Marketing Schmarketing. It’s not what you think.

What is marketing? Don’t ask me. And don’t bother Googling it either. And, please don’t ask your boss, your wife, your web designer or marketing consultant. It seems that the real purpose of marketing has been lost somehow over the last few years. I’m not even going to tell you that MY definition is correct because ultimately it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is what problem you are trying to solve. Marketing can help create and drive demand, differentiate from competing products/services, communicate value, drive the sales process and more. But at the end of the day, marketing’s real value is in mitigating risk. Allow me to clarify. In my humble (yeah, right…) opinion, what most often passes for marketing isn’t marketing at all. Web sites, brochures, email, blogs, etc., are marketing tactics. They fall under the umbrella of marketing but, by themselves, have little real value. For me, marketing is about gaining a true, unbiased understanding of the market place – customers, industry, competitors.  For example, if you knew exactly how prospects evaluate your firm against a competing company – would that help you close more sales? I thought so.

I’m not talking about information that is anecdotal. I’m talking about doing research that get’s the information from the source. In the above example, the most accurate information comes from your existing customers. You might do well to interview prospects that chose your competitors over you too. Now you have real data.

Real data and marketing process mitigates risk. What risk? I’m so glad you asked. If you are like most of my clients, you are investing a significant sum in marketing and sales activities. I’m talking web sites, sales materials, trade shows, airline tickets, salaries, media, direct marketing, graphic design, etc. The idea behind this spending is to get a return on this investment – e.g., more sales. You can decide how much you want to risk failure. If you have not investing in a real planning process in the last three to five years, you are absorbing serious risk. Perhaps you are comfortable with that. I’m not.

I want to be as certain as possible that what is investing in marketing activities will pay dividends. I want to keep the risk of failure as low as possible (nothing in business is a sure thing – but we don’t have to flaunt it either). That’s where sound marketing practices and planning come in.

“But, Pete…”, you say, “…that’s not fun or creative. That sounds boring.” Yes, Virginia it ain’t pretty but it gets to the heart of what really works. If you want to add zeros to your revenue numbers, you need to do what works. You wouldn’t try to build a house without a blueprint. You wouldn’t drive across the country without a map.

Marketing gives you validated answers to questions that are critical to sales success. If you want to gamble go to Las Vegas. If you want to grow your company, invest in marketing.