Wednesday, October 20, 2010

We all have to get old but we don’t have to get irrelevant.

You may have noticed, as I have, that as people get older they tend to slow down and become resistant to change. As they do so, they seem to become more and more irrelevant to those around them who have not slowed down, and to those who are younger. This is so pervasive that I say it qualifies as a fundamental law of human nature.

The nature of most clich├ęs is that they are strongly rooted in truth. There is one I would challenge and it is, “Familiarity breeds contempt”. I say familiarity breeds complacency and in turn irrelevance on the part of the one you are becoming familiar with. This may have a lot to do with the rate of divorce these days, but that is not where I am headed.

Irrelevance is never good. I have a friend whose doctor has decided that owning a computer and using the Internet is just not something he needs to do. If I were a patient of his I could not but wonder if all other aspects of his life are governed the same way. That’s not a doctor I would choose because my perception is that he has become irrelevant…scary.

There are exceptions to this, of course. There are those who stay current and are typically found leading others into what we consider old age. I could name a few but I don’t want to tag them as old even though they are. By the way, I have also noticed that these relevant people are typically healthier than their irrelevant peers. Health alone may be incentive enough for you and I to work on maintaining our relevance.

Beyond maintaining good health, I have observed that simply maintaining one’s relevance may well be an access to becoming famous. There is a direct correlation between fame and older people who maintain their relevance. Think about that. My definition of fame is on a scale of worldwide recognition to that of recognition of any kind beyond the people you personally know. If you were the oldest person on the planet and were fully functional and participating in life fully, you would experience some level of fame. You would stand out from those around you.

More often than I should, I receive marketing assignments that are solely based on irrelevance. How you know you are irrelevant is that others no longer pay attention to you, or pay as much attention as they did when you were younger. In the world of marketing we measure relevance by “share of market.” So there is a significant value in asking yourself, is my product or service becoming irrelevant? If you are not in a constant inquiry to discover or invent what’s next for your product or service, the answer is likely YES.

You cannot control the fact that your product or service is aging but you are literally responsible for it not becoming irrelevant. Can you see that “Established in 1953”, or “Since 1953”, in this context is a killer. I get asked about adding that to sales messages now and then and it sends shivers up my back every time. There was a time when adding statements like that had value. Take it from me, that time is gone. If it returns, I will blog it.

During my career, I have been handed a significant number of assignments that were based on a period of marketing inaction that led to a diminished share of market. In the consumer goods marketing world, the awareness of this problem is frequently triggered when a retailer indicates that they are about to drop the product.

The single most effective and most economical way to grow your business is typically thought of as adding to your line of products or services. Nothing is further from the truth. By far, the most effective way is to simply upgrade your sales message (your selling proposition) on a regular basis. If every six months you change your sales message and in doing so add perceived value, you will drive your competition batty. You will constantly stimulate your current client base and encourage those who are not currently purchasing your product or service to do so.

The learning here is that it’s ok to savor success in your personal and business pursuits. It is wise, however, to begin an inquiry into what’s next in both, well before it becomes obvious that it is needed.


Keith Chambers

Keynote Marketing Speaker
Creative Marketing Consultant
(310) 473-0010

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