Let's Fix Marketing. For Good.

Last Updated May 9, 2007 1:33 PM EDT

In business-to-business (B2B) firms, the legendary conflict between sales and marketing stems from a difference of opinion about what marketing should be doing.  Most marketing professionals believe that they should primarily be concerned with market research, building brand equity and creating marketing materials.  Most sales professionals believe that marketing should be generating qualified sales leads.

This is part of the blog where I'm supposed to be diplomatic and p...olitically correct, and write some yada-yada-yada about teamwork and respecting differences, etc., etc. 

Forget that. Here's the honest truth: Marketing is dead wrong; Sales is dead right. In B2B environments, marketing is only useful insofar as it generates qualified sales leads. Period. The glamorous activities near and dear to the hearts of B2B marketers everywhere have almost no impact on selling, other than driving up the cost of sales.

Take market research. If the purpose of the research is to triangulate on real, live customers, it can be a good idea. But a substantial amount of market research – especially the privately funded stuff that marketing groups love -- is generally accomplished to “objectively” confirm an opinion that somebody in marketing already holds. So it's worthless, in fact.  And the market research guys that do those kind of studies are, not to put too fine a point on it, whores.  How do I know this?  I once controlled a $1 million per year market research budget.  It was TRIVIAL to get industry analysts -- even those in the big, reputable firms -- to say basically anything that we wanted them to say, even if it was patent nonsense.

Let’s talk about corporate branding.  There’s no question that a good corporate brand can make selling easier, and individual product lines are easier to sell if they have memorable brand names. But most corporate branding exercises are stupid and pointless. Example: Xerox has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to change its tagline to “The Document Company.” But everyone know what a freakin' xerox machine does.  Trying to "expand" the brand to mean something more than that was an exercise in marketing futility -- especially since Xerox continues to lose market share in copiers. Second example: In the early 1990’s, Digital Equipment Corporation decided to spruce up its brand image by (wait for it…) changing the logo color from indigo to violet. This required the company (which was near bankruptcy at the time) to spend tens of millions of dollars to reprint every single piece of stationary, every piece of product literature, and every single product label. Insane, but typical.

What about marketing materials? Give me a break. Most B2B sales situations involve a custom solution, in which case product-oriented brochures are marginally useful, at best.  As for press releases, nobody reads them, not even the press.  (Trust me on this one.) Nobody watches fancy product videos either, except the people who make them.  Similarly, TV advertising for B2B products and services is just big-ticket whoop-de-doo. No sane customer is going to bet a career or a company on a piece of information sandwiched between an ad for dishwashing liquid and a preview for the next episode of "American Idol."

So what's the solution?  How do we fix marketing so that it does what it’s supposed to do -- generate better leads?  In a future post, I'll go into more tactical detail, but you can't fix marketing without making make some fundamental changes. Here they are:

  1. Fire your Chief Marketing Officer, if you have one.  It’s not a real job; dump it.
  2. Fold the marketing group under the highest-ranking sales executive.
  3. Compensate marketing based upon its ability to reduce cost of sales.  Period.
  4. Fire all marketing personnel that don’t have a sales background or who aren’t willing to spend a year in sales.

Sound a bit draconian? I’m only getting started…