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Avoiding Marketing Myopia: How to Keep Your Business Relevant

Learn how avoiding marketing myopia can preserve your business relevance and promote your ongoing success, even if you’re already in a booming growth industry.

Starting a business often begins with a clear vision. This vision helps shape your goals, strategies, and decisions, creating your roadmap to success. But what happens when things change in your industry? When the market shifts, it’s a crucial moment. Fail to pivot, and your competitors could leave you behind.

Unfortunately, marketing myopia often prevents business owners from seeing game-changing growth opportunities, much less acting on them. It’s a tale as old as time, resulting in even the biggest household names—Blockbuster, Sears, Kodak—losing ground to their competitors.

Your business doesn’t have to follow this path. By learning how to avoid marketing myopia, you can keep your company relevant as times change. Here’s what you need to know to keep your operations future proof.

What does marketing myopia mean?

Marketing myopia is a short-sighted approach that prioritizes present gains over possibilities for future growth. It happens when business owners get wrapped up in selling their existing products and services and fall behind on industry trends—or reject them altogether.

Sticking to what they’ve always done got them this far, so why change? Because customers do! People continually discover new passions and interests, and their beliefs evolve as they journey through life. As those shifts occur, what worked in the past won’t work in the future, putting myopic businesses at risk.

At best, these nearsighted companies may experience a poor marketing return on investment. But if people turn away entirely from once-popular products and services in favor of the next big thing, it could lead to these companies closing their doors for good.

Ultimately, myopic businesses must make major changes to keep up. If not, they may simply fade away while watching competitors innovate their way to the top.

Marketing myopia examples

Marketing myopia is not a new concept. Since the beginning of commercial trade, businesses’ ability to stay in touch with customers’ immediate needs and adapt to market changes determined if they would rise or fall.

Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, gave marketing myopia its name in 1960. His Harvard Business Review article on this topic marked the beginning of modern marketing, but not all business owners heeded his warning.

Explore the following marketing myopia examples to see how companies in different industries can lose sight of their target audience and miss opportunities to evolve and progress.

Transportation business

The world of transportation is constantly reimagined with the advent of new technology. Cars replaced horse-drawn carriages. Airplanes and automobiles took over the transport of people and goods from the railroads. Ride-sharing companies displaced traditional taxis.

Industry leaders had to rework their business model each time to stay relevant. Some did it well, like the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, which went from being a leader in carriage production to a major car brand. Similarly, when ridesharing took over the market, savvy cab companies thrived by switching to an app-based model with upfront flat fees.

Most others didn’t. That’s because they defined their business too narrowly. For example, railroads failed to see that they were in the larger business of making travel and the transport of goods much more convenient. Instead, they got too caught up in railway-specific details, like maximizing rail lines, and missed opportunities to focus on what their customers really wanted, such as time-efficient travel options, user-friendly booking processes, and modern amenities.

Video rental industry

Going to the video rental store used to be a coveted experience, almost as exciting as watching the movies themselves. Strolling through rows of new releases, munching on fresh popcorn, and chattering with friends made it feel like video stores would be around forever.

All that changed when technology started delivering entertainment straight to people’s living rooms. The sheer convenience won out over the weekend video rental experience. Mom-and-pop video stores didn’t have a chance to keep up with industry changes, but one company did: Blockbuster.

Their leadership repeatedly rejected opportunities to enter the digital age, however, confident that their video stores would prevail. Within a decade, bankruptcy knocked at their door, while their tech-focused competitor, Netflix, took over the market share.

Brick and mortar retailers

Not so long ago, shopping at brick-and-mortar retailers was a cornerstone of daily life. Every step down the aisle held the promise of a new discovery and holding products in your hands was a welcome ritual.

However, the sheer convenience of online shopping quickly overshadowed this familiar routine. The vast selection of products and ease of making a purchase from anywhere and at any time was just too enticing.

Brick-and-mortar sales declined, leaving businesses with one choice: They could either take their companies online or miss out on improving their sales. It wasn’t enough to just be online, either. Thanks to Amazon, ultra-fast shipping and exceptional customer service were a must as well.

