What Business Are You Really In?

Figure out what business you're REALLY in and watch your profits soar!by Steve Houston

This is an important question every business owner, principal, or marketing executive should ask themselves early in the game, and you should consider it carefully from two different perspectives before answering.  The two correct answers – first from your client’s point of view, and then from your own perspective as a principal in your business – will probably turn out not to be what you thought they would be. 

These answers are vitally important to the success of any business.  Owners who gain a true understanding of these two issues and approach them accordingly will greatly increase their chances of not only succeeding but prospering within their specific business verticals.

Let’s look first at how clients view your company’s products and services.  Years ago, when asked what business his company was in, this is how Charles Revlon (of Revlon cosmetics fame) responded:

“In the factories we make perfume, but in the stores we sell hope.”

Revlon’s simple statement reveals some fundamental truths about marketing – truths that many business owners, marketing departments, and product developers to this day still don’t realize.  These truths strike directly at the heart of why your clients come to you, and what those clients are really buying.

It’s far too easy and not all that unusual for executives to view things myopically…to be product or service obsessed…to overly self-identify with the products and services they sell.  Shortsightedness like this is common in every type of business sector.

When you boil it all down, it doesn’t make much difference what products and services you’re selling.  What you’re really selling to your clients are intangibles.

Charles Revlon knew this and he also understood some key truths about the people he chose – yes, he chose – to be his customers:

  • People want to improve things, to make things better.  That desire is always there, even though some people will work hard to do it and many other people won’t.
  • When given the choice between being optimistic and pessimistic, most people choose optimism.
  • People do many things based on the hope that they’ll become happier, healthier, more loved, more secure, gain peace of mind, etc.  They join clubs, churches, start their own businesses, go on diets, enter into relationships, and more as they invest in hope, time and time again.

When you look through this prism and truly understand what your clients actually need, want and desire, you now have the most important keys with which to effectively market your business to them. 

This is the correct answer to the first question.  Now let’s ask the same question from a different perspective.  Mr. or Ms. Owner, what business are you – personally – really in?

You’re in the marketing business!  In fact, everyone in your company – directly or indirectly – is in the marketing business!

Your primary focus needs to be on the strategic role of acquiring, retaining, and maximizing the lifetime value of your clients.  It’s all about changing your perspective from being a tactical “doer” – making or selling certain goods and/or services in exchange for getting people to pay you for them – and focus instead on the activities that are going to improve the profitability of your business and help it grow.

In today’s business culture, this mind shift can be difficult for some to accomplish.  Go to any trade show or industry conference and people will tell you that they’re in the “(fill in the blank) business”, or that they “make the best widget out there today”.  They think of – and define – themselves as being a maker or doer of something, rather than as a marketer of something. 

However, in the real world, this view you have about your role in the business has critical ramifications for it.  It influences how you allocate your valuable time, energy, and capital. 

The value of just doing things is much less than the value of actively managing your company’s relationship with your clients – and managing it effectively through the same perspective that your clients view you.  Just as Charles Revlon did, you have the best insight into your clients’ inner needs and desires, so it’s incumbent upon you to handle, or at least direct, the strategic marketing of your business.

There is, of course, no substitute for doing – someone has to create the product or service, sell or lease it, ship or deliver it, etc.  Doing, so to speak, is a necessary evil of business.  There are plenty of talented, capable people out there who are perfectly suited for that role, and it’s easy to delegate those functions to them.  Most anyone can be a doer, but few people have the skills to handle, or can be entrusted with, THE most critical role in any business – marketing it.

All too often, most business owners view marketing as an afterthought or as an unnecessary expense, something to do if they have some time, energy or money left over at the end of the work day.  However, by focusing more on becoming a more effective marketer for your business and delegating the doing to others, you radically increase your business’s chances for success, growth and increasing your own personal wealth.

Ask any highly successful businessperson what one activity they spend the vast majority of their working time on, and invariably you’ll get a response similar to “Marketing my company”.  Because of your close proximity to your clients and your clear insight into exactly what you’re selling to them, this makes you the most logical choice to handle this critically important business function for your company.

You, of all people, are in THE best position to not only understand exactly what it is you’re selling, but who you’re selling it to.  This is where your true value lies.  Make an effort to work more ON your business than IN it. For the sake of your company, try to become a better marketer – and less of a maker or doer.