HAVE YOU CONSIDERED? Mysteries of Marketing

I am member of our company’s executive team and although I am very familiar with the production side of our organisation I have to admit that I am not that close to marketing. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that I am not clear about the role of marketing and its relationship with sales. I know I have left it too long to ask the question but I realise this is major weakness for me and prevents me being as effective as I need to be in the management team. Can you help?
Don’t be embarrassed. Amazingly enough I have heard this question many times and have also seen many ad-hoc debates on the role of marketing and sales. In many smaller organisations these roles are merged but it is still very important to understand the different elements of the two roles. Even though they are mutually interdependent, marketing and sales carry out different tasks.
Marketing is classically referred to as covering the 4Ps – product, price, place and promotion. Product simply focuses on identifying the type of product to be marketed. Price looks at how much to sell the product for to ensure an appropriate profit and yet not be so high that it deters the customer. Place is about how to distribute the product, while promotion concentrates on advertising and creating an interest in it.
Large organisations usually have marketing department with marketing manager and number of product managers. The critical issue is that these roles are customer focused and must be able to assess and understand customer needs.
If you think back to number of car manufacturing companies in the 1980s, some of the more traditional ones, such as British Leyland, were focused on delivering engineering quality rather than on what the customer actually wanted. They were overtaken by companies such as Toyota and Mazda, which had strong customer understanding. The big challenge for marketing is not only to understand the customer’s needs but to anticipate needs that the customer hasn’t even thought of yet. Sony, with its Walkman products, and 3M with its adhesive notepads have excelled at this.
So marketing is strategically focused and its objective is to bring the product to the market.
Sales, on the other hand, is the activity of selling company’s products or services. This role is at the sharp end with the company’s customers. It is more focused on relationship building and closing sale. Therefore, although sales has its own strategic focus it is mostly operational and implements the marketing strategy.
So marketing creates the opportunity for sale and sales does the deal.
You might consider reading Theodore Levitt’s article Marketing Myopia in the Harvard Business Review (http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu). The article was published in the 1960s but is an absolute classic and still well worth reading.



I recently went on development programme to build my leadership skills and was able to compare myself with other managers and gain feedback on my effectiveness. I was shocked to find that I tend to be seen as logical and capable manager but lack the ability to develop an appropriate level of rapport with people. I have professional engineering background, am mostly interested in facts and don’t like to spend too long discussing the whys and wherefores of an issue. However, I now realise that as manager and potential leader of our organisation I need to find way to project more charisma as manager. This doesn’t come naturally to me. What should I do?
Your situation demonstrates some of the subtle differences between being manager and leader. In both situations you need to be able to generate an appropriate level of rapport with people.
The role of manager is often complex and challenging and is focused on putting plans into practice. If manager knows the technical aspects of their area of responsibility really well they can often get by without having the level of people relationship skills you are describing.
However, as you move into leadership role the ability to develop rapport with people in your organisation becomes more important. That’s because as leader your role is focused on building and communicating vision for the future and gaining commitment from critical mass of people in the organisation. Leaders don’t make people follow them. Rather, they create an environment where people understand the vision and naturally want to be involved in implementing it themselves. You don’t have to be Bill Clinton or Richard Branson to do this but you cannot just rely on your technical skills. You have to be person who others want to listen to.
Strangely enough the secret to this is very simple. All you have to do is think about people in your life who have the sort of relationship qualities that you are seeking. I can almost guarantee they will have one thing in common: when you are with them you have sense that they are there for you. You feel accepted by them and not judged. Further, you sense they are comfortable to listen to what you have to say and take it on board.
Once you understand this simple fact it is quite easy to implement new behaviours. Choose to give each person you meet your genuine attention. Of course, at times you may not have the space to do this but then it is okay to let the person know clearly and you will find they will accept it. This will not turn you into high profile, out-there, charismatic leader but I don’t think that’s what you are aiming for. However, it will create the environment where people respect you for who you are and will listen carefully to what you have to say at the right time.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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