The Limits of Marketing
Just about everywhere you look, there are discussions about marketing. Should marketing or sales lead the parade? Is market research dead? How to use social media for marketing. And on and on. Courses are taught on marketing. Articles are written. Speeches are given.
But I have never seen a discussion of the limits of marketing, what marketing cannot do.
1. Marketing cannot (usually) make a flawed product into a marketplace success. Nor can it keep out-of-date products perpetually relevant.
Certainly, marketing can create messages that ignore problems with the product. But customers are not stupid. And with today’s 24/7 access to information and opinion, a poor product doesn’t stay a secret for long.
2. Marketing cannot prevent a product from being mispriced.
Obviously, marketing has input into pricing decisions. Competitive analyses and customer research should always guide pricing decisions. But marketing cannot control development or manufacturing costs. Nor can it over-ride financial decisions about expected ROI.
3. Marketing cannot control the level of innovation in an enterprise.
Marketing can certainly suggest how marketplace trends are changing. In fact, if it doesn’t, there is a dereliction of duty. But it cannot force the organization to invest time and resources to come up with new products or services to meet what may be an emerging trend. It cannot create a culture of innovation, nor can it time that innovation.
4. Marketing cannot overcome bad service.
Despite all the discussions of customer “engagement” and the feedback and opportunities offered by social media, too many companies (lip service to the side) see customer service as an expense item, not a marketing opportunity. And customers can tell.
Marketing is inextricably intertwined with the rest of the organization.
The traditional organization charts, defining turf and responsibilities, are more useful on paper and for HR purposes that they are for market success in the 21st century. Success is no longer a matter of being “lean and mean” (if it ever was).
Success today is a function of growing intra-enterprise collaboration. The successful marketer, going forward, will not merely know his marketplace, his customers, and his products. The successful marketer will also be skilled at over-coming cross-bureaucratic divides and turf-defined tunnel vision. The most successful marketer of tomorrow will be a unifier within the organization as well as a skilled proponent of the organization’s brand and message to the marketplace.
Are we up to the challenge? If we are, then there are far fewer limits to marketing.