Ralph Waldo Emerson reportedly said that “if you build a better mouse trap, the world will be a path to your door.” Unfortunately, this wisdom doesn’t hold up very well in the world of entrepreneurship.
I first learned about the better mouse trap fallacy when I read the book “Real World Engineering” by Lawrence Kamm when I was a sophomore in high school. I intended to become a successful inventor and sell my creations through my own business. Kamm pointed out that engineers that start their own businesses often discover that having a superior product is no guarantee of success.
He recommended that engineers looking into starting their own businesses should consider getting a graduate degree in business. That advice stuck with me for over 20 years. He pointed out that there are a lot of competencies that engineers can learn in business school that they might not easily pick up on the job. These include finance, marketing, management, business law and organizational behavior.
Kamm repeated the word “marketing” three times in his list of skills that engineers learn. He said that this was not a mistake on his part. He wanted to emphasize how essential marketing skills were for engineers trying to start their own business.
Kamm said that he had to learn this the hard way. He once bought into the idea that building a better mouse trap would be the guaranteed ticket to success. He had to learn the hard way that marketing is a very essential skill for even the most talented engineer that is trying to venture out on their own. A startup can create the best new product in the world, but they are going to fail if they can’t convince customers to buy it over their competitors.
There are a lot of examples of this across many industries. Coca-Cola has a much bigger share of the soft drink market than Pepsi. According to an article from CNN last year, Coca-Cola has 17.8% of the market share, while Pepsi has only 8.4%. The gap has only widened over the last decade, even though the quality of the soft drinks has not changed at all. Is it because Coca-Cola produces better products? The answer is clearly no. Blind test tests have shown that even the strongest supporters of both brands can’t tell the difference.
At the end of the day, perception is everything. Every business needs to appreciate the importance of marketing well.
All entrepreneurs should learn the basic fundamentals of marketing and other managerial skills
There are a lot of skills that businesses need to survive. They can’t rest their laurels on the superiority of their product. Entrepreneurs that don’t learn the basics of finance and marketing are destined to fail.
How can entrepreneurs develop the marketing skills that they need to build a profitable company? There are a number of options available to them.
Get a specialized degree in marketing
There are a lot of business degrees available. More people get MBAs than any other graduate degree. An MBA can give an aspiring entrepreneur a solid foundation in many different disciplines of business.
However, some entrepreneurs might already have a thorough enough understanding of finance and accounting. They might be lacking in the marketing side. An MBA can give someone the broad strokes of the marketing profession, but it will only go so far.
These business owners might want to consider getting a degree in marketing instead. A major in marketing is going to offer much deeper insights into the field of marketing.
Work with a mentor
A mentor can go a long way towards helping business owners develop important skills. They can give specific advice on disciplines like marketing. They may even want to get somebody specifically to counsel them on their marketing strategy. An entrepreneur in any field can ask a marketing expert for advice.
Make learning about marketing part of their ongoing education
The marketing discipline is constantly changing. Business owners need to stay up to date with new changes to stay ahead of the competition. They should keep reading blog articles and press releases about developments in the marketing field.
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