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So… what business is your company in?

One of the most fundamental things in marketing is to always remember what business you’re in. It sounds a bit elementary, but it genuinely is important. So I’m going to ask you the question now. What business is your company in?

Seriously, if this is to work, you need to answer that question now. Do not scroll down, or read any further, until you’ve done so. As it’s almost impossible to do that, I’m going to help by putting in an imaginary form for you to fill in the answer.

Right, here’s the point of the exercise. The right answer was something to do with your customers. It should have addressed what they want, and how you meet that need. It’s the one time when the word “solutions” does at least represent the right way of thinking, even if it’s a woolly one. The wrong answer was one which just described your products or services.

I’m not proud to say that I failed this test when I first read it. I answered that our company “provides a Google AdWords management service for industrial and scientific companies”. Which is true, but we’re limiting our marketing message critically if we focus on that. Excuse me using our own business as an example, but it’s a good one. What are we doing for clients? If they’re running a Google AdWords campaign, we’re taking the job off their hands, and providing better results (we hope), at little or no extra cost from doing it themselves. If they’ve never used Google AdWords, we’re offering them the chance to stop wasting their advertising budget on things which don’t work any more and divert it into the thing which works best, without having to learn how to do it, or spend any money doing so. These are great sales messages, and – of course – they’re what we should be focusing on.

So what business is your company in? Are you in the business of selling widgets? Does your marketing all revolve around your widgets and what they do? Or are you in the business of helping customers do whatever they need to do, in a better way than they’re doing at the moment?

It’s not about you, it’s all about them.

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