Marketing is Everything

Big “M” Marketing is not just advertising!

Bill Taylor, CMO, Gordian Knot Analytics Group, Inc.

Author’s note: I originally published this article in 2013, for a blog on Continuous Innovation I was writing. The subject material continues to be relevant and is a cornerstone for how every CxO should think about Marketing.

Marketing is not just advertising!  There, I said it! I am concerned that far too many companies still think of marketing as simply the advertising function for the company, and if you don’t believe me, look at most job descriptions for a Chief Marketing Officer, or VP of Marketing, or Director of Marketing, or Manager of Marketing. Very rarely do these roles take on allof the text book responsibilities that form the entire basis of marketing. Do they in your company?

While advertising (creating awareness and communicating the advantages of your products and services to your end-customers) is an essential component of Marketing, it is a strategic mistake to limit your view of marketing this way. So, what do I mean by Big “M” Marketing?  I believe Peter Drucker sums it up best.

“Marketing is so basic that it cannot be considered as a separate function. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view.”  Peter Drucker

In other words, Big “M” Marketing is the essence of everything a company does to satisfy its customers; everything else is secondary to that.

The first pages of virtually every Marketing textbook define Marketing as “… the function of satisfying the needs, wants, and desires of your customers with products and services of value, better than your competition.”  The other 700 plus pages explain in excruciating detail how to enable this seemingly very simple definition.

“Marketing is so basic that it cannot be considered as a separate function. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view.”  Peter Drucker

Why is it then that most companies, and their leadership seem to have such a narrow view of Marketing? I believe over time products and underlying technology, sales channels, and financial models supporting them have become increasingly more complicated. Organizations have separated out the various components of marketing (Product, Pricing, Promotion, Distribution, Customer Care, etc.). Further, organizations have established pools of expertise for each of these components in different / specialized departments – Product Managers are responsible for defining and developing the solution. Marketing owns advertising and media relationships. Finance might be responsible for pricing and discount authorization functions. Sales owns a large portion of the pre-sales customer engagement relationship and revenue generating responsibility. Service owns the post-sales customer experience, and so forth.

marketing is everything 2

However, disconnects surface whenever you ask these various groups what their role in the Marketing function is. I often hear comments like these: “I’m in sales – those marketing people are nothing but a bunch of hot air.”  Or, “I’m in product development, marketing and sales can’t sell these awesome gizmos I’ve just spent years developing.” Or, “I’m in finance, I have to make sure that those marketing and sales people don’t give it away for free.”  Or, worse, “I am in marketing – I don’t do sales.”  Frightening!

Not everyone views his or her role as an integral part of the broader Big “M” Marketing function, and it gets less clear, when Marketing is buried underneath one of the other disciplines or disconnected from the direct customer facing activity altogether.

As the Top Executive of a company, one of our roles is to enable and facilitate integrating this holistic view of Marketing into the zeitgeist of every other group – or more to the point, our job is to ensure that every group’s responsibility and accountability for satisfying our customers’ needs is clearly articulated and well understood. But, our biggest challenge may be that we came up through Finance, or Engineering and our view of Marketing may be limited. We may have had very little exposure to the Marketing function except in Dr. Smith’s Marketing class when we went to business school 20 or 30 some years ago. Or, we may have even dropped out of college to go invent the next awesome thing, and never made it to Dr. Smith’s Marketing class.

“If you are not focused on embedding Marketing throughout your organization, you will fail in the marketplace. I can safely say this because if you are not satisfying your customers, your competition will.” Theodore Levitt

If you need a wake-up call, get started by reading or re-reading the classic article by Theodore Levitt – Marketing Myopia. It will remind you and your team to consider what business you are really in, and who your real customers are (hint: you are not the device or service you produce, and your real customers are the folks who write the lastcheck for your product or service). Then, take a hard look at your organization and make sure that every function understands their respective role in supporting your end-customers. Make certain your HR team is incorporating some aspect of supporting the customer in everyone’s job description; that every manager has objectives to support improved focus on the customer. Compensate everyone for performance in this effort.

Have your engineers and R&D scientists sit through a customer sales pitch, or a focus group on your next awesome gizmo – it may not be as awesome as they imagined it to be. Have the finance folks attend the next trade show and have them work the booth – let them see how hard it is to convey the value of the product. Let everyone in the company know when customers are coming to visit, and why they are an important customer – roll out the red carpet in every corner of the facility; get the security guards (often the first point of contact for a customer coming to visit your facility) or the cafeteria workers to sit through new employee orientation where you introduce what your company does and how it’s organized, and what employee values everyone is expected to support. By the way, if you haven’t done it in a while, spend a half-day with your call center staff listening to support calls – you might be surprised by what you hear.

Everyone should be an advocate for the end-customer, including your channel partners and 3rd party suppliers.

Further, make certain that Marketing, Sales, Operations, Finance, and Service are engaged with Engineering and Development before the product is coming down the manufacturing line and “escapes” into the marketplace. Integrate them into the product release stage reviews. Hold everyone accountable for the value proposition of Right Product, Right Time, Right Price, and Right Place. Catch people trying to do the right thing for the end-customer and reward them when you do – it’s contagious.

In short, everyone in our respective organizations should understand what value he or she is bringing every day to support the customer attraction, win, and retention cycle. If we cannot articulate the value of the activity in terms of Customer Centricity, then eliminate it (or if you must – the individual). As harsh as that sounds, I’ve more often discovered that if you ask your staff how they can support the end-user better, they’ll have plenty of great thoughts on that – all we have to do is listen, and then of course, be prepared to act on those suggestions.

There is a lot more to discuss about Big “M” Marketing, and ways to get everyone thinking about satisfying the needs of our customers, and why it’s so important to the Continuous Innovation process. Contact Gordian Knot Analytics Group today and find out how we can help.