Imagine that you are at this restaurant and the waiter puts two glasses in front of you. In glass number one he pours a dark liquid from an unmarked jug. In glass number 2 he pours a similar dark liquid but this time it is from a bottle that has five letters- ‘PEPSI’. Now which glass would you drink from?
In 9 out of ten cases you would drink from glass no 2, and that is the power of marketing.
Marketing has been around for centuries. When Alexander proposed a vision of Greek revenge on Persia in the 300 BC, he was essentially a marketer. Selling the Greek states the vision of what would happen if they did not united against Persia and launch the invasion. That eventually led to the propagation of Greek literature, philosophy, commerce and administration that long outlived him.
Marketing is all about the vision, creating the mental picture in the minds of the prospects, and it is this mental picture that leads you to drink from glass number 2. Marketing creates brands, brands that stand for certain values. Again when consumers invest in those brands, they are investing in those values. That is the reason a TATA or an Apple is valued at Billions of dollars.
But there are some key constraints on marketing!
Firstly, Marketing does not work for every brand. Unless there is a key differentiator either in the product, price or services, marketing will not be very effective. Also the key differentiator should be something that is valued by the consumer. A good example was that Maruti- Suzuki in the 1980’s promised its consumers hassle free and reliable car. This was at a time when all India had were unreliable cars from Hindustan motors.
Secondly, Industries in different stages of maturity may require different levels of marketing. A good example is cloud computing, which is in its nascent stages requires more of thought leadership and consultative marketing. More mature industries will require mainstream advertising and promotions.
Thirdly, Marketing is based on the needs and wants of the consumers. The ability to identify them and position the product or service properly is the key. That would require marketers to get their feet off the table and get into the field and observe what the consumers are doing and asking for in the market places.
Marketing strictly is a non-armchair activity, and those who feel they can create marketing strategy by sitting in air conditioned offices are wasting their time.
In conclusion I feel marketing can make sales redundant, but only if done keeping the customer in mind.
So is there no role in business for the humble salesman?
In an earlier article on market research, I had discussed how sales data and point of sales experience should drive insight into marketing. Sales due to its proximity to the customer, is best suited to observe this and come back with insights. These can then be fed into the beginning of the product development cycle leading to the marketing efforts.
A good example was Thomas Siebel who was a master salesman at Oracle, who used his insights of dealing with the customers to create one of the most successful Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems named after him.
This also would require a lot of integration between sales and marketing, something that is seldom seen in the most integrated of organizations. This is mainly due to fact that Sales is very operational while Marketing requires a multi-disciplinary approach. For more on that argument please read this article.
The second area where salesmen become important is for commoditized industries which require push for a sale. These industries are better off not having a marketing team, because commodity can never create a pull no matter how glossy the marketing collateral is. Imagine a cool advertisement for Hot rolled Coils? I do not imagine how many prospects would buy the brand based on that commercial; instead it would require sales to push the product.
Marketing and Sales are the Yin and Yang of business. One does not require the other technically. Often I have been told that marketing is required to reduce the cost of sale, but I feel it is job of marketing to make sales redundant. And if your firm still has sales guys then probably marketing is not doing its job.
It takes one great marketer to do what an army of sales guys can achieve – For those in doubt please search for “Steve Jobs” on any search engine.
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