Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Marketing, Reductio Ad Absurdum

These days I had an opportunity to talk with several top managers about the role of marketing in their organisation. There is something important I noticed that is worth sharing, I think.

If your field of interest is marketing and you are looking for a job in ICT sector, I do not advise you to present yourself as a marketing person, because you will receive a bunch of scepticism and zero respect for your knowledge and experience. Now, being curious enough, I was not satisfied with a simple fact, I wanted to know why this is so.

I think that at the roots of this problem there is a big misunderstanding and a bad current practice. If you talk further with top management you will find out that in many cases they equate marketing to marketing communications, where in fact the latter is just a small fraction of the former. In some cases even worse, marketing is regarded as a sales support function. For these companies marketing is a part of the sales process. Looking from this perspective, it becomes obvious why marketing is perceived as a relatively simple, straightforwad and uninfluential process in an ICT company.

If you go further and ask why are they looking for a marketing person anyway, you are told that they would like to be a more marketing oriented company, so they figured out it is best to have a separate person to prepare collateral for their sales personnel. Besides the fact that this proves the perception of marketing as a sales support role, it is also clear that they are missing the most important role of marketing, which is listening to the market and responding with real value products or services.

There is also something wrong in saying "to be marketing oriented". Actually, marketing does not matter at all. Marketing is a business process inside the company. Being marketing oriented would mean focusing on internal process, which is probably not what the company wants. What matters is the market. The company should strive to be more market oriented instead.

What should you do, if you are a marketing person at a job interview? First, please do not say you are a marketing professional. This is like an oximoron to many companies in ICT. Take this as your first task, which you must perform perfectly with the right marketing approach to get respect and position in this company.

Instead of decribing your "features" listen and talk to your customer, khm... employer, about the issues they might have in the company. Suggest improvements, show them how you can bring a substantial value to the company with your knowledge and experience.

For example, you may bring out the issue of knowing what the market wants and knowing what valuable the company can do for the customers in this market. Remember, top managers are very smart people. They know what is needed to run a successful business. They are just not used to talk to a marketer about these issues. If you address their real problems, they will listen.

After all, finding out what their real problems are is your job. If you can do this right, you have good chances to get the position, because you really are good at what you do.