One of the things that I think most people in the marketing world take for granted is that everybody understands the fundamental role of marketing in business. Through my daily interactions with other business owners over the past several years, however, I have been amazed at the relative lack of understanding about the importance of marketing. More often than not, marketing is a back seat, tertiary thought that comes after their product/service and daily operations, if it’s even that high of a priority.
I guess that a good place to start in this discussion is to define what marketing is. Google definition tells us that marketing is “the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to satisfy customers.” Marketing really does consist of more than what most people think it does. Marketing is more than just the activities that drive sales. Rather, marketing encompasses all the activities that seek to identify what consumers want and how to promote and deliver those goods and services.
Before an individual or company ever even makes the decision to produce a particular product or service, they should first spend the time to determine if there’s even a market for that offering. If there is a demand, they then need to figure out how to get that offering to the consumers that want it, how to tell consumers that it’s available, and how to price it such that there is money left over for a profit. This is all part of the marketing process, and really should occur before the product itself is even produced.
In more common usage of the term, “marketing” is often seen as only the promotional aspect of a product or service that is already available. This part of marketing consists of making the consumer aware of what you’re offering, and convincing them to buy it. There is a tendency in corporate environments to separate the marketing and sales functions into disparate departments, which is often a mistake. The purpose of the promotional element of marketing is to drive sales, and therefore the two functions are intricately connected. A good example of the disconnect between these two departments is when companies that sell capital equipment have vastly more people in their marketing departments than they do in their field sales force. Another example is when marketing and product development folks ignore the input from the field sales personnel. This input is often derived from actual customer contact, which most employees of large organizations don’t experience.
The prime purpose of one of my blogs is to test marketing promotions using a vast array of messages, media, and markets, which are often referred to as the three M’s of marketing. Before we conduct a test, we first do some background research to determine if there is even a market for what we’re considering selling, and we analyze whether or not we can at least break even on the marketing test using certain realistic assumptions about sales ratios. Pricing strategy is also something we discuss a lot before launching a new test. The actual development of sales copy, writing and placing ads, setting up measurement systems, etc., comes later in the process. Making sales and tracking metrics, then tweaking the marketing, comes next.
Sadly, many business owners don’t understand the importance of marketing. Because of this, they fail to plan for rough spots in the business cycle, such as off seasons, economic downturns, and other events. As the cliche goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Every business should have a marketing plan of some sort, and it should be in writing. Companies that don’t “do” marketing will invariably fail.
In short, without marketing there are no sales. And without sales, there is no revenue. And without revenue, any business will quickly succumb to the statistics that show that nearly 2/3 of all businesses fail within their first 4 years.