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Change Your Definition of Marketing

A static concept means a stagnant business, and there's never been a better time for reinvention.

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In my 35 years working with owners, entrepreneurs and big corporate clients on , I've seen many different definitions of marketing govern people's approaches to it, and unfortunately, most versions are narrow, limiting and--well--wrong. Marketing shouldn't just be a cog in the wheel or a link in the chain of moving prospects to buyers or products to market.

Of late, the entire U.S. has been weighed down by a massive over-supply of look-alike, do-alike, painfully ordinary businesses doing ordinary things in ordinary ways. About one-third are unnecessary duplicates.This column's space prohibits full discussion of everything marketing is and isn't, should and shouldn't be. But one of the best functions of marketing has always been business reinvention, and there's never been a better or more necessary time for that.

In No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits, I tell the story of a executive describing "the million dollar piece of gum"--how gum left on the ground might cost the company a million dollars. Walt originally included park cleanliness as a marketing function, not a cost of operations. He defined the core of good marketing as doing what you do so well and so uniquely that people can't resist telling others about you. Disney reinvented the traditional . Initial reinventions included: single entry and exit rather than open design--forcing customers to exit through the main shopping area and all the souvenir stands, an innovation now replicated in the exit paths from individual rides and attractions within the parks; price per day vs. individual tickets for rides; and the aforementioned cleanliness.

Similarly, reinvented the coffee shop as "the third place"--Starbucks--and is now trying to reinvent for the developing New Economy and "un-invent" some sins committed in his absence.

A radical approach to innovation and marketing isn't restricted to big corporations--there are plenty of small businesses ahead of the curve. Let me tell you about a few of our Glazer-Kennedy Insider's CircleT members who have reinvented the concept of fractional ownership.

Diana Coutu of Diana's Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg doubled her business' and size last year selling pizzas priced from $22 to $38, thanks to innovations not at all common to places, including levels of membership with fees automatically charged to customers' credit cards every month (stabilizing income and locking in use in advance, thus protecting customers from competitors' seductions); multiple ways to take home the products--cooked and ready to eat, frozen and ready to heat, "from scratch" baking kits (for family fun nights), raw dough--and with comprehensive direct-to-customers marketing built around a newsletter and website.

Nigel Worral reinvented the business of renting out homes to Florida vacationers with different clubs, bundled excursion and adventure activities, and extraordinary marketing with an emphasis on the experience, not 'X' number of bedrooms plus a pool for 'Y' dollars a day, marketing--and his business is booming even as other Florida travel destinations cry about the recession.

Chris Hurn, CEO of Kennedy's All-American Barber Club, reinvented by combining a classic men's barber shop that offers straight razor shaves with a men's club atmosphere and different programs of membership--as opposed to cafeteria-style pricing.

In all these cases, marketing is not being used as a means of getting a customer or making a sale. Instead, it's in the context of dynamically changing the business itself and delivering an entirely different customer experience. With this comprehensive approach, the businesses thrive.

The hierarchy of income:

  • Bottom is commodities.
  • Next--products and services discussed in terms of features and benefits, provided by vendors and salespeople.
  • Next--solutions to problems and fulfillment of unmet desires, provided by experts.
  • At the top, exceptional experiences provided by experts in "categories of one."

Begin here: Question and be willing to throw out any and every industry norm, tradition, current belief, idea and practice now defining your business, as you advertise, market and operate it and as customers perceive it. Then search for opportunities to make your business something entirely different and more meaningful to the customer than just a provider of goods and services. Very, very, very few business owners are willing to engage in such radicalism. We have a term for them: multimillionaires.

Widely celebrated as "the millionaire maker," Dan Kennedy has a long record of taking entrepreneurs to 7-figure incomes. A serial entrepreneur directly influencing over 1 million business owners as a business coach, he's the author of the popular No B.S. series, including the forthcoming No B.S. Sales Success for The New Economy, accessible for free preview at More information about Dan can be found at

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