I recently took a road trip to Vermont for a weekend with my extended family---which has zero to do with marketing, so why am I bring it up? Bear with me. I'm mentioning it because a few experiences that happened on the trip reminded me of a few reminders that I needed to, um...be reminded of, about marketing and business in general.
Full disclosure, we weren't lost so much as there were moments when we didn't know exactly where we were (okay, so I guess you could argue that's what being lost is), but I thought it was a catchy title so I went with it.
Here are the 3 lessons:
Provide Value First and Foremost
Let me begin at the ending. Near the end of the trip, we took a 45-minute detour to the middle of nowhere (which is saying a lot considering that we were already in Vermont) to stop by an "Honor System" homemade pie "bakery" ---Let's pause and all do air quotes...and then let's ask ourselves what exactly is an Honor System homemade pie bakery anyway?
The bakery wasn't actually a bakery. Instead it was a, well, you decide: A person (or persons, I'm not really sure) bakes different kinds of delicious pies and then puts them in a case outside of their house. Customers then drive from miles around to go to the completely unattended case, they pick out their pies, put money into a slot, and then go about their day...so really, anyone could go to the case and take all the pies without paying...but apparently, that doesn't seem to be an issue.
First, a thought: We often tend to think of "Disruption" of an industry or market in terms of tech startups such as Uber or Spotify shaking up the taxi cab (Uber) or the music store (Spotify) industries. But if the aforementioned business model isn't an example of disruption, I'm not sure what is.
Plus, I just think it's cool that a small business and non-startupy (it's a word...no not really, but I like it) businesses can find unique ways to bring their product to market.
But the main point and the reminder I took from the detour was this:
Ultimately, a successful business begins and ends with the quality of your product or service. More specifically, whether your customers resonate and connect with your product or service.
On the other hand, it's fair to argue that oftentimes the product doesn't even have to be "good", it just needs to be perceived as being good. And yes, there are a lot of failed businesses that had amazing products or services.
But while all that may be true, as a general rule, I do believe the key to a businesses' success is to have a product or service that provides value to customers.
I feel that marketers, salespeople, and other business folk tend to get wrapped up in the latest and greatest marketing or sales technique, Best Practice, tool, platform, approach, and on and on and on. But those trendy elements won't provide the ROI you're seeking if your product or service doesn't provide value to customers in the first place.
Bottom Line: What this reminded me of is to focus on making sure the products and services we offer to folks are as strong as they can be and that they provide as much value as possible.
You Need a Plan, but You Can't Predict the Future
The short version of the story is that while driving up to VT, we hit a snowstorm on a bitterly cold night while driving on a highway with very little visibility and no cellphone or GPS reception.
The lesson I was reminded of is that when it comes to marketing or any other department in a business, we must have a detailed plan of where we want "to go", what path or approach we feel is best, and what we'll need to "get there." That said, even with a solid detailed plan, life is messy, things change, business is unpredictable. That is the way of it. As such, business-folk need to accept the unpredictability, even prepare in advance for it, but to embrace the idea and the fact that the best laid plans cam change in the blink of an eye. So, whether it's marketing or another facet of business, we must plan as much as possible but be ready to embrace change and uncertainty when they come down the pike.
Understand Your Customer
As part of the experience of the trip, I was given the opportunity to spend a few days experiencing my relatives' day-to-day routine as two sets of parents raising two sets of awesome, but rambunctious boys. It was a world I'd never fully seen or understood previously...and the experience was an eye-opening and interesting one to say the least.
Obviously, I understand that being a parent isn't easy. I understand it both in general and in specific by being around my extended family fairly often. But it wasn't until I was interacting with them full-time in their natural day-to-day state (rather than in short visits, or during an fun activity-laden vacation), that I started to get a true sense of the time, energy, patience, practice, and planning it requires to raise a family. It made me appreciate my siblings and in-laws even more than I already did. It also reminded me of another marketing lesson as well...
In order to understand anything fully, whether it's understanding a person as a human being, their pain points as a customer, or how a product or service affects a customer, we need to take time to immerse ourselves in their world, to go through what they go through daily, and to understand the details of what is actually happening between your customers and your service or product.
All that from a weekend trip to Vermont, who knew? Trip to the wooded North aside, do you have any marketing lessons that you've been reminded of recently? Or are their any lessons you've learned that were so valuable that you've never forgotten them? If so, please share below in our comments section.
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