Why do many small firms incorrectly define marketing?

I recently bought a marketing text which includes Chapters by prominent academics such as Professor Malcolm McDonald of Cambridge Business School.  In the book, Professor McDonald despairs about the state of the marketing profession.  he argues that in too many businesses marketing is side-lined as a peripheral business function and not treated as part of a business’s core strategic development.

All to often, Professor McDonald argues, marketing is seen as a function of a firm’s sales team and when organisations say they need to do marketing, they are talking about promotion and advertising.  One of the examples he gives is the house building industry and it can be seen just around the corner from my home.  A new estate is being built and at its entrance is a temporary building emblazoned with the words ‘Marketing Suite’.  This firmly places the word marketing within the definition of ‘the place you come to get sold to’.

Professor McDonald is also critical of the Chartered Institute of Marketing for stating that: ‘Marketing isn’t a function; it’s an attitude of the mind’. He feels this statement is deficient.  How do you measure, research protect and examine an attitude of the mind.

A better way to define Marketing is as the process of:

  • Defining markets
  • Identifying customer groups in those markets
  • Quantifying the needs of those customer groups
  • Creating value propositions to meet those needs
  • communicating those value propositions
    • to the staff who deliver them; and,
    • to those who need them
  • playing an appropriate role in delivering those value propositions (usually through communication); and,
  • monitoring the actual value delivered.

In short, marketing properly calibrated within a business is at the core of corporate strategy development and delivery.  The marketing process is fundamental in determining corporate success.

It must also be remembered that the marketing process is cyclical.  Changes need to be made as the environment the business operates within changes.  Changes to strategy need to be made as customer demographic change.  Marketing is a process of adaptation.  It is a critical process for business leaders.  Corporate boards need to understand that customer satisfaction is key to profitable success and they need to share this common understanding will all stakeholders in the organisation.  Business strategies need to be evaluated against the market.  Tactical marketing activities need to be implemented within the context of market-led strategies.  Customer satisfaction is not a function of the marketing or complaints department.  Marketing has a central role in creating sustainable competitive advantage.

The aim of a business is to produce high returns for stakeholder investment.  This is the true ‘bottom line’.  Some firms use sharp accounting practices to give the impression of high returns; others pair costs to the bone; but such returns are best achieved by placing marketing at the core of your business strategy.