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Watch out for Marketing Myopia

Companies donít always keep up with the way the market moves. At one time Kodak did everything and everything right. It dominated the photographic industry in the 20th century, and its iconic status was reflected in the Paul Simon song, Kodak-chrome. Now, Dixons has stopped selling 35mm manual cameras and film is a niche market. With its core business under threat, Kodak has gone from icon to dinosaur and is now hurriedly re-branding itself in other areas of the photographic market. Kodakís mistake was defining itself as a film and mass market camera manufacturer. In fact, itís in the image capturing business, and has just had a rude reminder how diverse that can be.

With home printers, internet processing and in-store mini-labs, Kodak is fighting back. But it is late in the day and the 1,400 branded Kodak mini-kiosks in Boots wonít necessarily impress the 500 employees who lost jobs when five UK laboratories shut last year.

Another example of how business responds to changing demands is the aluminium window industry. Twenty years ago aluminium still saw itself as the future, timber as the past and PVC-U as an irritating sideshow. The systems companies were complacent and didnít take PVC-U seriously. Now aluminium is attempting a comeback in new build apartments from its commercial stronghold. Duraflex was an exception: it hadnít defined itself as an aluminium window system company, so simply changed its materials and adopted PVC-U.

ĎMarketing myopiaí is the term applied to lack of vision in a changing environment. It was coined by Professor Theodore Levitt in 1960 when he published a paper urging companies to define what business they were really in and change their central preoccupation from simply producing goods, to satisfying their customers, making marketing an organisationís driving force.

A companyís success and longevity depends on satisfying future customers. In an era of racing technological advances and changing consumer habits, what will you be selling in twenty or even thirty years? Xerox defined itself as a photocopier company twenty years ago. Now itís a leader in Ďdocument managementí, developing products in an emerging marketplace.

Itís essential to look at your core customers and find out what they want and need and how this may change in the future. Those that see themselves as PVC-U window replacement companies (and typically selling only casements, tilt and turns and panel doors) are now struggling in an exhausted market. Look at your long-term relationships and work out what other products or services you can offer. They may have bought windows, doors or conservatories in the past, but what can they buy from you next: composite doors, vertical sliders, roofline, kitchens roofs, even solar panels? Network VEKA members, for example, arenít just window installers: they provide a range of home improvement products.

Look at your business future creatively, but realistically: you must have the skills and resources to produce those products and services. Your current customers and business will shape your future, but only if you take the time to think ahead.

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