I am currently in the middle of two fantastic marketing books (one an audio book for my commute and the other a printed book for home). They often seem contradictory – but both have my mind racing 1000 mile per hour.
The first book is Marketing Warfare, by Jack Trout and Al Reis. It is a classic marketing book from the 80s that is extremely relevant today. I really consider it light reading, since it is as much about history as marketing. I’ll write a full review when I’m done with it, but I can already highly recommend the book (especially for someone who likes history). The most relevant “lesson” the book has taught me (or at least reminded me) is that you shouldn’t spread yourself too thin – it is essential to concentrate your marketing resources on the best opportunities. Fighting a multi front war is dangerous. It’s always tempting to want to place a chip on every good segment or product idea, but history teaches us that this is a mistake that often drives companies out of business.
The other book that I just started today is The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson (I’m about 1/3 of way done with the audio version). Talk about a book that has just reached the tipping point! I had never heard of it, then within a week heard the book referenced by several different people. It provides some cutting edge marketing data that supports almost the opposite view of Marketing Warfare. According to the book, many successful companies are generating a substantial amount of their profits from niche products. This is particularly true for internet retailers that aren’t constrained by shelf space. By having thousands of products available, online retailers can have a very “long tail” of profitable products. From just listening to the first CD on my way into work this morning – the book triggered some really great ideas for altering the marketing strategy for one of our products. I’ve bounced the new ideas off a few colleagues and they are as equally excited about them as I am.
While I’m sure my conclusions will evolve as I get further into the books, both books definitely have merit. The web (particularly Google Adwords) makes it easy to harvest demand from multiple segments. But effective demand creation requires a tight concentration of funds into a specific target customer segment. Good marketing strategy finds an optimal balance between both demand creation and demand harvesting.