Almost everyone in business has their own definition of marketing. Economists describe it as the "strategic use of resources to complete the cycle from production through to resale." Marketing people, who are particularly keen on repeat purchases, describe marketing as "the efficient creation of customers." Computer people describe marketing as "the umbrella name for all promotional activities that enable a copy of the master program to get from the company's computer to the customers' computer so both parties profit." These definitions are all true.

Marketing people, when they are letting their hair down, describe marketing as "an intellectual activity." Businesspeople retort that it is about the acquisition of money. Again, both are right.

Marketing is such a respected and institutionalized activity now that it is hard to get an interview for a management job in any blue chip corporation without an MBA. Yet marketing only climbed out of the Jack and Beanstalk era when Harry Henry at McCann-Erickson in London wrote a book on the subjects as a client-winning ploy. That was as recently as 1962. To put this in computing terms, this was the year before DEC sold their first Mini Computer.

The difference marketing makes boils down simply to this: At every nodal point in his career, the businessman fundamentally has to make a bet with himself. He has to bet that he can sell at least so many units at such and such a unit profit before such and such a time. The marketing man asks a slightly different question. He asks, "What is the best way to make such and such a profit by selling such and such a product before such and such a time?" In other words, he reduces the chances he has to take by narrowing his risk. The way he does this is by taking a leaf out of the professional gamblers who go to Las Vegas. He notes the performance of the wheel.

There are only two ways to bring any product to market: the Jack and the Beanstalk way and the marketing way. Jack set out to sell his widowed mother's cow and ended up with a row of beans. The marketing way remembers all of the Jack and the Beanstalk case histories, draws practical lessons from them, and systematically employs all the winning strategies. It is not an infallible system, but it is the nearest legal thing you will ever get to loaded dice.

Bringing a product to market hinges on the single conundrum: "How am I going to go about selling my product at a viable profit?" This begs some very basic questions:

♦ Who would want to buy my product?

♦ What is particular about these people?

♦ How well educated are they likely to be?

♦ What's their spending power?

♦ Would a woman be more susceptible than a man?

♦ How can I explain the benefits in a way that they'll appreciate?

♦ How can I generate fresh orders from appreciative customers?

♦ How many sales might this generate?

If you appreciate these questions, you're already on your way to understanding the thinking behind marketing. You can't know the answers if you haven't asked the questions.

When people first started to develop software, they only thought about selling and marketing around the time their test subjects began to give the program their thumbs up. Only then did the inventors have sufficient confidence to believe they might actually sell it. However, by the time they arrived at this point, they had spent 90 cents of every dollar only to find that there was almost no market for the product; or, if they were to break even, it had to be sold at a higher price than the market would bear; or that there was no economic way to contact would-be buyers; or the benefits they offered were not the ones the market wanted.

Fortunately, you know that it is suicide to leave the fundamental marketing questions unanswered this late. You would be gambling with your money, time, and career without lifting a finger to lower the odds.

Before you formulate any plan, you need to know not just what must be done, but how much notice to take of each of the factors as well. Before you draft a plan you will need to seek out the most reliable answers you can get to the following seven questions:

1. What are the product's real advantages?

2. Who potentially are the core buyers?

3. How do you get in touch with them?

4. What is the optimum market price range?

5. How should the product be branded?

6. Is the product marketable?

7. What is everyone else in this area of the market doing?

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