There’s an interesting debate rumbling on in a number of social network groups and also offline at the moment about what marketing actually is. Thankfully there are those who are now in full agreement with us. So it’s no coincidence that I titled this article ‘Defining Marketing’, after all that’s the strapline in our company name.
When I was embarking on my career in marketing some 20+ years ago, the widely held perception of marketing, was that it was exclusively about developing communications for the purpose of attracting, or retaining, existing customers. Hence it was always seen as an extension to sales. That view is particularly strong in many manufacturing and designer/manufacturer SME’s, especially in those businesses that employ fewer than fifty or so people (and a typical size client for us). Needless to say marketing is rarely considered a full-time function in this type of organisation, so it ends up being allocated to an office junior, administrator or a PA and this also promotes the misconception that marketing is about spending money, whilst finance is about ring fencing it (you can read more about our thoughts on this in May 2013’s blog).
A few years ago (2010), I completed what I hope will be the last of my professional studies (aged 49). I had finished my Marketing Diploma and went on to become Chartered with the Chartered Institute of Marketing. On its own this is not so relevant, but if you add this to the experiences I had learnt in business, together this created a different picture of the commercial world I’d worked in.
Let me explain. If you ask the Chartered Institute of Marketing for the academic definition of what marketing is, this is the response, “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” Breaking this down for analysis confirms it’s a management process that takes responsibility, which should eradicate any unqualified decisions on direction, planning (and potentially execution, dependent on the size of the company). This then positions marketing as a business critical tool, not therefore one for an inexperienced employee/junior or part-timer.
The second part, ‘anticipating and then satisfying’ becomes the minimum goal for everyone within the business; without customers, we don’t have a business and again this must be led from the top down.
The key element though is for me, and others like me, who as I said earlier, are actively commenting on various platforms, this issue of ‘satisfying customer requirements profitably’.
So let’s pose a question. You run a modest manufacturing business making widgets and you’ve set a price for them at which they sell at. But there are issues with machinery output, staff motivation, absence and a short-sighted approach to systems and processes. If that wasn’t enough the rest of the board don’t share your vision for the direction of the company, and so the various departments protect and defend their own teams regardless of the impact – especially to the customer and ultimately to the business itself. Consequently these organisations inadvertently develop a twin-track approach, saying one thing but doing another.
Defining marketing means you won’t throw money down the drain!If businesses are to fully embrace profitability and sustainability, then due consideration must be extended to how we use our time as employees adopting new practices and linking HR with operational performance. Needless to say many businesses still only use marketing as the barometer for customer satisfaction and linking marketing solely with sales rather than extending its role through every department including R&D, Operations, IT, HR and even finance. Putting marketing at the core of what you do, you can then truly consider customer expectations at a more meaningful level. A level that’s entirely focussed on operational performance in all areas, which will ultimately impact at some stage upon the customer, don’t you agree?