Franchising Should Take a Lead from Theodore Levitt
by Ed Teixeira
The surging popularity of Facebook and Twitter can cause us to stray from the
basics of marketing. In spite of new technology the principles of marketing
remain the same.
Twitter and Facebook are powerful communication vehicles and as such can
represent important marketing tools; however, they are not a substitute for
sound marketing practices. If the needs and desires of the customer are not
properly identified then the message will be wrong. If the marketing message is
wrong then it doesn’t matter if it’s being delivered by Facebook or a local
In my opinion, one of the best business writers was Theodore Levitt, someone
who I considered a true marketing guru. Mr. Levitt had a knack for describing
marketing in simple yet profound terms.
In his 1960 classic from The Harvard Business Review,
Levitt wrote: “Selling focuses on the needs of the seller, marketing focuses on
the needs of the buyer. Selling is preoccupied with the seller’s need to convert
his product into cash, marketing with the idea of satisfying the needs of the
customer by means of the product and the whole cluster of things associated with
creating, delivering and, finally, consuming it.”
The marketing myopia theories originally proposed by Theodore Levitt, state
that marketers should look towards the market and modify the company and
products accordingly rather than looking towards your own company, its potential
and then catering to the market. The needs of the market should receive first
A classic example of marketing myopia used by Levitt in his 1960 article
referred to the railroad industry:
“The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and
freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today
not because that need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, and even
telephones) but because it was filled by the railroads themselves. They let
others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in
the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason
they defined their industry incorrectly was that they were railroad oriented
instead of transportation oriented; they were product oriented instead of
In another Levitt work “Marketing Concept” he states: “Your product/service
offering should be geared towards what the customer Wants, not what You Think
they want. Some companies remain focused on the practice of building the product
and assume the customer will come.
This approach can be applied to franchisors selling franchises (consider the
franchise prospect a customer) and for franchisees selling products and services
to the end user.
How can franchisors and franchisees relate to Levitt some fifty years later?
Simply by causing us to pause and re-examine the needs and expectations of the
customers we look to reach. It reminds us, that trying to “sell” a product or
service that people don’t fully accept is doomed to failure regardless of how
sophisticated our marketing tools are. Franchisors should take a good hard look
at their customer offering.
How to create and deliver the right marketing message:
- Focus on the customer
- Use franchisees to survey
their customers to identify their needs
- Fully learn what customers
- Adapt and adjust to meet
the customer’s needs
- Maintain control over the
In terms of the franchise industry there are some steps we can take.
Franchisors looking to grow their franchise network should view prospective
franchisees as customers.
- Profile their target
franchise prospect. Who is your ideal franchisee? Speak with existing
franchisees and compare expectations with reality.
- Carefully define and
understand what franchise prospects want and desire. Be detailed rather than
limited to one objective “making money.”
- Make changes and adapt the
franchise program to satisfy the needs of these “customers.”
Franchisors marketing their products or services need to consider the
- The majority of franchises
are based upon a specific business model that includes products or services
marketed to customers. As the franchise evolves and its operation placed in the
hands of franchisees adjustments may be required.
- The fact that a franchise
network is growing doesn’t guarantee success if the needs of the customers
aren’t being met. The result could be most sellers marketing the wrong product
The writings of Theodore Levitt should cause franchisors to review what they
market to their targeted customers on an ongoing basis otherwise they can suffer
from “Marketing Myopia.”
© 2011 FranchiseKnowHow, LLC
Teixeira is the author of The Franchise Buyers Manual. and the President of FranchiseKnowHow, LLC. He
can be reached at email@example.com