What if we stopped ten random shoppers on the High St and asked them if they know what “marketing” means? We could use David Brent’s quote fingers as inverted commas, just for effect. I’m sure only one of those imaginary folk would come up with something meaningful. The other nine would be mystified and probably cross the road to avoid us.
This is the problem with the “M” word. What does it really mean?
Within large multi-national corporations full of allegedly competent business people, the marketeers are often at the wrong end of mickey-takes and tongue-in-cheek banter. I’ve personally heard water-cooler chat along these lines: “What on earth happens in the marketing department?” with a snotty tone suggesting, “Absolutely nothing. That’s what!”. But here’s the shocking bit; there really is only one department (other than the CEO) in any company, large or small, that lives or dies by its genuine understanding of absolutely everything else that goes on in that business. And that one department is marketing. We have to know everything about everything. And that’s why it’s interesting to you and me and anyone thinking of opening up a business or trying to improve one.
I’ve earned a very respectable living from marketing products and services for more than 20 years but I have to confess I’ve been scratching my head over the exact meaning of the “M” word for most of them. Back in 1997, I read a brilliant little handbook by the American Robert Grede that distilled marketing down to a simple conclusion of “having the right thing at the right price available to the right people in the right place”. This does kind of sum it all up but it doesn’t explain how that might be done. Saying is one thing, doing is another.
Marketeers are great doers. They’re also seekers, inquisitively going about their business, trying to discover what it is that must change to make sure the “thing” sells better or works better or is cheaper or more expensive or just carries on having an appeal to customers. And they must do all this with razor sharp focus on margins, logistics, sourcing, advertising, legacy, human resource and, of course growth. So it is no exaggeration that marketing means to know as much as possible about pretty much everything going on in the business. This is why being into marketing means being into business. And I, for one, would struggle to separate a marketing plan from a business plan, the only difference being that latter is the one you show your bank manager and the former is the one you use. It’s also the one area of expertise that shouldn’t really ever be outsourced to a third party company because lets face it, if you are outsourcing a complete understanding of all of your business, you’re probably bored of it yourself and need a change!
So next time a stranger stops you in the street to ask what the “M” word really means, you can assertively tell them it means to know everything about everything then come up with a plan to make sure everything carries on happening only better.
©John Pearce, 19 March 2013
John is Commercial Director at Pearce Marketing & Media Ltd, an SME consultancy specializing in TV Home Shopping, Direct Marketing and International Trade.