Marketing experts

Most marketing “experts” are nothing of the sort.

The problem with self-proclaimed marketing experts is that they primarily market themselves. For the most part, marketers are dealing in something of a psychological art; marketing is not a science. Researchers can conduct experiments to show certain aspects of the process, but they cannot measure everything. However, marketers work in the area of human interaction, outside a controlled environment, so they have little to offer beyond opinions. Results can suggest a correlation between marketing and sales, but there are too many variables to be sure, and most so-called experts do not actually offer real data to support their conclusions.

In my opinion, sales success results from some combination of five ‘good’ factors:

  1. Good product
  2. Good planning
  3. Good marketing
  4. Good timing
  5. Good luck

There is no doubt that marketing can play a role in building a successful product (defined broadly), but as a scientist might say it, good marketing is neither a required nor sufficient condition for success. I am getting tired of reading opinions stated as fact by people who do not (and cannot) fully understand all of the factors involved, instead chalking every success and failure up to marketing.

Worse yet are those who are so shallow as to believe that the only measure of success is money, and that a product which earns more is necessarily more worthy than one that makes less profit. That flawed concept then becomes the product that is marketed and, alas, some people buy in. Sadly, they sometimes do so in a literal sense.

Here is what I have experienced. The most successful business people I know do not proclaim themselves experts; they earn respect without demanding it. The wealthiest people I know are not prone to declaring how much money they make and do not use their balance sheet as a scorecard. Those who crow about their own importance and/or earnings at every opportunity just strike me as pathetic.

Personally, I generally judge my own success by criteria other than money. I certainly want more money, and I am willing to work hard to earn it. However, I have made many decisions in my life and career that are oriented toward other goals. I value my family, my quality of life, and my personal integrity higher than my checkbook balance. It is important to me that I enjoy what I do for a living, and that I do quality work. My wife and I try to raise our children in a loving environment where they can thrive and become productive citizens (without the insecurity that might cause them to always seek validation by demanding public attention and acknowledgement).

Anyway, we were talking about marketing. (Remember marketing? This is a rant about marketing.)

Marketing advice and ideas should be taken as opinions, mixed with ones own values and common sense, and then flavored to suit the product and circumstances. There is no right answer, and there are always factors beyond ones control. However, there are some wrong answers and obvious mistakes to avoid, and these lessons are probably more valuable than any success story.

The five good factors are listed above in order from most to least control, so here is my advice:

  1. product (full control) – create something of quality
  2. planning (much control) – prepare for opportunities and setbacks
  3. marketing (some control) – think about your customers
  4. timing (little control) – either hit the window or fail early
  5. luck (no control) – work to improve your karma

Of course, that is merely my opinion, and comments are certainly welcome.

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