Market orientation is the basis of any good marketing strategy, as it removes any assumptions about your customers (and potential customers), the market itself, your competitors and anything else that might impact on ‘what to do next’. It’s the proverbial blank sheet of paper or darkened room. So how, and why, start from such a seemingly hopeless position? Because true market orientation is the process of discovering your company as a customer would. Try as we might none of us who work for a company, or indeed in an industry, can view things in the ‘eyes of the customer’. Many businesses claim to practice it. How often have you been told (or told others) to ‘put yourself in your customers shoes’ The reality is try as you might, in most cases you are simply you, wearing your customers shows, but still seeing things as you through all the filters, knowledge and assumptions you have about your industry and your business.
True market orientation is therefore very difficult to achieve. But it’s absolutely worth trying to do so. Research by John C. Narver and Stanley F. Slater published by the American Marketing Association showed market oriented companies are significantly more profitable than their peers. But why is this? Central to the success of market orientation as a starting point is the associated concept of product/market fit. This became a popular buzzword in Silicon Valley in 2007 when serial investor and entrepreneur Marc Andreesen coined the phrase. He actually meant it as a warning for all the tech start ups developing apps and platforms before knowing is there was a market for them. Some became hits, others massive failures. Andreesen’s view was that those who enjoyed success was down primarily not to better technology or better marketing, but simply perfect or close to perfect product/market fit. Many of the companies who failed were product oriented, developing their product to be the best in their view – then trying to sell it to an unwilling public, The successful companies offered was what the market really wanted, even if they hadn’t yet expressed it. An older phrase with a similar view was the concept of ‘if I can fulfil all of your needs, I will take all of your money’ the theory that 100% customer satisfaction would guarantee market success.
So to return to our darkened room, if we want to achieve product/market fit we have to orientate our view to that of our customers. We can simply ask them what they want, but often that doesn’t elicit the real response as they don’t know exactly what they want. But they do know the result they want. Inane questions such as ‘is customer service important to you’ will not get you to product/market fit. Questions such as ‘why did you book your last holiday with us?’ will provide far more interesting and nuanced responses. If those questions feel somewhat uncomfortable to ask, good, this is almost certainly a sign you are becoming market oriented, looking to understand your customers rather than looking for them to provide evidence to back up your already formed theories of what they think and what makes them book with you.
Market oriented companies outperform their competition because if they develop their product from a true customer perspective they move toward a product/market fit for their target market segments. They begin to meet all of their needs, they create a sense with their customers of truly understanding what they want and what they most value and delivering that every time. They fulfil all of their needs and take all of their money. Isn’t that the kind of company you want yours to be?
Duplare offers training and consultancy on market orientation for travel companies and advice on how to develop a market oriented strategy through bespoke research methods that really uncover customers real needs, wants and reasons for purchasing as they do. To find out more contact us here for our free guide to achieving product/market fit in travel.

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