When marketing dollars are wasted

Acme Industries has a created a new product. It’s the result of a big investment in R&D — for them, anyway. It’s been field-tested and focus-grouped. Acme is convinced it has a winner. “It’s so good people don’t even know how much they’re going to want it,” their president has said. Now that they’ve created this new wonder, it’s time to call in marketing and instruct them to tell everyone in the industry about it.

The obvious response might be full agreement — “Yes, tell everyone!” After all, that’s the role of marketing, right? Mass communication. So Acme’s marketing department — three guys, but hey — starts churning out ads for the trade pubs and press releases for the media. But, wait — that’s probably not the best approach, because …

The reality is that not everyone in your industry is a prospect for your product or service, nor is everyone who uses the kind of product you sell a prospect for your particular model, no matter how good it is. That’s often tough for companies to accept when they’re not marketing driven. It’s even tougher for the president of the company to accept when he or she has invested blood, sweat, and tears into a project. Fact is, unless the new product has a niche — and increasingly, a very specific niche — it’s not going anywhere.

Ideally, marketing would work closely with R&D at the very beginning of product development. That doesn’t always happen, of course. But if it did, a new product would more likely occupy a defined space in the market and so have a greater chance for success.

Another reality is that bringing all potential buyers up to speed about a new product — which is what you’d have to do — is generally a very expensive proposition. The amount of time and money you’d have to spend on educating buyers about the product will far outweigh any potential return on investment from marketing. Marketing gains power — and its cost efficiencies — by exploiting a mass desire in the market not by trying to create one.

And then there’s the strategic view. Once you’ve already done the educating, you’ve laid the groundwork for your competitors to come right in and start communicating with those prospects — and now they’ll be able to do it at lower cost, thanks to your efforts. You’ve done all the work of clearing out the trees and brush simply to create a playing field for your competitors to use.

So, then, what’s the right play here? Simple — fish where the fish are.

Marketing should focus on finding those specific prospects who would benefit from the product’s specific advantages. Headlines, email subject lines, white paper titles, and so on, have to zero in on getting the right prospects to raise their hands and say, “Yes, this is something potentially useful to me.” When you communicate aggressively to those prospects and those prospects only, then you’re on the right track to generating more leads faster, winning more sales faster, and creating an installed base faster.

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