Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Marketing: ¿Where can we find the “starting point”?

¿Where can we find the “starting point”?

Talking with a dear digital friend, Luis Reyes (@ Luisreyes6) about an article I published recently, entitled "I want to be social networks, but don’t know where to start" we, among jokes and not-so-serious comments, got to a crossroads and Luis told me: "Joel, it’s obvious we must start from the beginningl" and I then replied "And where is that beginning point then?"

And that question brought me to the topic I’m sharing with you today: We’re now at the beginning of the year and, hopefully, we know exactly where it does begin: It's the first minute, the first day of January.Simple, right?

But, is it that easy to figure out where the starting point is when it comes to your business, your company, or even yourself? Where is that starting point? Why it happens so often that new companies or products fail, and most of them fail even before starting it’s own development? Is there any relation between knowing where the starting point is and the fact that many products don’t reach maturity in their respective markets?

For sure when you were thinking of starting your own business, you put all your enthusiasm and effort in setting it up, its structure, skeleton, in creating your product and developing your brand’s main concept. Maybe you invested a lot of time in finding the most significant opportunities for your product, as well as identifying your market segments, the reasons why people would buy from you and not competitors. In a word: you’ve invested significant time, money and effort in drawing a map that would allow you to clearly see the path that your product, company or brand would follow once it was released.

And sure enough you were also deeply in love with your product, completely convinced it was going to be a success, and you were the first one to be shocked when you had to make the decision to put a stop to everything because your initiative had failed, as it has happened to so many others. You were so excited that you didn’t put time into doing the  initial analysis you had to do, which was - by far -  the most important thing in your “to-do list”, even before doing anything else: to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your product, company or brand.

And here, in my opinion, is where the chain of errors that has been able to prevent your product from establishing and properly developing in the market, begins. A failure doesn’t happen overnight, it turns out to be a sequence of things that happen and start undermining the potential growth of an initiative.

In my experience, and from the experience of colleagues and friends who have set up their own businesses have shared with me, the biggest mistake is to not assess the attributes, limitations, weaknesses and strengths of your product, brand or company,  sincerely, honestly and humbly.

I’m not referring to the analysis you’d have either done or not about the market itself, but about the inner review you should have done to properly identify your niche, your target audience, your approaches and strategies, but really and not superficially.

As always, let me explain myself with an example: You spend the night coughing and very congested, with high fever, stomach discomfort, heaviness in your head and trembling in your extremities. However, when you get to the doctor and he asks you about the symptoms you've had, you simply mention you've had a bit of discomfort and fever.

Do you think the doctor will be able to give you appropriate treatment? Do you think he’ll have the opportunity to really tell you what you have have to do, when the information that he’s starting from is inaccurate and doesn’t adequately represent the real situation you went through?

Same thing happens with products, companies and brands. If the initial analysis, the one you have to do even before analyzing your industry, market or competition, isn’t done in a thorough, honest, sincere and deep way, you're running a huge risk. Why? Because the market itself will show your product’s weaknesses and by bringing it down, it’ll indicate you that it would have been better to invest a little more time in the initial research and preparation.

Have you ever seen one of these contests to find new musical talent, like "American Idol" or “The X-Factor”? Have you ever thought that there are participants which shouldn’t even have entered the contest at all?

Surely these people's friends and relatives were all positive and encourage them to enter the competition, they all thought their friends were talented enough and could do a good job (have you ever seen a mother who doesn’t have nice words for an excited child?) And these people, starting from the wrong place and simply basing all their arguments on an incomplete reality check, embarked on something that had already been marked as a not-happily-ending story.

The market is just like that and generally doesn’t forgive mistakes, especially when they relate to products and brands. That’s why many products don’t make it to their development phase and simply fail to grow because they all started from the wrong place, what we could call a “not-so-real” starting point.

Be sure to start at the beginning, but the real one, not the one you would like to start from. And do it making a real, honest, transparent analysis, that truly reflects your actual situation and not a reflection of what you want. It may take a little longer, but you'll avoid many of the unpleasant situations, which also happen to usually be very expensive.

Is this your case? Did you analyze your business, brand or product in depth before you jumped into the market?

Related post: Seriousness and discipline: Things you can learn from the Army.

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