“We need to Market this Better” (…really?)

With these few words, the speaker demonstrates that they have little or no idea what Marketing is actually all about – or perhaps they once knew, and have forgotten.  It is perhaps understandable that most non-marketers see marketing in this way, since the profession has been poor – over a long period of time – at promoting (‘marketing’ in the mind-set of the audience) the very simple concept that lies at the heart of Marketing.  What is less forgivable, and much more disconcerting, is the apparent growth in the number of people working in marketing roles who seem to see the discipline in a similar way.

Marketing, as understood in this way, is concerned with finding people to buy something that you have to sell, and then expending the organization’s resources to persuade them to buy it.  There is, however, a much better word to describe this activity – Sales.  The Sales function is a vital discipline – and as the other revenue-generating function alongside Marketing – needs to work closely with it.  Sales is not, of course, the same thing as Marketing, however.

To many marketers the difference between what they do, and what Sales people do, is that the latter make the final sale and collect the order.  Marketing, meanwhile, is seen as being concerned with using the growing battery of tools and channels at its disposal to promote the product, service or brand.  This is a vital function of Marketing, but when it becomes seen as the totality of what the discipline is about there is a critical problem.  As Philip Kotler wrote: “Marketing is not the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make; marketing is the art of creating genuine consumer value.”

The gradual movement in the last 20 years or so to seeing Marketing as being entirely about ‘push’ – promoting and selling – rather than understanding and responding to customer needs to create a ‘pull’, is resulting in the diminution of the importance of the discipline within organizations.  It would seem likely to be one of the reasons why Procter & Gamble – the progenitors of the brand manager role, and wishing to re-emphasise marketing’s strategic role – renamed the marketing function as ‘brand management’.

It is perhaps little surprising that marketing plans are so often poorly written when they are being driven primarily by tactical considerations, concerned with ‘marketing stuff’.  Good marketing plans should demonstrate an understanding of the strategic options lying behind the recommended course of action and use of company resources; too often they are little more than ‘to-do’ lists of activities with a budget attached.

Further discussion of this topic is welcomed.

Check out the ‘How to’ resource library for a comprehensive range of documents relating to the preparation of marketing plans, as well as the practical and conceptual issues surrounding their preparation and role within the organization.  The resources include some downloadable templates and guides.


2 thoughts on ““We need to Market this Better” (…really?)

  1. I couldn’t agree more. When someone tells me we need a ‘marketing’ plan – and I know that they mean they want to promote a product/service – I often say they’re half right… They need a ‘marketing communications’ plan. (I’m not as condescending as that sounds! 😉 )

    I like to use PR Smith’s SOSTAC model for marketing planning, and usually use Ansoff for the strategy section. I find it’s a simple way of demonstrating strategy on a single slide (as I’m usually in PowerPoint)… And makes my point succinctly for an audience who aren’t normally as interested in these nuances/differences in terminology as I am! The Comms plan goes in the Tactics/Action section.

    Would be great to hear from someone in P&G to find out if you’re right.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. You’re so right about marketing communications plans – I suspect that most ‘marketing plans’ are actually just marcoms plans, lacking the kind of analysis you are talking about.

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