December 15, 2017

Is Marketing Narcissism Killing Your Product?

There is a disease that so many companies have and it is killing the success of their products.   Even Product Managers and Product Marketers that have been taught how to avoid the disease, continue to become infected.  That disease is Marketing Narcissism.

Defining Marketing Narcissism

One definition of Narcissism is “an inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.”   So Marketing Narcissism occurs when we are overly fascinated with our own company, with the cool features of our products, with how smart we are, etc.  Marketing Narcissism is manifested when we do things such as:

  • Start a customer presentation talking all about how great your company is.
  • Sit around the conference room at your company deciding what you think your customers need, because you are, of course, so much smarter than them.
  • Conduct long laborious demos that show all of the cool features your engineering team dreamed up.
  • Acting as if a prospect is stupid because they did not choose your product (yes, I have actually heard companies talk this way).
  • Create marketing messages that you think are awesome without finding if your target market even cares.

A way that someone else summarized this to me is Marketing Narcissism occurs when we create products that we want to create and communicate marketing messages that we want to communicate without consideration for what the customer needs to be able to do or what they need to hear to encourage a purchase decision.

Curing Marketing Narcissism

To cure ourselves of Marketing Narcissism, we need to learn and apply some Product Management 101 — That is, talk to those in our target markets and understand the challenges they are facing and the problems they want to solve.  It is only then that we can create products that customers want to buy and create market messages that cause them to make the buying decision for our products.  It sounds so amazingly simply, but it often seems so difficult to do.   Even after going through training and learning the right way to do it, it’s much easier to fall back into the trap of Marketing Narcissism and do things the way that we used to.

What are we afraid of?  That customers or prospects are going to tell us we are wrong or that we don’t understand them.  I’d much rather find that out before developing the product then after the product is already in the market.

True Story of Marketing Narcissism

I once joined a company and in the first meeting with the CEO, he explained to me that a certain new product was the top corporate priority.  So when I started asking who are target markets were and what problems we were solving for them, he explained that was Product Management’s job to figure out.  Needless to say, we invested a lot of time into trying to find a major pain that we could solve for our customers, but in the end, we discovered it added complexity to our customer operations and did not deliver enough new value to what they were already doing and the product failed in the market.   Wouldn’t it have been great to have discovered that before we developed the product.

 Lesson for Today!

Customers and prospects don’t care how great you think you are.   They want to know that you actually understand their needs and problems and can help them solve them.

So remember, it’s not about us.

It’s about the Customer!

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