Marketing myopia kept some companies from taking the plunge. For example, Sears stubbornly held on to its mall-centric department store setup for far too long. By the time they recognized how online shopping had changed buying habits, it was too late to catch up. Now, there are only 20 Sears stores nationwide, down from nearly 3,500 since 2005.

Five main causes of marketing myopia

Understanding the main causes of marketing myopia can help you actively avoid it. To help you out, here are 5 pitfalls to watch for as you build your business strategy and keep your company focused on growth.

Poor market research

Understanding and adapting to what customers want is crucial to thriving in an evolving market. Doing that effectively comes down to your market research. And you cannot just do it once. Completing ongoing market research on a set schedule helps you spot changes as they peek over the horizon.

Business model hubris

As an entrepreneur, your confidence in your business model helps you succeed. But if you think nothing can beat your own products and services, the chance to pivot when the market shifts could pass you by. Staying humble can help keep hubris from clouding your vision.

Getting trapped in a self-deceiving cycle

Reducing costs and boosting sales is good business, until it’s not. When a company focuses on these 2 items at the expense of everything else, the self-deceiving cycle begins. Keep your sights instead on what your customers need, which will help prevent this cycle and ensure your company’s long-term success.

Failure to capitalize on growth opportunities

A solid business model helps you make strategic decisions and achieve your goals. Conversely, sticking to the original plan no matter what could result in missed growth opportunities. Being open-minded and willing to change can help you spot and capitalize on these opportunities.

No long-term business strategy

Running a successful business is a balancing act. You need short-term gains to cover expenses and fuel immediate growth, yet simultaneously, it’s essential to invest in long-term strategies. Looking far into the future ensures the profitability of your business and keeps you ready to innovate when necessary.

Eight ways to avoid marketing myopia

Falling into the marketing myopia trap is far too easy, especially if you’re in a fast-moving industry. Here’s the good news: It is possible to safeguard your business. Just use the following 8 tactics to broaden your perspective and maintain a sustainable, customer-focused strategy.

Recognize when you’re in a self-deceiving cycle

All it takes is a little bit of business success and you’re at risk of getting trapped in a self-deceiving cycle. Only companies that recognize that they’re heading toward this cycle can sidestep marketing myopia.

The self-deceiving cycle usually begins as your products start to take off. Initially, you’ll see chances to increase sales with more consumer awareness. Then, you may think that your product is the best in the industry and has no competitors.

You may see mass production as the way forward, allowing you to take advantage of rapidly declining unit costs as output rises. After that, it’s all about boosting production at lower costs, often at the expense of what customers are looking for.

Don’t fall into that trap. Watch for any of these thought processes and banish them; prioritize delighting your customer base even as their needs change.

Make marketing research a top priority

Stay in tune with what your customers want and need by making marketing research a top priority. Research your target customers’ interests, needs, and challenges before launching your business. Then, repeat this process on at least a yearly basis.

Complete new research between these scheduled checks if you plan to enter a new market. It’s also a good idea to do this before launching a new product or service. The insights will let you know if any proposed changes are a solid investment and reveal barriers you may have to work around to reach your goals.

Also, consider brief quarterly checks whenever something seems to be shaking up your industry. Look for any emerging trends, new technology, or shifts in thinking that could impact what your customers expect from your company. Market research results can help you weather the storm or adapt to industry changes.

Look at competitors’ marketing efforts

Your customers aren’t the only thing to watch when trying to avoid marketing myopia. You can also benefit from looking at your competitors’ marketing efforts. Like market research, you want to complete your competitor analysis when launching your business—before changing anything and on a routine basis.

The initial analysis will help you identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses, so you can properly position your brand in the market. After that, it’s all about better understanding your customers and spotting market trends as they develop.

For the best results, go beyond a basic analysis by monitoring how each competitor brand operates in the digital space. Set up Google alerts, follow them on social media, and sign up for their marketing materials, like gated e-books, to stay in the loop.

