This is what Theodore Levitt, one of the great marketing gurus wrote. He was not, however, advocating the redundancy of the sales function – just that the ideal scenario for any business is not to have to sell because the customer is already turning up at your door, since they want what you are offering.
Other gurus have said similar things. Peter Drucker wrote:
“There will always, one can assume, be a need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous…”
He also wrote:
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
To emphasize this point, Philip Kotler has written:
“Marketing is not the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make; marketing is the art of creating genuine consumer value.”
A very simple concept, but one that seems very difficult for most organizations to apply – sustainable success results from understanding and meeting customer needs better than competitors. It impacts on everything a business does – particularly its core products and services – but increasingly the way it behaves and demonstrates its beliefs and values.
This is more than a little different from the cartoon representation of marketing as a discipline concerned with pushing people to buy things they neither want nor need, and primarily concerned with promotion. In a world that needs to become far more sustainable, we need to find ways to drive out the bad practice that reinforces the misperception.