I won't say I learned all three of these the hard way, because that would imply having put real money into a contest against real people, which never happened. It did, however, take me years to recognize that strategy based too heavily on superior product was not good enough, and I'm still working, I have to admit, on the critical decision of when to change the plan. So I'd like to save you some of the trouble I've had, and suggest that the following are three truths you ought to know.
1. Great marketing beats great product.
Sad but true. The full form of this statement is that great marketing for mediocre product will almost always beat mediocre marketing of great product.
I started in high tech in the late 1970s as a market analyst for Creative Strategies. I followed the personal computer and personal computer software markets as a professional analyst into the 1990s and since then as a software entrepreneur. I've seen this happen over and over again. The best product doesn't usually win the race. Sure, it happens sometimes, but far more often, the best marketing wins.
Apple perhaps, with its "insanely great" products? I'd argue that Apple's design and Steve Jobs' success story is more marketing than product. There were MP3 players before the iPod, multifunction phones before iPhone, and tablet computers before the iPad.
2. Real people beat real money.
As one of my grandkids would say, "I hope I hope I hope." The world is changing so fast. Big companies spend big money on big ads in big media, but people prefer local, authentic and real people. Lots of Davids beat the Goliaths. People want focused, segmented and local, and they want to identify with an individual.
I was one of a group of angel investors who chose to invest in Good Clean Love, a natural organic intimacy product. One of us worried aloud that big pharmaceutical and consumer product brand names might jump on the market, copy the product benefits, and spoil the opportunity.
"Nope," came the convincing comment from an investor who's already built a natural organic brand, "that won't happen because people won't buy these products from a big impersonal company. People care about the story, and the people behind the story." And I believe that. I'd argue that Apple's success feels like Steve Jobs' success, and Amazon.com is Jeff Bezos', and Zappos is Tony Hsieh's. And then there's Huffington Post. There are so many examples.
And who's winning in the new world; Facebook, Twitter, and the like? The real winners are smaller companies run by individuals who share their authentic selves.
3. Consistency beats brilliance.
The full form of this one is: better a mediocre marketing plan consistently applied over a few years than a series of brilliant strategies, each lasting months, each contradicting the last one.
That's another one, like the first one here, that I call sad but true. If you define marketing like John Jantsch does, getting people to know, like and trust you, then you have to realize that it takes being the same you – whether that's a personalized company you or a larger company brand – over a long period of time. Every time you reinvent the brand, you start back at zero.
Sure, in real-world marketing you can't keep doing something that isn't working just because it's in your plan. But, on the other hand, with any normal marketing strategy you and your whole team are bored stiff with a marketing strategy long before it begins to make impact on those people you want to reach. You need to give it time. And you need to stick with it until it's not working, not just until you're bored with it.
You can't expect to hit the bullseye with every arrow. You keep trying.Illustration: istockphoto.com