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5 cornerstones of a great business

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Behind every great marketing success story is a great business — an organization with such a strong foundation that the marketing (almost) comes easy.

Take the 10 most admired companies in the world: Apple, Google, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, IBM, Southwest, Berkshire-Hathaway, Disney and FedEx. According to Fortune magazine, these companies excel at innovation, product/service quality, people management and global competitiveness, among other things.

Here are five fundamentals of a successful business that make marketing them a cinch:

1. An outstanding product or service. The most important element of success in business is a product or service that solves customer’s problems better than anything else. Even a brilliant marketing campaign will struggle to sell a bad product.

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
2. A consistently superior customer experience. Not every Southwest flight arrives on time. Occasionally Starbucks messes up a drink. But most of the time, these companies deliver the first-rate experience their customers have come to expect. Consistent excellence drives brand loyalty.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, file
3. Deep knowledge of customers and their needs. Smart marketers know their customers so well that they can come up with products and services people want before they even know they want them. You may not have known you needed an iPod or a tablet computer, but Apple did. Apple’s engineering prowess and knowledge of how people use technology have created entirely new categories of must-have products.

AP Photo/Lee Jin-man
4. Commitment to customer satisfaction. Successful businesses have a bend-over-backward commitment to satisfying their customers and staff who know how to do so. By setting a high standard for customer service, companies such as Disney and FedEx are businesses customers have learned to trust.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
5. Clear differentiation from competitors. There’s only one Amazon, one Google, one IBM. These companies have created so much distinctive value in their products and services that they define their category and stand apart from all others.

AP Photo/Vincent Yus

You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to create your own success story. Focus on the fundamentals of a great business, and the marketing will practically take care of itself.

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Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at


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