‘Marketing myopia’ is a term that was coined by Harvard Business School professor, Theodore Levitt, way back in 1960. Back then, Levitt’s idea of Myopia largely revolved around worries that marketing departments had become too concerned with selling products over meeting consumer needs. Now, in an age where consumers are more in the business driving seat than they ever have been, it’s easy to discard the warnings that Levitt issued under the assumption that this myopic risk has passed. In reality, though, experts are generally citing a modern form of marketing myopia that, in many ways, is proving even more damaging to the long-term prospects of any company.
This isn’t an entirely outlandish claim when you consider the challenges that face countless companies today, including the reality that 60% of startups go bust in their first three years. Not to mention that the increasing importance of microdata is causing countless companies to take a minuscule view of fine marketing details. In both cases, the larger picture of marketing success and efficiency is still very much falling by the wayside.
This has become particularly problematic given the need for industry fluidity and the handling of continual disruptions across recent years, ultimately preventing companies from gaining the scope of operational understanding necessary to ensure survival. Hence why, to better address changes and challenges that continue to come their way, any company operating in the current climate could benefit from considering a step away from so-called ‘modern marketing myopia’ in the following ways.
# 1 - Continue to focus on marketing fundamentals
As marketing landscapes become ever-more complex, training focuses that are dedicated to primary areas including SEO, social media, and beyond, have taken the forefront for obvious reasons. Certainly, any business looking to even come close to competing on online landscapes needs to harness a pretty in-depth understanding of these unique priorities, as well as one that’s continually updated according to changes as they happen.
Unfortunately, marketing myopia is a significant problem here as a surprising amount of businesses prioritise these specialist training focuses at the cost of the marketing fundamentals on which they should ideally rest. Thus, foundations for success are always uncertain, and less lucrative than they could be. To avoid this, it’s therefore crucial to realise that broader marketing fundamentals should still very much be taken seriously in the training sphere. In fact, before introducing unique and changeable concepts like SEO success, businesses should always aim to provide full training on more rounded marketing focuses, including the 7 ps of marketing and other crucial techniques that apply to far more than just unique yet limited marketing subsects.
# 2 - Take a longer-term marketing view
Fundamentally speaking, marketing myopia happens as a result of short-sightedness that prevents genuine results over the long term. This is a problem considering that broader metrics like customer lifetime value (CLV) will always be more lucrative than, say, standalone sales. Despite this, countless modern marketing teams make the mistake of considering short-term gains above all, and ultimately hoping that things like CLV will follow in the footsteps of those immediate efforts. In reality, though, this mixed-up marketing approach is the reason why Levitt coined marketing myopia in the first place, and overcoming this trap ultimately means placing the importance of CLV before short-term sales, rather than after it.
Of course, with one-time sales ultimately leading to CLV in some cases, this isn’t to say that more immediate focuses should be discarded altogether. However, during the planning stages especially, far more importance should be put on taking a longer-term marketing view that forever tailors sales right now towards sales down the line. Techniques including the use of lasting loyalty drives (gamification, discount codes, etc.), are obviously beneficial in this sense, but long-term planning should also be implemented to consider lasting engagement strategies with even those consumers who aren’t buying in the now. Deadlines and quarterly sales figure focuses, in particular, should take a backseat in place of a more solid focus on things like low-pressure marketing (e.g. relationship driving content over sales-only stuff), as well as the patience to host lasting conversations with even those leads who aren’t proving lucrative for you right now.
# 3 - Step away from standard digital ads
As digital marketing has become the buzzword of the moment, digital ads are quite obviously eating up a large number of most marketers’ budgets (around 46%), as well as their general daily efforts. This doesn’t necessarily need to change given that a visible online presence is now non-negotiable, but it is perhaps worth reassessing how many sales digital ads are actually creating. After all, often, digital advertising efforts like paid ads on Google simply work to navigate sales that were already likely or specific searches for your company offerings. Perhaps more worryingly, however, the fact remains that digital advertising in itself (perhaps except for social media) does very little to build on the brand personalities that ensure lasting loyalty and profits.
On the one hand, overcoming this means continuing to dedicate ample amounts of marketing budgets and time towards not just digital marketing, but a more rounded marketing view that even incorporates physical methods like banner printing for the best possible brand coverage. Further to this, brands could also benefit from considering the unique role that online channels including digital ads could potentially have for improved brand building overall, largely made possible through the increased use of ads promoting content rather than sales, and other similar value-inducing methods.
# 4 - Ditch dopamine data in place of slow gains
The wealth of data now available to all businesses with an online presence is both the most valuable reality to come from this age of digital marketing, and also one of the primary reasons why myopia is becoming such a modern marketing concern. Companies struggling to understand or achieve true data value are especially making the mistake of reaching for dopamine-inducing data sets like likes, shares, and in-the-moment sales at the expense of the longer-term marketing focuses that we’ve already discussed as more important.
Availability bias, in particular, has seen countless companies making the mistake of placing unnecessary or exaggerated importance on datasets that ultimately tell us very little about the long-reaching success of online marketing efforts. This can then lead to skewed beliefs regarding the viability of a certain platform or the value that can be difficult to see upfront from things like long-form content.
More importantly than the other steps mentioned, staying sane amidst the madness of modern marketing myopia therefore means finding more lastingly valuable ways to utilise data which reflects slow gains. This can be a difficult thing to quantify considering that it can take months or even years to show ultimate results, but at least stepping away from in-the-moment metrics in place of what’s reflected from things like long-term views, shares, or lasting SEO boosts, can all help to ensure that metrics are genuine, reliable, and always quality-based.
# 5 - Make sure that everyone knows what they’re doing
In some respects, cross-departmental focuses are also to blame for a somewhat confused handling of marketing that, more often than not, focuses more on actual sales than it probably should. After all, while marketing and sales are inextricably linked, marketing itself isn’t about sales figures, but rather about things like the impressions and shares achieved, or the followers that each post gains.
Unfortunately, marketing teams that are often working indistinguishably from sales teams too often confuse this focus and risk negating marketing efforts as a result. Hence why the last way to avoid myopia madness is to simply make sure that everyone knows what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it.
Of course, this is by no means to say that marketing and sales teams should be forced back into the silos which have long proven problematic for results. Rather, collaborative and holistic marketing and sales focuses should be executed with a more detailed understanding of where each person needs to be focusing their efforts the majority of the time. Namely, this means making sure that every member of your marketing team is focused on marketing-specific priorities like finding the right social media channels for every piece of content, and that your teams in general are clearer on their own departmental goals. Cross-communication should, of course, continue to be a priority, but perhaps in a lesser way which helps everyone to stay on track without getting off course.
Levitt’s hopes in highlighting marketing myopia even back in the 60s stemmed from the belief that companies could do more to serve both their needs and those of their consumers. Unfortunately, even though modern marketing is rifer with tools that make it possible to do precisely that, myopia very much remains problematic in a wide range of ways. To supercharge marketing that makes competitive advantage possible not just now, but also into the future, companies need to shift this myopic thinking, and they need to do it fast using pointers like these.