
Maybe not. What if your product is priced too high for many single moms to afford? What if your product only offers an incremental improvement over an existing product? Certainly, helicopter parents may rush to buy it, but, how do you reach those and quickly? And, will they buy more than one?
So, before you leap into a market, CERTAIN of your customer assumptions – remember your “should” isn’t their “will.”