Identify what business you are really in. It may not be what you think

Do you know what business you are really in? It’s a great question posed in the opening chapter of Terry O’Reilly’s new book This I Know – Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence.

Ohh, you thought you knew, but I like the way Terry prods us to prod ourselves and define what we truly offer our customers.

what business are you really in

Things are not what they seem. According to Terry’s theory, Molson is not in the beer business but in the good times business. Starbucks isn’t in the coffee business but in the – his words – “coffee theatre” business.

Do you see where he’s going with this? He wants us to examine what value we really give our clients – why are they buying beyond the obvious?

Can you say what business you are really in?

Some more examples from Terry, just because it’s fun to list them:

  • Nike isn’t in the running shoe business but the motivation business
  • Michelin isn’t in the tire business but in the safety business
  • Haagen-Dazs isn’t in the ice cream business but in the sensual pleasure business
  • Coke isn’t selling sugar water but happiness.

“Customers are drawn to a brand – be it a product or a service – for many reasons,” says Terry in the book. “But the most important, overriding reason is how it makes them feel.”

It actually goes back to the features-versus-benefits discussion. Remember that one? Listing your services or describing your product will not draw potential clients as effectively as saying how you will help them – how you will make them feel.

Nike’s ads don’t show a cross-section of the Air Max – they are tributes to the dedication of athletes like Serena Williams or show then-80-year-old Walt Stack running over the Golden Gate Bridge.

At Anita Webster Communications I say, “I’ll help you get your name in the media – the way you want to see it.” The problem I solve for my clients – how to get access to the media on their terms.

Identifying what business you are really in is a critical exercise – I recommend it.


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