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5 Dangerous Marketing Myths

When it comes to the role that marketing should play in a B2B firm, misconceptions abound. While I've run into dozens of incredible success stories, the fact remains that the B2B world is still plagued with marketing groups that don't know what they're doing, or why they're suppose be doing it.

I've posted about this issue before, but I thought it would useful to revisit the issue with a very simple, straightforward post. Please don't think that I'm trying to "bash marketing." I'm trying to remind companies that marketing can be an extremely useful function -- when it's correctly focused and goaled appropriate.

With that in mind...

CLICK for the first myth »
Illustrations by Sergey Konyakin

MYTH #1: "Marketing is Useless"
  • Who Says It: The Sales Team.
  • Why They Say It: They can't see how the activities of the marketing group are helping them make sales.
  • Why It's a Myth: While it's true that there are hundreds of thousands of marketing groups that have no intention or ability to help sales groups to sell, there are just as many marketing groups that are an incredible asset to their company and are responsible for increasing revenue and reducing the cost of sales.
  • Why It's Dangerous: When the sales team believes that marketing is automatically useless, it might not be able to see the benefits of what the marketing team is already doing. Worse, it prevents the sales team from articulating how the marketing team can provide even more help in the future.
  • How to Cope: Sales management must take the lead, by finding elements of the marketing group's activities that are having a positive impact, and communicating that benefit to the sales reps. The two groups should be encouraged to work together and goaled on their ability to do so.
CLICK for the second myth »
MYTH #2: "Marketing is Strategic"
  • Who Says It: Marketing Executives
  • Why They Say It: If the marketing function is considered strategic, nobody will look too closely at whether it's really having a positive impact on revenue or profit. Instead, they'll simply assume that spending money on marketing is important, which makes it easier for marketing executives to grow their empire.
  • Why It's a Myth: Marketing is a tactical function that's supposed to make it easier for the company (and specifically the sales team) to create profitable revenue.
  • Why It's Dangerous: Marketing groups that are "strategic" end up consuming large amounts of money on activities and expenditures that are of marginal value. Example: brochures that nobody reads and advertisements that nobody understands.
  • How to Cope: Top management must measure marketing in a quantifiable manner, with every measurement tied to specific activities of the marketing group. For example, if marketing runs an advertisement, it MUST include a way to measure response in terms of profitable revenue.
CLICK for the third myth »
MYTH #3: "Marketing Drives Sales"
  • Who Says It: Marketing Managers
  • Why They Say It: They're trying to take credit for the work of the sales team.
  • Why It's a Myth: Most marketing professionals have never sold anything. Therefore, they know little or nothing about selling. While they certainly can (and will) kibbitz from the peanut gallery, their advice and suggestions about selling are usually useless.
  • Why It's Dangerous: There are few things more demotivating that having an entire group of people running around taking credit for your group's hard work. This myth thus drives a huge wedge between sales and marketing, making it impossible for the two groups to work together, except as adversaries.
  • How to Cope: The easiest way to fix this problem is to put the marketing group under the CSO or VP of Sales. Short of this, top management must make it clear to the marketing group that they are there to help Sales, not to tell them what to do.
CLICK for the fourth myth »
MYTH #4: Marketing Creates Brands"
  • Who Says It: Business Schools
  • Why They Say It: MBA programs are big money makers, and marketing is a popular major within them. The focus on branding makes marketing seem important, like it's a way to hypnotize people into buying things they don't need.... like MBAs, come to think of it.
  • Why It's a Myth: Brands are always a reflection of the product and the experience of buying the product. The activities of marketing groups, like advertising, PR, etc. can only build on the brand that's created, not by marketing, but by the customer's experience with the product.
  • Why It's Dangerous: Every year pointless brand marketing consumes billions of dollars, most of which is totally wasted because they're not measured in any meaningful way, and cannot be mapped to increases in revenue and profit.
  • How to Cope: Pick a brand identity (name, logo, etc.) that makes sense and stick with it. Then focus on the customer experience, both with the product and the buying of the product. If you do that right, your brand will take care of itself.
CLICK for the last myth »
MYTH #5: "Marketing Defines Products"
  • Who Says It: Junior Marketers
  • Why They Say It: Most low level marketing activity is lot less fun than hanging out with engineers and pretended that you understand what the "customer" (whom you've never seen) actually wants.
  • Why It's a Myth: Most marketing professionals do not have sufficient contact with customers to know what they'll be wanting in the future. Furthermore, most marketing professionals lack the expertise in product development to know what's possible to build. Therefore, their "market requirements" are usually ignored, and rightly so.
  • Why It's Dangerous: Even when (as is usually the case) the engineering group ignores marketing input, it still takes time and effort to neutralize their influence. And if that time and effort isn't spent, then you can end up with "marketing driven" engineering groups that never build anything because the requirements keep changing.
  • How to Cope: Get marketing out of the product design business. Instead, have marketing meet with sales and jointly gather information from the customer base about what they'd like to see in the future. Then bring the R&D group into the discussion, especially with real live customers.
CLICK for some final words »
I hope that this post puts the rest the notion that I'm "against" marketing. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, I DO think it's time that we scrapped all that theoretical BS about "strategic marketing" and get down to actions and activities that help the sales group (or the channel) to sell whatever the firm is offering its customers.

My general feeling is that marketing professionals are mostly smart people and mostly have their hearts in the right place. Unfortunately, a weird vision of what business is all about has been promulgated by academics and promoted by top executives who want to build empires while avoiding responsibility.

When marketing is pursued as a separate function, divorced from the reality of making sales, it quickly becomes a parasitical burden. By contrast, when marketing takes its proper role as a tactical service organization to the sales team (or the sales function if the sales take place indirectly), then companies make money more quickly. They sell more products and make more money on each product that they sell.

In short, marketing is IMPORTANT... but only if it serves the goals of the larger organization.