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Marketing is a People Business

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Marketing, when done properly, is not a management ‘science’ or even a ‘discipline’. Marketing was never intended to be a ‘function’ – it was originally intended as an internal, collaborative activity that would help focus efforts on the one thing that matters to every organisation – its customers.

For a third sector organisations, we might replace the word “customer” by donors, supporters, recipients or volunteers, but the central argument remains – if you don’t keep these people happy, you don’t survive.

As important as they are, marketing is about more than the 7Ps. If you are serious about succeeding in marketing for your organisation, you need to understand that:

Marketing is about empathy (with your audience) and being able to think, feel and react as they do. Your only reason for existing is to constantly meet your ‘customers’ changing needs so you must appreciate how everything that your organisation does translates into customer benefit - and then help your colleagues to focus their efforts accordingly.

Marketing is about listening (and hearing) what your existing and future audience want from you. This is much more difficult than it sounds and needs to be developed as an organisational skill. The things that can (and do) get in the way include hearing demand for what we are good at making, knowing better than them what they want, knowing what they should want, knowing what “I” would want if I were them – one set of ears isn’t enough, you need your colleagues’ ears too!

Marketing is about intuition and filling in the gaps. Audiences are notoriously bad at knowing what they want now, what they might want in the future – or explaining either. Whatever the situation with yours, you will have to use educated guesswork to fill in the gaps - and then convince your colleagues to believe and act on the results.

Marketing is about thinking for yourself
. It is one of the areas where books, gurus and consultants really can’t give you a blueprint for success. Every organisation is unique and so-called “best practice” is usually out of date before it’s written up. Marketing theory can only take you so far; the rest is up to you – and your ability to engage your colleagues in the process.

Marketing is about being different
. Marketing is all about “preference” – and how you can get your customers to prefer you over the competition. You absolutely won’t do that by being the same as everybody else. But, being different doesn’t happen just because we plan it – it only happens when you and your colleagues are seen to behave differently.

Marketing is fun and hugely effective, but it isn’t easy. Beware the seductively simple techniques and jargon. If you want to make it work, always focus on the people behind the buzzwords.


Paul Fifield (www.fifield.co.uk)

Dr Fifield holds a degree in Business Studies as well as an MBA and a PhD in Marketing Strategy, both from Cranfield University. Over thirty years of listening, watching, learning and applying academic and strategic thought to marketing has created a fertile mind which he brings to his customers, his writing and his teaching. He is currently President of the CIM Southern Region and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (FRSA).