Monday, December 14, 2009

Myths About Marketing

One of my pet peeves is the frequency with which marketing is declared dead or superceded by some "new marketing" as a result of some "paradigm shift" in technology, society, or realignment of the cosmos.  The declaration is usually made by some consultant who, of course, is then happy to peddle his or her flavor of the replacement, almost always a repackaged version of the basics.  And because marketing is one of those terms - like "quality" or "indecency" - that everyone understands but few define, the hype begins, to be followed by the inevitable backlash when the new marketing fails to deliver any better than the old.

This is not to say that there are no innovations in marketing.  But as one who has been in marketing since the mid-80s, I find that these innovations are not as frequent as the consultants would have us believe.  I actually traced back the history of marketing thought and what I consider to be true innovations only crop up about 2-3 times per decade.  (Maybe I'll post this timeline in the future.)

So as a back-to-basics technology marketing guy, here are some additional assertions I'd like to make (some of which I plan to expand on in the future).
  • Marketing is the business function whose job it is to ensure that the products that a company delivers to its target customers are those that the customer needs when they need them - Others may disagree with this, but this is my definition of marketing with products, target customer,  and needs highlighted as requiring fuller definition.  I disagree with those who view marketing as demand creation or just about generating leads.  But these points require full posts of their own.
  • Marketing effectiveness is ultimately determined by competition in the market as measured by market share and profitability over time - If one accepts my definition, then this is the logical measure of effectiveness, not lead count, or conversion rates.
  • Marketing is not dead and never will be - Being a basic function like product development, manufacturing, or selling, it must get done or there is no business.  But because it's intangible, it can appear as if there is no marketing being done. True, a company may not have a marketing group, but somewhere in the business, someone is deciding what product to build, how to price it, and how to get it into customer hands, all marketing decisions.
  • Marketing tactics change rapidly; strategic frameworks don't - There is a difference between marketing strategy and marketing tactics.  Marketing strategy involves the use of concepts and frameworks to figure out what should be done.  Marketing tactics involve the use of various vehicles like retail stores, the internet, radio, TV, social media, etc. to execute the strategy.  In most cases, when consultants trumpet "new marketing" they are talking about a shift in the relative cost effectiveness of one tactic over another (e.g. the use of the free demo).  Now don't get me wrong; a change in tactics definitely impacts strategy, but these rarely constitute a paradigm shift.
  • Marketing basic concepts/frameworks still apply - Whether it's hardware, software, internet services, Web 2.0, cloud computing, cleantech, greentech, or mobile applications, basic marketing concepts, frameworks, and methodologies remain relevant tools for developing strategy.  Of course, as with any tool, the concept, framework, or methodology used must be appropriate to the situation.  In the same way you wouldn't use a saw to pound in nails, you wouldn't apply the Customer Development methodology used successfully by many internet startups to a medical device startup.
So what are these timeless concepts and frameworks?  And which of these are the most relevant to startups?  Stay tuned....

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