“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.