A better mousetrap

By | August 6, 2019

“If you build a better mousetrap,” the old saying goes, “the world will beat a path to your door.” But that’s not true, is it? 

Let’s say you came up with the perfect sander. It tears off material at an astounding rate, yet can fine-polish to a mirror finish. It can do angles and curves, and shines on inside radii. Now, how do you market it? You go to the internet, of course, and wait for your fortune to come your way. 

Kerry Knudsen

Unfortunately, you will discover that an infestation of roaches, rodents and vermin was watching, and dozens of pirate websites have pushed their way to the front of Google’s search farce and are offering your machine at half price, complete with photos you took yourself and placed on your copyrighted and trademarked site. Plus, Google already returns 40,200,000 results for “world’s best sander.” 

In what has become the normal course of events, you have put in the R&D resources, paid for marketing and manufacturing and all you get is to be labeled an international idiot for your efforts, and you go bankrupt because you have no money left to pay off Google. 

From a marketing perspective, I am finding this a very interesting time to be alive. Not good. Interesting. For example, as established above, Google, the largest marketing medium on the planet, has chosen to deliberately set up the theft of intellectual property from its potential customers and sell it off to a thousand cheaters instead of one honest dealer. The math excuses it all: $1,000 > $1. 

But this raises an interesting question: why did you go to Google in the first place? You know its reputation. Is it the old card-player’s delusion that you can bet the farm on the next draw because if you win the value will be so high that it eliminates the need for reason? 

Of course, the potential for a payoff with Google (or Alibaba, Ebay, Amazon, Etsy or whatever) is huge. The market is as broad as the universe. You can be king. But it doesn’t work that way.  

I mentioned that I was asked to present a lecture on marketing last May at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies for the American Society of Business Publications Editors (ASBPE). The presenter before me was interesting. 

He was a data sales guy, and he had control of the editorial content of a very well-known and once-respected professional magazine. He had instructed his data team to bomb the magazine’s list every day with ad material, obvious or disguised, and bill the advertisers for the blasts. 

He said the editors objected. They said it would kill readership and people would put the whole magazine on the twit filter (my word, not his). His response to the editors was to tell data to “double it.” He said it does not matter how many of the blasts go on the spam filter, that the list is the list and they could keep billing, irrespective of the actual numbers of readers.  

This is bullshit, just in case I need to say that. But it is the kind of bullshit that your own marketing departments have been exposed to by cynical, self-serving, slow thinkers that have ended up in a rigged game and can’t buy their way out.  

And, to be factual, it was presentations just like his that moved ASBPE to ask me to provide the real deal. The presenter’s regurgitated “ideas” are exactly the reason magazines are going down worldwide and taking their information-starved industries down with them. This is what happens when you put ad salesmen that can’t sell in in charge of audience response. If you like, you can watch my presentation here

We need to get real. I think the first time any one of us sticks our toe in the marketing world for the first time we are confronted with the axiom that you need to focus. It is simple, but it’s hard. Here’s how it works: 

  1. Identify your market 
  2. Educate the market. 
  3. Approach the market. 
  4. Serve the market. 

On point one, most of you aren’t selling into horse barns in Borneo or Chile. Your market is the secondary wood-processing sector in North America. 

Second, people need to know what your product does. This is not always obvious. If you have named your product SmartWise, how will anybody know you have the world’s best sander? 

Third, it is tempting to try to lure in customers with vague promises, but they want to know the name of your company, the name of the product (or service) and the product’s applications, specifications and options, if any, along with a contact person and a value statement (price or equivalent). And here’s a BIG secret. Tell them physically where you are. (Clue: not Borneo.) 

Fourth, be somebody. Know people’s names and businesses, respond immediately. For my money, answer your phone or have a receptionist do it. I have been hanging up on voicemail for years, and it has been returning the favour longer than that. 

Focus, target, deliver. How hard is that? 

You will “be somebody” based on where you are seen. Borneo won’t get it. 

Do you have an actual idea of who your customers look to in terms of media information? 


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