Seth Godin is a well respected blogger and talks good sense on a variety of marketing related issues. In his post on The rational marketer (and the irrational customer), however, he misses an important point.
Seth expresses frustration at marketers who can't work out why more people won't buy their products or services and suggests the answer is to stop focusing on rational benefits and instead to tune-in to irrational drivers, for example, the hassle of making the change or concern about what the boss will think.
We have clients who find it hard to accept that people aren’t buying their products or services in sufficient quantities too. The first step, is not in messaging or sales techniques, but to establish if there is still an adequate market for the product or service in the first place.
We are in a recession, which means that demand for all but the most essential purchases falls. The response to falling sales is to identify and understand the market. This might mean exploring new markets or establishing a proper basis of aggressive competition in existing ones: normally by differentiation or focusing on a niche. If necessary, costs and processes have to be reviewed to maintain profitability while price competition takes place.
The decision making process might meander through irrational steps, but the ultimate decision to sign a cheque in these straitened times is still a very rational one. Businesses have to accept that their market might be shrinking and adapt accordingly. To try and stave off falling demand by simply tweaking the message is equivalent to putting a finger in a broken dam.