Monday, November 28, 2016

When Does Marketing Start?

Business consultant and author Peter Drucker once wrote:

"Business has only two functions - marketing and innovation. All the rest
are costs."

Many people have a mistaken belief that marketing is something you do when it's time to sell your product or service. Nothing could be further from the truth! Marketing starts before the product or service even exists!

My favorite marketing coach is Robin Robins. If you attend one of her workshops, you may get to see her build a marketing campaign. She starts by talking about the client. Who's going to buy this? What do they look like? What do they want? What's their pain point? What problem can you solve.

(If you haven't seen her stuff, I recommend you check out the Technology Marketing Toolkit.)

The stages in product development look something like this:

But notice that "marketing" is not listed here. Why? Because it's ALL marketing. Marketing is the process of defining and communicating the VALUE of your product or offering. You cannot start the marketing discussion at the "Promote/Sell" stage. That's too late in the process.

There are many kinds of value in your offering. Assuming you're in the IT business, your offering will have at least two or three of these value types:

- Functional Value. How well does this product/service achieve its goal? For example, reliable backup of data.

- Emotional Value. How well does this product/service fulfill and emotional need, such as feeling confident that the company can survive a disaster?

- Monetary Value. Obviously, how will this product or service help the client make money, save money, or do something they haven't done before; and how does that compare to the price of the offering?

- Social Value. How does this product/service fulfill the client's need to achieve or maintain status among their peers?

If you start "marketing" at the Promote/Sell stage, you're really just telling a story about how you can provide value to clients. It's like you have to wedge value into the conversation.

It's much better to start with defining the client and then discussing value at every stage of the product evolution. That way, the product or service is literally inseparable from the value it brings to the client. Instead of value being an after-thought, it's baked in!

We All Know This Is True

How many times have seen a great product fail? You hear people complain about how hard they worked to develop something - and there were no buyers!

You can have an awesome product that fails fast if you develop the product first and do the marketing as an after-thought. Think about grand failures from the Ford Edsel to the Apple Newton. They are often priced wrong, have the wrong feature set, or are great for a microscopic audience.

ALL of those factors can be addressed by considering the client perspective from the beginning. Notice that my graphic above actually implies a series of feedback look. Test. Refine. Continue refining.

When you just make the argument that your product is better and people should just buy it, then you fail - even if your product is better. OS/2 was a collaboration of competitors that should have resulted in market dominance. But it was built based on technology considerations and not value.

If you don't have the client-focused value discussion all throughout product (or service) development, it is hard to convince people that they should buy it just because you say it's "better."

. . . To be continued . . .

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