Dear Manager,
In last month’s issue we discussed developing a marketing advantage. An essential step in the development and introduction of any product is in the advantage of a competent marketing individual to insure your products have established their market. It is my belief that the most difficult position to hire in any organization is the individual asked to be your marketing guru.

The single greatest qualification for this individual is a very good gut. They must have a genuine feel for your product and its market. In the interview process how do you possibly test for a good gut? A misdirected marketing gut will absolutely take you faster in the wrong direction than in any other department in your organization. As an alternative to finding this individual, many companies assume a hit or miss mentality. I call this the seat of the pants approach to marketing.

Do not confuse these dramatically contrasting forms of marketing. Gut approaches business with a sense of awareness, feeling and passion that only a few around him will understand. It’s as if Gut has a sixth sense relating to the objective; they hear a voice that no one else can hear. By contrast, Pants hears no voice. In fact, this individual is convinced there is no voice, and has concluded that good fortune and timing are the makings of successful marketing.

At a recent trade show I had the opportunity to meet with two individuals who best illustrate this marketing dynamic. In my conversation with Pants, he suggested that there was no possible way to figure out the needs and wants of the consumer, let alone the whims of his retailers. “My only success has been to throw it on the wall and hope something sticks. Good fortune is the name of the game with relationship to new product.” As I suggested to him on that day, this is a cop out.

I have had the opportunity to work with a number of organizations who are certainly aware of the role fate can play, yet would never consider relying upon it! These organizations consistently hit the mark relating to what the market is asking for, creating their own success through innovation. These are the organizations where an annual sales growth of 30% to 50% is not uncommon. I have seen this reality occur time and time again, how can anyone suggest it doesn’t exist?

In my conversation with Gut, he told me he had just survived a difficult year in which the market had changed and, in hindsight, some bad decisions were made. He immediately went back into the field, working many shows to regain an accurate pulse on the market. I have to ask, how often do marketing people come to a trade show or work in the field to gain feel for the market? I rarely see them.

Gut has aligned himself with individuals who understand the nuances of product development. He is constantly thinking past the obvious and creating first and second generation ideas relating to his product. With every brainstorm he not only asks but listens. He relies upon his peers to provide him with current information and additional perspective. Once the analysis is complete, and the thought has stuck in his head, rather than on the wall, he goes with it. After a difficult year, Gut is not only back on track, he’s near the top.

Allow me to clarify. Who am I to suggest that Pants has no gut? My only criticism is that Pants denies the existence of a gut. Once again, we cannot fully understand what we have not personally experienced.

I recently saw a televised interview with Bill Gates who, along with Paul Allen, founded Microsoft. Is there any question that Bill Gates has a great gut? He not only hears a voice, but hears one that is decades and generations ahead of its time. Who has accomplished more in business and industry over the past twenty-five years?

In this interview, Gates referenced the need for business to constantly re-invent itself. He went on to suggest that every business needs to “obsolete itself as quickly as possible!” Obviously, he was suggesting that business not only stay with the times, but to reach ahead of them, re-inventing itself along the way. While the electronics industry is extremely fast paced, particularly in today’s market, has Bill Gates offered up new principals that would only apply to his industry and not to our own? Absolutely not.

If this is true, why are companies reluctant to re-invent themselves? Why do I see companies become more conservative, losing their entrepreneurial spirit and allowing their presentations to become dated? Are they simply waiting around to catch the next wave of good fortune?

It always has, and always will, come down to creativity, design and innovation. If you no longer have it, then find it. I often hear reference to a product as having reached a mature market. I genuinely believe this is a very kind way of suggesting that a product is stale or, in fact, the market would not be mature. The time to re-invent yourself is at the top of the curve rather than waiting for more desperate times. At the top of the curve, excitement is high, cash reserves are strong and you hold a significant role in the marketplace. New introductions will be looked upon with a level of enthusiasm similar to that for your current offering.

At the bottom of the curve, when your product has been perceived as being dated, excitement will be low and cash reserves will have dwindled. Once again, your new introduction will be looked upon with a level of enthusiasm similar to that for your current offering: dated and of little relevance.

With bottoming-out comes a very clear resolution relating to your options: get your eye back on the ball, or kiss your ass good by. It is now time for a transfusion of new ideas providing energy and a spark to the organization. The need to find that marketing guru may become a bit more obvious, and accepted with a greater awareness and understanding than in the past.

Managers may have sold themselves on the conclusion that there are historic factors that inhibit sustained growth. They might even reason that for there to be a bottom, there must also be a top!

With time, challenges mount, expectations grow, and the price for success only multiplies. There may be a time when the price becomes too high. This is certainly acceptable, as long as in the same breath we have not placed responsibility and blame on the influence of outside factors.

There are no true limitations, only those that are self-imposed. Do not confuse limitations in ones own capacity with any inherent limitations of the marketplace or in that of your organization.

In the lifetime of ones business career there is only abundance.

Personal Regards,

INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2008. Duplication of this publication is permitted for both personal and business use. Excerpts may only be quoted with acknowledgment of INTERPERSONAL and/or INTERPERSONALBIZ.ORG as the source. For re-publication rights, please contact the editor at KEENAN@INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM