The “why do it” of marketing

After having introduced myself as a marketer to someone at a coffee shop recently (he turned out to be a high powered lawyer) he asked me if I do social media? I don’t, not directly in any case, but it did make me wonder about something…
Why does he want to do social media?

We are so quick to decide on the marketing tactics and tools that we believe we need, instead of focusing on the deeper questions such as: : “what business outcome is it that we want to achieve?” We talk about websites and logos and social media, and budgets, and costings and colours as if these are the sum total of what marketing is. But it is not.

Ultimately marketing should have a business impact, and that is the point few people ever talk about.

So let’s be clear. There are only two types of business outcomes that marketing can achieve:
1. A direct, short term impact of boosting sales.
2. An indirect, long term impact of boosting image, which in turn results in better employees, better customers, higher prices and ultimately, better valuations.

That is it. More sales. Better image. Or a bit of both. But nothing else. No mystical, fluffy, sinister other “thing”.

Ideally a marketing discussion should start by identifying the type of business outcome required before moving on to discussing whether social media, or a logo or website is the answer. These are tactical tools, but not marketing fundamentals.

It is a pity that so few marketing discussions ever go deeper, to the heart of the matter. The reason is because we all, both business owners and marketers, have come to believe that marketing is an inferior subject obsessed with creativity. But it is not.

Marketing is the quintessential business science, focused on identifying customer needs and then offering them something to meet that need at a price. Without marketing there is no commerce, and without commerce there are no engineers, auditors, doctors, airline pilots….or lawyers.

Next time, before you decide on what marketing you should do, how much it should cost, and who should do it for you, start by asking why you want to do it. Then find a marketer to help you solve the business problem. This is the kind of marketing that works.

Image credit: Flickr