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Is Marketing essential for success?

Strange that, having spent so long trying to show clients how much more there is to marketing than promotions, I find myself once again running a marcomms (marketing communications) team! It’s a great role, but I do sometimes find it a challenge to stick to my knitting in marketing (read marcomms).

If you´re a regular reader of this blog you´ll know already – we believe marketing is the most important function in business, not just about making things pretty. Working with businesses large and small over many years, however, has taught me that marketing is often relegated to the ´soft and fluffy´, the ´window dressing´ rather than being seen as critical to success.

Nonetheless, even when running a marcomms team you need to know that the messages you are communicating are built on solid ground or all your good efforts will be for nothing when the customers find you out!

Who needs marketing anyway?

Recently I came across the view that if a business is successful then marketing is unnecessary. My stock answer is that while they may not be doing some of the headline marketing such as advertising undoubtedly the business is doing marketing – because it is impossible to run a business without it.

Conversations like these remind me of a quote I came across ages ago from x, founder of Addison Lee. He boasted that he had built a successful business without spending a penny on marketing. What he meant was he never paid for external advertising – because what is plastering a logo all over vehicles that drive round London if it´s not marketing (and it certainly cost a penny or two to implement).

Do such attitudes matter? Possibly not, because people are clearly happy to carry out marketing activities without having to label them as such, but to me it does beg the questions:

  1. Why is marketing a dirty word and not seen as essential to success?
  2. If (successful) businesses were more conscious they were doing marketing and embraced all aspects fully could they be even more successful?
  3. What chance has a marcomms team if they are only engaged when all else has failed?

Answers are: 1) I don´t know 2) I´m sure of it 3) Very little!

So what is marketing really?

Marketing involves everything responsible for satisfying customers profitably, including:

  • Defining the product or service offered
  • Establishing the brand identity to unify and provide shorthand code for customer expectations
  • Setting a price that delivers value in the eyes of the customer – and profitable revenue to you
  • Making the product/service available and easy to purchase
  • Delivering a great customer experience that keeps customers loyal and willing to recommend you to others
  • Communicating that value to existing and potential customers (not the whole world – that would be wasteful)

If a business is successful (i.e. making money) then I would argue they are also successful in marketing. They are doing what it takes to attract and keep customers.

Who is responsible for doing marketing?

David Packard (Hewlett-Packard) is reported to have said: “Marketing is too important to leave to the marketing department”. This means everyone is in the business has a part to play in delivering the list above and therefore in the success of the business.

Every encounter with the company and its products is a marketing transaction. From sales to accounts, everyone can play a positive or negative part in delivering great customer service or building a great reputation for a business.

Perhaps what this really highlights is the age-old tension between sales and marketing. Recruitment is a very sales oriented business and sales people are loathe to see the techniques they use labelled marketing rather than sales. But at the 1-1 level of customer engagement marketing and sales converge – is wining and dining a prospective or current client sales or marketing? Is this not just another form of networking? When you’re networking (in a formal occasion for example) are you marketing or selling? Does it matter? Not if you´re doing it right!

Sales is all about identifying and closing the deal, but why do it the hard way?

Marketing should make sales easier

If marketing and sales converge at the 1-1 level then it’s when you’re talking 1-many that marketing really comes into its own. Because if you tick all the boxes on your marketing plan and have a brand that is consistently communicated, services that are easy to buy and get the value from, experiences that are positive – time after time, then the job of a salesperson to identify and close more deals more often just got a whole lot easier.

And great products delivered brilliantly certainly make the life of the marcomms team a lot easier too. So, although my focus these days is very much on delivering marketing communications, I know that for us to be successful I need the rest of the business to be good at marketing too (whatever they choose to call it).

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