What is Marketing Myopia?
Marketing Myopia is the failure of a company to understand the changing needs of their customers. A firm that is suffering from marketing myopia will focus on selling their products instead of solving the problems of their clients. Somebody doesn’t buy a car because they need a car, they buy a car because they need a way to get around. Marketing myopia happens when a company that sells cars fails to recognize that what it sells is a transportation solution. If for some reason their customers stopped wanting to use cars to get around, that company needs to find out what they do want to use and sell that.
The term “Marketing Myopia” was first coined by Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt in 1960. In his article by the same name, he explains the perils of marketing short-sightedness. Today the speed of change in our global digital marketplace has made myopic views of marketing even more perilous for business. Entire market sectors are created almost overnight, and competition is worldwide. The only way to combat this is to understand the needs of your customers and how they might be evolving. Keeping a high level of agility and flexibility in your marketing strategy is necessary to ensure the long-term success of your company.
Avoiding marketing myopia
A recent example of a major company succumbing to a myopic view of their market was Blockbuster. Blockbuster wasn’t a video rental business; it was a home entertainment business. When Netflix created a home delivery subscription service for DVDs, Blockbuster failed to understand how valuable a service like that would be to their customers. While they did end up introducing a subscription service as well, it was too little too late.
We all know the story after that. Netflix dominated the video rental market and continued to innovate. They anticipated a market need before it happened and introduced their streaming service to fill it. In short, Netflix didn’t get lucky. They had a complete understanding of their customers, found a problem in their lives, solved it, and then introduced the solution before their customers realized the problem existed at all.
Netflix is the gold standard when it comes to market foresight. While it’s impossible to know the future, there are a few things that every organization can be doing to fight the spread of marketing myopia.
Tips to increase your market foresight
- Know what you do: Challenge your understanding of your business. Drill down to the core value that you provide your customers. Consider using a model like Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle to help you find “why” you do what you do. Once you understand your why then you can better see how your business might need to change in the future to stay on mission.
- Look for new trends: Working in any business means that you need to keep up on the market. Undoubtedly you are already doing this in some form or another, just don’t forget to look at the long term. Take an inventory of all the related business sectors to yours and expand your regular research to them as well. Google Trends is a great way to check in on changes in your market. Another good idea is to follow influencers in your market on social media to see what they are talking to your customers about.
- Take a global view: Even if your business is small, start to think about the possibility of expanding. Is there a demand for your type of product internationally? What would a regional expansion look like for your business? Take into account how changing trends abroad might affect your business locally. If you find that the market you are currently in cannot grow, start developing new markets soon.
- Listen to your customers: If you don’t use a social monitoring tool, you should consider integrating one, Hubspot’s social inbox is a great choice. Knowing what your customers are saying about your brand in real time will help you make minute changes to improve your brand’s image. Evolving your business isn’t something that happens all at once. It’s a series of small changes that you implement over time following the changing needs of your customers.
An excellent example of a company which has consistently avoided marketing myopia
In the early years of the company, it was easy to think Amazon was merely an online bookstore, but their leadership knew better, sure they sold books online and delivered them right to the doors of their customers, but what they were selling was convenience and customer service.
Amazon figured out that the real value they provided to their customers was a place to shop from the comfort of their own home. They cemented this idea with the introduction of their prime subscription service and continue to innovate with services like Amazon Fresh and Amazon Now. If they had stuck to their guns and continued to sell books exclusively, it’s unlikely that they would have reached the size that they are today.
Focusing on the short term is easy. Long-term planning is time-consuming and sometimes can feel like a waste when there is money to be made right now. If you misinterpret what your company truly does for its customers, then you run the risk of getting left behind. Keep your eye on the future and think about the famous quote from our friend Theodore Levitt:
“People don’t want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes.”