With marketing it is never just one thing

Marketing Gurus have simple and universal solution to your business problems. Perhaps, too simple. There is always one simple answer that broadly applies to all businesses. Whether the business is small or a large enterprise, whether it is a startup or a well established player and regardless of market conditions they recommend their one solution.

Based on the guru you pick or the point in time we get many such simple one size fits all edicts

  1. Tell better stories, because all marketers are liars storytellers
  2. Increase your price by 1%
  3. Keep your existing customers because 5% increase in loyalty increases profits by 75%
  4. Enchant your customers
  5. Generate remarkable content and just do inbound marketing
  6. Launch products like Apple does
  7. Give your product away, because free is free marketing
  8. Streamline user experience across all touch points
  9. Appoint women board members because organizations that have women board members saw 46% growth on return on equity
  10. To be fair I should add – Have two (or three) prices because if one price is good two are better (that is me indeed)

But in the real world, when you are facing declining revenue, changing market conditions, ever changing competitive field, technology disruptions and changing customer needs these one size fits all simple solutions woefully fall flat.

There is never just one thing any brand can do that can magically turn the business around.There is no glass to break to deploy the emergency solution.

You wouldn’t take the same prescription from your doctor because he recommended it to previous 100 patients, would you? In fact we do not even know what the problem really is before we can start to talk about solutions.

Take for example this struggling winery featured in The Washington Post case study:

Clos Du Val, a maker of fine Bordeaux wines found itself in troubled waters despite thirty years of success in the market. While the market was growing their sales fell. Analysts (Gurus) blamed the company for clinging to status quo and not changing when the customers’ taste changed. They were stuck in the middle between brands with bigger marketing budget and the nimbler boutique wineries.

Try applying any one of the popular solutions. Nothing fits.

Where would you start?  The marketer hired to fix Clus Du Val, Ms. Brooke Correll started with analysis and data collection to understand what the real problem was.

Correll set out to determine whether the “California wine with a French accent” had what it took to get back in the game.

It is the starting point of understanding the strengths and weaknesses and testing hypotheses.

She canvassed all constituents. She talked with distributors, retailers, restaurateurs, wine reviewers and consumers to assess the health of the brand.

You can’t test a hypothesis with made up data, by wishful thinking or by selective evidence seeking based on availability and convenience. You need to seek data from all stakeholders in the value chain, easy to access or not.

She conducted a quantitative pricing survey among peer Napa wines. She held interviews with its directors, management and sales force.

You can’t just worry about your products and your customers. Customers have choices. There is competition for customer’s wallet. It is not as simple as raising prices by just 1%. It requires quantitative studies to understand customer segmentation, their buying behavior and prices they are willing to pay – not just for your products in isolation but in the presence of all other choices they have.

Only after this data collection and analysis phase does a solution begin to emerge.

Clos Du Val simplified the product portfolio and took a long overdue price hike on the top tier. It unified the look of its labels to an updated version of the widely recognized terra cotta original. It created consistent brand imagery at every consumer touch point: a new Web site, a renovated tasting room, upscale branded merchandise and revamped wine clubs. Added PR component with product placements in shows like The Sopranos.

These actions would not have been possible without the initial diagnosis phase. No one action by itself would have been enough as well.

The results? With any turnaround, the results are not going to materialize overnight. It took them 18 months to turn around.

Still in love with simple solutions from Gurus for your difficult business challenges?

Note: I must note that we still do not know what other factors were at play in the turnaround. It is still likely we ignored other shifts in the marketplace or just plain luck in the Clos Du Val turnaround. After all any success story is laden with hindsight and narrative biases. But the recommendation to start with a clear understanding of your problem then define a comprehensive set of solutions remains true.