The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One Hundred Year Old Marketing Lesson


There was a recent article about a book on Alexander Graham Bell and whether he really did invent the telephone. The debate still rages on, but there is certainly no question about who was the better marketer.

Bell’s major competitor was Elisha Gray. Why do we remember Bell and not Gray?

One reason is simply that Bell, not Gray, actually demonstrated a phone that transmitted speech. Gray was focused instead on his era's pressing communications challenge: how to send multiple messages simultaneously over the same telegraph wire. As Gray huffed to his attorney, "I should like to see Bell do that with his apparatus."

Not to denigrate Gray’s achievement, but how many people do you think would have been more interested in the 19th Century in transmitting voice, than in multiple messages over a telegraph wire? The later technology would have enabled an increase in the efficiency of Morse Code transmission a severely limiting communications technology controlled by the nerds of the day.

Bell, on the other hand was producing a technology with an appeal to the mass market. It was easy to understand, and its benefits were very clear, given the obvious consumer problems with Morse Code.

The technological winner was always going to be the one that end consumer would find easiest to use. The expense of the initial telephones was of course high, but tumbled in price once a tipping point in uptake was achieved.

This lesson from a hundred years ago is still relevant today. When creating a new product or service, there are often different ways it can be presented to your marketplace. There is a huge difference between what you and the other nerds ‘know’ that your market needs, and what it actually wants. Once you have given them what they want, you can sell them what they need.

Bell produced a technology that the market wanted. Once utilisation picked up, there was a need for Gray’s multiplexing technology- to fit more conversations down the one wire, an economic driver, but at the same time there was also consumer demand for private lines rather than the line sharing of the original telephones. Again, consumer driven technology.

Solutions driven by consumer demand will always be easier to market than those of expert perceived consumer need requiring consumer education, usually something at which experts are very poor.

When introducing to market something that is new, an appeal to want rather than need is always going to be more successful.

May Your Business in 2008 be as You Plan It!

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.


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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
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