Failure of Success

This example is intended to point out how success can deceive us into believing that we have found the answer to success, an answer which often eventually leads to failure.

We begin with a marketing effort which interacts with the addressable market to add to demand. Since the marketing effort does in fact produce an increase in demand we make the assumption that it represents a viable marketing effort.

The point of concern here is whether the marketing activity is actually increasing the market size or simply interacting with the addressable market influencing it to purchase sooner than it would have. This is often the case with promotions, and that will be considered to be happening in this example.

As marketing interacts with the addressable market to add to demand the increased demand adds to sales. Sales then adds to revenue which adds to marketing. As such, as marketing appears to increase demand resulting in more sales and more revenue, the tendency is to do even more marketing. This reinforcing loop drives the growth of revenue.

While the reinforcing loop drives the increase in sales sales is subtracting from the addressable market. The addressable market continues to interact with marketing and add to demand, yet to a smaller and smaller extent as the addressable market decreases. At some point the decrease in addressable market will be such that there will no longer be a growth in demand. At this point the addressable market has been addressed, and there's nothing left to address.

Yet, since marketing has continue to increase demand the natural tendency is to increase the marketing effort even more to spur demand. Continued success has fostered a belief that marketing is the answer to generating demand. When this increase in marketing doesn't increase demand the marketing organization is often quite confused. It has been said that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. Well you can't lead a nonexistent horse anywhere.

Effective Strategies

There are actually two effective strategies for addressing this situation, one of which probably won't sit too well.

  1. The first strategy is to settle for the market being served and reduce the marketing effort to a sensible level to maintain demand appropriate to the market size.

  2. The second strategy, since there seems to be an almost universal belief that more is better and growth needs to be sustained, is to alter the marketing effort in such a way that it actually adds to the market size. Adding to and increasing the market size changes it from a factor to a variable so it adds to the addressable market. This is presented in the following diagram.

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Copyright © 2004 Gene Bellinger