“Many people equate marketing with sleight of hand activity designed to con people into paying good money for more than they actually receive” – Barnes, Blake & Pinder, 2009
Marketing is not a department. It is not a foo-foo artsy grey area in the black & white world that is engineering and science. Marketing is not advertising or your company logo or the font and color code you are forced to use in your email signature. Marketing is not what you say you are.
And although this shouldn’t need to be said. . . well, let’s be honest, some of us need a reminder from time to time.
You are not your customer.
Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But how many times do we focus on our own product or service features and benefits without asking the question, “are these the benefits that my customers value?”
There was a time in the early years of my career that I would have snubbed marketing as the exact opposite of science. The anti-science? Science fiction, perhaps?. Or possibly the blurry, smudged and bling’d-out version of the truth- or even worse, a fairy tale used to sell a product when it isn’t actually a fit for the application or customer. (Gasp!) Sure, there are some brands who use marketing for something less than the greater good, but those tactics are not sustainable and it’s only a matter of time before the market learns the truth and rejects these here today, gone tomorrow brands.
Many people in technical roles hold negative beliefs when it comes to marketing. I was that person who had absolutely zero respect for marketers. As a scientist, how could I respect those who weren’t in the trenches with us technical people? Those marketing people didn’t really understand what makes the water & wastewater industry tic- or how to sell performance based equipment in a highly competitive, risk averse, technology based industry. Then again, most of the marketers I had met did truly know nothing at all of our industry. After all, they used words like “the water treatment space”. . . . .
[*Cue a look of pure horror on any technical sales or application specialist’s face.*]
This definition by Hubspot is pretty-well spot-on.
“Marketing is the process of getting people interested in your company’s product or service. This happens through market research, analysis, and understanding your ideal customer’s interests. Marketing pertains to all aspects of a business, including product development, distribution methods, sales, and advertising.”
There you have it. Marketing is based in science. But what about all that graphic design stuff, and layouts and fonts, and the foo foo artsy stuff?
Philip Kotler, the father of modern marketing defined marketing as the “science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.
Marketing is science. And art. Needless to say when I began to really understand this, my mind was nothing short of experiencing a massive implosion something like the 2010 demolition of Texas Stadium after the new 80,000 seat football mecca of “Jerry World”/ AT&T Stadium was completed.
In a slow adopting, risk averse market, innovation which can solve some of our biggest problems is too many times both deeply desired and quickly stifled. Often the technology exists, it simply needs to be better communicated to the decision-makers and influencers so that they aren’t blinded by risk, but instead see opportunity.
This is where the art and science of marketing comes in.
Marketing is knowing your target customer, understanding your decision makers and influencers, and using that information to guide your sales and advertising, and to a large extent, your product development. After all, you cannot sell a product for which there is no demand. Your product must solve a problem- and you must know that problem from the inside in order to provide a real solution. Without marketing, a company may have an offering which may be a great product in the eyes of the inventor or developer, but doesn’t offer a solution to a real problem the customer faces. Anyone can throw a dart. And luck happens on occasion, even to the unskilled and uncoordinated. Marketing is preparing your game so that you hit the bullseye consistently.
If your product excels in multiple metrics when compared to the competition, then it wins, right? The numbers either are or are not (where they need to be). What else is there to do? R&D is complete and you now have a superior product- all of the features are measurable and clear, right?
Knowing what features your product offers is one thing, but to understand not only the advantages of those features but more importantly, how they will specifically benefit your target customer, that is marketing. Furthermore, features and benefits are often mistaken for one and the same – a serious detriment to the sales team tasked with meeting those big hairy audacious goals and the company aiming to hit ever-growing revenue targets.
There are many incredibly innovative engineered products within our water treatment industries, with a number of new inventive products coming out every year. For someone on the outside looking in, it is exciting to see these amazing innovations being created to solve some of the biggest clean water problems our world faces today. As someone standing front-and-center, it pains me to see innovative start-ups kick and fight to become accepted, only to fail to become recognized as a solution provider. There must be a better way. There is a better way.
Marketing is not a department.
Marketing is not who you say you are.
You are not your customer.
It’s about time we integrate strategic marketing into our innovative products. In this highly regulated and risk-averse water and wastewater industry, these engineered products and their “features” won’t sell themselves. We must stop trying to shove our product into every application just to meet quarterly sales targets, and start asking our customers about their pain points and what they identify as valuable. When we put our customers first and demonstrate that we have a true solution to our customer’s burning problem, that is where we will find sustainable growth.
Want to get going with your strategic marketing plan, but not sure where to start? Download a free Brand Audit Worksheet courtesy of Watermark Pro Solutions today to get started with taking your business to the next level.
Barnes, C., Blake, H., Pinder, D. (2009). Creating & Delivering Your Value Proposition- Managing Customer Experience for Profit. London, UK. Kogan Page Limited.