Define your short- and long-term goals

Clearly define both your short- and long-term goals to avoid shortsighted perspectives. Although focusing solely on bringing in quick wins is tempting, it’s not a sustainable strategy. You need both. Your short-term goals maintain momentum, and your long-term goals keep you moving in the right direction.

Address both areas by looking far into the future and working backward from there. Think about where you envision your business in 20 years. Ask yourself when you’ll know you’ve made it big. Set 5-year performance targets to plot the path forward.

Once you have that framework in place, you can work on your annual, quarterly, and monthly goals. As you do this, remember that while it’s good to have a plan, stay open to changing things as needed to stay relevant.

Experiment with innovative marketing strategies

Innovative marketing strategies can help you adopt a forward-thinking approach and stay ahead of the curve. By taking calculated risks, you can see what speaks to your customers most, giving you additional insights into their mindset and relationship with your brand.


  • Gamification
  • Real-time chatbot support
  • Micro-moment marketing
  • Social media live streams
  • User-generated content
  • Influencer collaborations
  • Virtual reality campaigns
  • Interactive content

When fresh marketing ideas appear, aim to be one of the first to try them out. Better yet, get your team together to dream up new ways to promote your products and make meaningful connections with your customers.

You don’t have to dump your whole marketing budget into trying each new idea. In fact, it’s better to just dip your toe in the water and test them out. To do that, set aside a small portion of your marketing budget each year for exploring innovative approaches.

Track and measure your marketing strategy success

When experimenting with new marketing strategies, try a little bit of everything at first. And don’t forget to unlock data insights with analytics and A/B testing. The objective data takes emotion out of the equation, allowing you to simply focus on what resonates with your audience—and what doesn’t.

Once you have an idea of what works, go full speed ahead in promoting your brand through those channels. All the while, keep in mind that what worked today might not work tomorrow. Keep tracking the data and be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice.

Ideally, the only thing you won’t end up changing through the years is your focus on your customers’ needs and preferences. Everything else is open for debate. Once a strategy stops working, let the data and current market conditions guide you to its replacement.

Keep your company focused on emerging trends

Staying in touch with what’s happening in your industry and the world at large can help you avoid marketing myopia. Cultural shifts, new technology, and industry innovations are all great things to watch if you want to stay prepared. However, it’s not a one-person job.

Having a diverse team on your side can make all the difference, especially if you actively promote team collaboration. Different perspectives and ideas can help you spot and understand all the newest trends as they occur. You just need to give your team a safe space to express their views.

Earmark a set amount of time each week to chat about any emerging trends your employees might have noticed. Consider monthly meetings to assess the trends for growth opportunities and determine how to adapt to the changes if necessary.

Close down shop from time to time and take your entire team to conferences, trade shows, and other industry events. The time you devote to reevaluating the market will pay you back in dividends by protecting your company from marketing myopia.

Prevent poor decision-making with fresh insights

Fresh insights from a trusted mentor can reveal things you’ve overlooked and prevent poor decision-making. The outside perspective lets you take a big step back from the day-to-day and see your business in a whole new light. You’ll be able to banish tunnel vision as a result and keep myopic thinking at bay.

Selecting the right mentor is essential in getting honest, targeted feedback to grow your business. While you could ask a fellow industry professional or even a longtime friend, actionable insights from a business coach could be more valuable. A coach has one job: to help you be the best business owner you can be.

They don’t have to worry about you swooping in to take their business or getting offended by especially candid feedback. They can reveal the realities of your situation without fear of rocking the boat, helping you make the changes needed to get through practically any industry shake-ups.

Clear vision is within your reach

If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that life is full of changes. As time goes on, you’ll notice new trends, shifts in how peoplethink, and industries changing in response.

Avoiding marketing myopia is all about spotting the changing tides and capitalizing on growth opportunities to build a successful company. While it is sometimes challenging, clear vision is always within your reach. Focus on your customers and be ready to adapt—and you’ll do great in the ever-changing business world.

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