The purpose of a marketing plan is to define the necessary steps to achieve your business objectives. There's a big difference, however, between writing out something that sounds good and something that actually works.
Below are four common mistaken marketing assumptions that could ruin your business.
1. Overreliance on What Worked Before
"If it isn't broken, don't fix it" isn't a strategy. That's not to say that you can't build on previous successes, but if you simply expect past successes to continue, you may fail to identify new opportunities or address new issues that are now potentially threatening. "Fighting last year's battle today" leads to losing the war tomorrow, according to marketing trainers EMM Group.
Many companies try to ignore competitor innovations and focus, incorrectly, on incremental improvements to their existing product lines. Forbes draws lessons from Blackberry's decline from being the dominant smartphone manufacturer. Similarly, Sony fell from grace due to their lack of innovation, and plainly, ideas. The inventor of the portable music player terminated production of the iconic Walkman recently, on the anniversary of the day the iPhone was announced.
These companies saw themselves as makers of things; their job was to keep improving those things. But modern marketers think of themselves as customer satisfaction companies, and focus on what customers want and what customers are saying.
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2. If You Build It, They Will Come
Only in the movies. As Susan Carter, business operations expert and editor of Success Stories points out, "there is a misconception among small business owners that, with the right product or service, your customers will simply 'find' you when you open for business."
Most small business owners are focusing so much on making their product or providing their service that they fail to inform potential customers they the product or service exists, and how it benefits them.
3. Your Customers Will Want What You Want
Of course, you think your product or service is the coolest thing since the invention of sliced bread. Be careful in assuming that what appeals to you necessarily appeals to your customer base.
Consider the Arch Deluxe burger from McDonald's. McDonald's saw a growing trend among consumers for better quality fast food, and the idea was to create a burger with appeal to more sophisticated diners. The problem is that more sophisticated diners don't go to McDonald's.
You need to be in touch with the needs and wants of your customers. Product innovation should flow from the ground up. That means, the source of ideas should come from customer analysis and customer input, then be worked out at headquarters—not cooked up at HQ and then sprung on customers.
Related Article: Plan Your Marketing Like a Pro - Sample Marketing Plan Outline
4. Playing Follow the Leader
When you see a competitor's success, it's tempting to want to put your hand up and say, "me, too!" That's what Microsoft did when it saw the sales for Apple's iPad. So far, Microsoft has lost $1.7 billion on its Surface tablets. Worse, Microsoft is paying the NFL $400 million in a package that supplies players and coaches with Surface tablets, yet television commentators continue to refer to the devices as iPads.
Think carefully about a me-too strategy. You have to sell at a significantly lower price point to even play catch-up. If you're not leveraging core competencies, following the leader isn't likely to get you anywhere. Microsoft is primarily a software company that has been very successful in business sales, not a hardware company making consumer products. They should leverage what they know best by innovating around core business customer needs.