Old, blind or past it?

Old, Blind or Past it?
Marketing in 21c

Now before you leap to your key pads in a denouncement of such an offensive title allow me to confess. I have been asking this question of myself.

In the dark distant past when coffee came without froth and computers were kept in sealed rooms and operated by bespectacled men (sorry ladies its true) in white coats, I spent a few years climbing the corporate ladder which included a stop off in the Marketing Department of a major multi-national

We saw marketing in aggressively military terms of war, battles, and campaigns, all fine-tuned through tactics, strategy and whiskey.
Statistics and information was gathered from the market and analyzed, products were designed, costed, tested, refined, manufactured, advertised and sold, hopefully, at a profit.

Much thought and combative discussion was applied at each stage, key objectives were established, strategic marketing plans, short term tactics, placement attacks and budgets were drawn up and approved before being committed to endless reams of paper. Weekly meetings were held to gauge progress and we wrote up even more notes in pencil before dictating them to our “girl”, sorry PA, to be typed up. Much time and efficiency was lost in the process and very few really great ideas came out of it.

When I attend marketing meetings today the mood is less combative and the whiskey has unfortunately disappeared  yet I fear just as much time and efficiency is being lost in the discussion of SEO’s, word place rankings, the placement of hash tags and how well the product will look on mobile devices. I leave the room bored and just a little concerned that no one is actually marketing the product.

Perhaps it’s time to redefine MARKETING

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
– David Packard, co-founder, Hewlett-Packard

When you own the show you can make such bold statements! However, if we ask any ten business leaders today to define marketing we will probably get ten different answers. Marketing its function and its purpose appear to have entered a management grey zone.

I was fortunate some years ago to meet the father of modern management, Peter Drucker, on a number of occasions and his view was: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

So, what is marketing and are we moving closer to a definition? The Silicon Valley venture capitalist and former Intel executive Bill Davidow said, harking back to warfare, “Marketing must invent complete products and drive them to commanding positions in defensible market segments.”

Interestingly Davidow didn’t learn marketing at university as he studied electrical engineering. Steve Jobs, another brilliant marketer, dropped out of school. These guys and others like them demonstrate that great marketing skills can be developed.
So how do great marketers learn about marketing? I am convinced that great marketing skills are best learnt on the job. Doing the hard yards.

SME’s and Startup companies are great places to learn and develop marketing skills because they’re all about developing innovative products and getting customer traction – and not much else. Further they’re always strapped for cash and needing people to wear multiple hats.  Interestingly as an engineer by training I also learnt marketing on the job.

Its been a long and complex journey but here are THE SIX KEY TIPS I learned along the way:

Good Marketing is Hard.

It has been said that “Marketing is like sex: Everyone thinks they’re good at it”. Well I’m not getting into that one but on observation there are more posers in marketing than most other fields, probably because the demand is so strong and the supply of real talent is so weak, and it’s easy to fake. When discussing a Telco acquisition with an American banker some years ago he started to tell me how the marketing model needed to change. When challenged he answered “Bankers like to think that they are marketing geniuses. We really do.” He said, this is because “we can fake it far more convincingly than in other areas …” It’s worrying but it’s out there, be warned.

Understand People.
It’s about determining what customers want, often before they know it themselves – look at Sushi-Sushi and how they got everyone eating raw fish. If you’ve got a knack for that sort of thing, trust it. Be your own focus group of one. And while it’s tempting to think of markets as amorphous virtual entities, remember that, even in the B2B world, every product is purchased by a human being in the real world.

Marketers don’t reinvent the wheel.
Some people are great inventors. They come up with wild concepts that nobody’s ever thought of. But great marketers tend to be innovators who turn inventions into things people can use. Marketing thrives on reusing ideas in new ways. Most modern Japanese industry was based on this premise. Steve Jobs didn’t invent he molded inventions into products people wanted to use.

Marketing is too important to leave to the marketing department.
It really is! Marketing is the hub of the business wheel. It’s where product development, manufacturing, finance, communications, and sales all meet. Marketing’s stakeholders are every critical function in the company. Every member of the leadership team is an adjunct of the marketing department. SME or Giant Corporation it’s all the same.

Marketing Really Counts.
Contrary to today’s popular feel-good wisdom, in business, winning is everything. Every transaction has one buyer and one seller. If you do it right, buyer and seller both win. All the other would-be sellers lose. The real world is brutally competitive. Be different to win.
Great Marketing Ideas are Rare.

By executing the right communication strategy, great marketers can create a ground swell of customer excitement and viral demand for a company or product that nobody’s ever heard of. And it can be done on a shoestring budget. Steve Jobs was a master at maintaining secrecy and controlling exactly how and when anybody learned anything about Apple’s products. MacDonald’s are turning bad press about fast food into selling points through its new menus and PR.

The truth is that great marketers are few and far between. Which begs the question, who exactly are you trusting the most important aspect of your business to? Something for you to think about as you take your SME global.

Finally my definition of marketing is to “take something useful and turn it into something desirable”.


Neil Steggall

Neil Steggall

Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

Neil is the CEO of Wardour Capital Partners, leading emerging growth & mid tier advisors. He is also a Non Executive Director of Family Planning Australia and The Australia Asia Business Alliance. Neil is an experienced director & corporate mentor and has chaired or served on numerous board committees including finance & audit, governance, compliance, strategy, acquisition, remuneration & ethics.


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Ling Lee

Ling Lee , at Digital Marketing and Personal Branding

Funnily enough, the textbook definition of marketing is "turning societal needs into profitable opportunities" :D

Neil Steggall

Neil Steggall , Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

lol thanks Ling. I shall use you as my proof reader next time! so much to learn so little time but at least its fun.

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