What Business Are You Really In?

BKBG Business Blog,

In 1960, Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt coined the term “marketing myopia.”  Levitt believed businesses were too focused on products and services and did not spend enough time or resources trying to understand what customers want or need.  Fast-forward to today, Levitt would say that kitchen and bath showrooms spend too much time focusing on cabinets, countertops, appliances, plumbing fixtures and cabinet hardware than crawling inside the heads of the customers to find out what they really want and what motivates them to renovate their kitchens and baths.  It’s not about the products per se, but how the products will make your clients feel once their renovation project is complete that motivates renovation decision-making.  

No one in the showroom business today can be truly successful unless they know how to market their business. Avoiding marketing myopia is the result of knowing what jobs you perform for your customers.  Levitt pointed out more than 60 years ago that railroads failed because they believed they were in the transportation business when actually their job was to help its customers to get from point A to point B.  It’s the same reason why Sony went from market leader with its Walkman to an also ran.  Sony believed it was in the device business when actually Steve Jobs understood that the Apple iPod was part of the music business and his goal was to enable Apple customers to put 1,000 songs in their pockets.  

To better understand what business you are in, ask the following questions:

  • What do you really do for your customers?
  • What needs to you fill?
  • What brings your customers joy?
  • Why do they pick you versus a competitor that offers comparable if not identical products?
  • What business are you really in?

Levitt’s admonition to focus on what customers want and need involves taking the concept up several more notches.  Customer focus requires recognizing that there are multiple stakeholders in operating a kitchen and bath showroom.  The jobs a showroom performs for a repeat builder client are different than the jobs the showroom performs for a single-family homeowner.  The customer journey also has changed since 1960.  That’s why determining what customers truly want requires input from employees, suppliers, social media sites, buying groups, trade associations and others that interact with consumers on different stages of the buying journey.  

Levitt’s advice more than a 60 years ago to focus on meeting customer needs instead of selling products rings true today.  You can’t predict the future, Levitt said, but by keeping in mind the business that you are really in prepares you for whatever the future may bring.