By Francis Moran
One of my primary goals as a marketer is to overturn the myths that surround the marketing of new technology products and services. I acknowledge that many engineering-focused executive teams at technology ventures are leery of what they see as the black art of marketing. I can forgive them for their scepticism — after all, we marketers don’t do a good enough job of demonstrating just how marketing works and why they should invest in it — but I have a tougher time forgiving others who have weighed in recently with simplistic and downright erroneous comments against marketing.
The worst part is, many of these insults were self-inflicted injuries inflicted on the marketing profession by some of its own.
Two good examples showed up as questions on LinkedIn. The first asked, “If you could use ONLY one marketing technique [sic] for your consultancy, what would it be?” I was feeling a bit cranky that day and my answer probably reflected my mood. Still, moodiness aside, my point is valid; it’s not only unwise and unnecessary but probably also impossible to limit marketing to a single technique. And the very asking of the question feeds into the mythology that there’s a magic marketing silver bullet that, if it could only be found and deployed, would solve all your marketing woes. I wasn’t alone in my negative response to this one; a few other folks agreed with my take but our contrarian view did not carry the day.
The second LinkedIn question tried to put a smear of lipstick on that old pig of a PR measurement tool, advertising value equivalents. Fortunately, this parrot is well and truly dead, and the only people still trying to prop it up on its perch are those with nothing better to offer their clients.
Perhaps the worst example of pure drivel masquerading as knowledge was the ill-advised post by respected venture capitalist Fred Wilson who attracted buckets of reaction with his blanket indictment of marketing. “Marketing is for companies who [sic] have sucky products,” Wilson said in a blog post that then went on to list countless examples of highly effective marketing programs that he simply doesn’t identify as such. While Wilson sort of retracted his blanket condemnation a couple of days later with a witty piece that debugged the flaws in his first post, the reality is that he, like many who should know better, simply wouldn’t recognise effective marketing if it hit them in the face with a baseball bat. Which is what effective marketing often does.
Here’s the difficult truth, people: Marketing is hard and it’s expensive. In being hard it’s not so different from most everything else in life. But there are people who have mastered the art. They’re called marketers. You should use them. As for being expensive, well it depends which end of the glass you’re looking through. If marketing is viewed solely as a cost centre, nobody would ever do it. It is essential that marketing be viewed as an investment, as the only place in a company, along with sales, that actually produces revenues. It is the responsibility of marketers to frame the discussion not in terms of how much this is going to cost but, rather, in terms of how much new revenue this is going to generate. (And a note to Fred Wilson, who seemed most enamoured of marketing techniques that required nothing more than internal resources — those things aren’t free, either. And they just might be more usefully done by external resources who are experts at them rather than internal founders, CEOs and executives whose value to the new venture presumably lies in their product-development capabilities and not in their marketing chops.)