Marketing Myopia by Theodore Levitt, first published in 1960 is still a great read. I found it (again) in an addition of the Harvard Business Review's 10 Must Reads over lunch today.
"The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because that need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, and even telephones) but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves.
They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry incorrectly was that they were railroad oriented instead of transportation oriented; they were product oriented instead of customer oriented."
At Thrive we work with a lot of YMCAs. Websites, digital marketing, and marketing strategy. We have been publishing a series of articles trying to explain how new businesses have been chipping away at the services of the YMCA. 24 hour fitness centers, Zumba classes at the church, pick-up basketball leagues, swimming lessons...
Re-reading this article reminded me that many of our clients are looking at their business as a YMCA, rather than looking at their YMCA as a client would. Why is Zumba enrollment down? "We need to advertise our classes more." "We need better targeting with our advertising."
Maybe what we really need to do is to look at the clients who are continuing to come to our Zumba classes and ask them what is going on. Ask the members who have left "why?". Maybe we all need to be less product oriented and more people oriented. Starting with me.
Excuse me, I have some phone calls to make.