The biggest mistake of all is believing you can do anything.
Success in business doesn’t just show up on the bottom line of the profit and loss column; it also goes to the top. Success in business inflates the egos of top management.
Supremely successful companies believe they can do anything. They can launch any product into any market. They can make any merger work. It’s just a question of having the willpower and the resources to throw into the task. What is it that we want to do? is the question that management usually asks itself.
History hasn’t been kind to this type of thinking. Overconfident management has been responsible for most of the marketing disasters of the past decades.
- General Electric couldn’t crack the mainframe computer market in spite of its reputation for brilliant management.
- Sears, Roebuck’s “socks and stocks” strategy of selling brokerage accounts, insurance, and real estate in its retail stores went nowhere.
- Xerox couldn’t duplicate its copier success in computers.
- IBM, on the other hand, couldn’t extend its computer success to copiers.
- Kodak lost its focus when it tried to get into instant photography.
- Polaroid, on the other hand, fared no better in conventional 35mm film.
Get the picture? As soon as a company is successful in one area, it tries to move into another. Generally with little or no success.
The problem is usually not the new product or service being offered. Xerox may well have had the best computer product on the market. The problem is in the mind of the prospect. “What does a copier company know about computers?”
In other words, the problem is not a product problem, it’s a perception problem. The most difficult problem in business today is trying to change a perception that exists in the mind of a customer or prospect. Once a perception is strongly held in the mind, it can almost never be changed. (Anybody who has ever been married knows the difficulty of changing a perception in another person’s mind.)