Don't Forget About Marketing

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It’s commonplace to hear non-Marketers give advice like "forget about marketing" to up and coming businesses.

This is a big mistake. This is a stupid mistake. This is advice being given by people who don’t even know and/or understand what the definition of Marketing is. In almost every case where I see mention of the "forget marketing and focus on your product," commentary, the individual writing this statement is confusing "marketing" with "advertising." No, not every company that is just starting out has to use advertising to generate awareness and sales, but advertising is only a small component of the marketing mix.

Marketing 101.

Not to get into a whole "Marketing 101" lesson, but The Four P’s of Marketing (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) are all functions of Marketing. Seth Godin often says that the best products and services have the marketing "built into it," and he’s right (he usually is). When someone tells you to focus on the product, they’re forgetting that the product must be something that people will buy, talk about and share, for it to be successful (and we’re talking about everything from silverware to a rock band). Anything that is out in the market for people to attach themselves to requires marketing. It requires attention paid to what is being placed in the marketplace (the product), how much it is being sold for to be competitive (the price), where it is being sold (the place) and how you’re going to create awareness and excitement about the product (promotions).

Take the music industry as an example.

If a modern band thinks that all it has to do is focus on the music, they’ve lost their collective minds. Artists create music to attract an audience. The very act of putting pick to guitar strings is an act of marketing – it’s an act to get attention. From the clothes that the artists wear to their genre of music, they are marketing a look, sound and feel. That first gig that they’re going to play in some dumpy bar? How are they going to get people there? They’re going to get their friends to talk about it on Facebook and Twitter. They’re going to post videos to YouTube. They’re going to put up posters at the local hangouts. They’re going to try and get their band mentioned in the local listings, etc… They’re going to price admission to the show at a cost that makes it affordable for their audience and they’re (hopefully) going to have some swag to sell to people at the event. After they play that first set, they’re going to hang around, meet the fans, takes some pictures and sign some autographs. That’s all Marketing. That is all a function of everything that happens after the product (in this case, the music) has been created.

Don’t forget about Marketing.

I have no idea why there is this sudden trend to have people not think about Marketing. Any product or service that is put into the market better have a message (and a story) to tell. It better be something that will get people excited, that will raise an eyebrow or that solves a problem. If creating, pricing and getting that product in-market is not a function of marketing, then everything in business has gone haywire.

Marketing is critical to your business’ success. Forget Marketing… and you can forget success.


  1. Great reminder on the importance of well rounded marketing (so as to include customer acquisition!). Many folk I know, especially in tech, do focus on Price, Product and Place without realizing they’re doing marketing. Unfortunately they expect the resulting product/service to sell itself without Promotion (their resultingly narrow definition of marketing). Maybe they should try starting a band 😉

  2. Speaking of tech, in the new darling “lean startuo” the customer acquisition model needs on ongoing, ever evolving, marketing strategy (and tactics), to “acquire” the customers related to that specific level (version) of product/service.
    With more and more marketing tools out there, there always is one that will add to your bottom line no matter where you are in the evolution of your business. Always Be Marketing 😉

  3. Forget about ‘spend’ on marketing – if $$ is really tight (but don’t forget about marketing – more than 1 way to skin a cat)… – sure this might work…
    Forget about marketing if you idea (as you say above) is that mktg is advertising alone and historically poor ROI in your company/industry – can understand this…
    Forget about marketing though – sheer madness!!

  4. Great post, Mitch. Good marketing isn’t an add-on once a product has already been built – the marketers involved in a new product should be skilled and experienced enough to work side-by-side with engineers or others to define and design the product in the first place. By definition, a good marketer will understand more than anyone else who is the audience for a product and what will motivate them to act – which has to be built into the product itself, not added on later as an afterthought.

  5. Normally, it’s PR that people tend to forget about…nice to commiserate with the marketing folks for a change!

  6. Product & marketing are becoming tightly integrated in successful companies. Using marketing to broadcast about products is becoming ineffective. Companies who engage customers to help build products and improve service will likely be more successful. And, at a lower cost.
    So, don’t use marketing in the traditional specialist sense. Good marketers know how to listen. And, good companies are learning to cut through the information and organizational silos. Maybe this is Marketing 2.0 or perhaps a new term is needed.

  7. Peter Drucker (my hero) famously said, “A company is all about marketing and innovation. Everything else is overhead.”
    While that may seem extreme on the surface, if you think about it, there is great wisdom there. If you think why a company exits and what it has to do to survive and thrive, certainly serving customers well must be at the core. I’m not sure how anybody could really argue with Dr. Drucker if they think about it. Thanks for the great post Mitch!

  8. Mitch, you’ve created a great reminder here. I’ve been working in technology sales and marketing for over 20 years, and it used to be that good companies spent the time to research what the customer needed, build the products based on that and then market and sell based on that again. Tying the product to the market.
    Then Steve Jobs came along and said that people don’t know what they want, its our job to figure it out (paraphrase), and many companies started dreaming up what they could do / make and then would figure out how to sell it (market it) later.
    With all the social tools today, I think any company – big or small, services or products based – has a unprecedented opportunity to listen to the market before and during the product development cycle (in addition to a great feedback loop afterwards). When you build the product or solve the problem that people are really talking about, you build in that attachment right from the start. Thanks for the great post.
    Dan Kraus – Leading Results

  9. It’s amazing that we actually have to remind people not to forget about their marketing.
    Do they forget to go to work in the morning too?
    Like you said, it’s the 4 P’s. But its much more than a formula, marketing should be considered much like the core ideologies of your business. This is what we do, what we stand for and how we do business. If you forget marketing, you forget what your doing and why.

  10. So True Mitch!
    As Michael Masterson Covers in his book Ready Fire Aim, the main thing you need to think about is the sale and how to get more of them!
    If you are purely focussed on your product then what is the point! No one will ever see it but then you still have to have a product to promote!
    As a leader of your business you have to be focussing on how to get the next sale and that is where marketing comes into play!

  11. Mitch:
    Great post. I think that the “forget marketing” is a response to what marketing became for a while – ie bad marketing. The response to spin, to pushing messages about bad products and hiding the flaws.
    I think that people have developed too narrow a view of what marketing is/should be and need to see the imporance marketing as an integral part of business.
    I love the Drucker quote that Mark cited. We need to stop treating marketing as an expense that gets added on later and embrace it as part of the entire process of business.

  12. When people talk about forgetting marketing, they really mean advertising. When you have built-in marketing in your product/service, you need less advertising.

  13. Mitch
    Excellent post and a great reminder to people to focus on the basics of getting your brand message and story ‘out there’ so that people know what you’re selling.
    I’ve heard you mention this particular gripe of yours a number of times on your podcast and within other blog posts and every time I nod my head in agreement. It’s a shame that so many people confuse one aspect of the marketing mix (e.g. advertising or promotion) with marketing in general.
    I believe that many of the biggest and best brands around are market-orientated, i.e. they put the customer at the centre of everything they do. They consider what the target market wants and they market to them accordingly. Consider Apple: their products are amazing but unless they use the right marketing – great products sold in fantastic stores (the place) at a premium price and communicated through stylish TV ads, emails and point-of-sale promotions – then they wouldn’t be able to build such an evangelistic community of customers and sell so many of their products.

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