To begin moving in the right direction, we must first dispose of some marketing misconceptions. Four of the most common are:
Misconception 1: Companies control market demand. This is a notion that is at once seductive and destructive.
The idea that companies control markets has been disproved most vividly in the industry where the misconception first took hold–the automobile industry. General Motors saw its market share plummet during the 1980s, despite pouring millions of dollars into television, magazine, and other mass-market advertising. The decline of huge department stores (Macy’s), airlines (Pan Am), and computer companies (Wang) is further evidence that companies don’t control markets, no matter how large their advertising budgets.
Misconception 2: Once you develop a marketing approach that works for your company, you’ve mastered marketing. This may be the most dangerous misconception, because it can mislead entrepreneurs who are enjoying business success. Just think about all the business executives who have ridden the crest of marketing success, only to crash.
Remember whenWestern Unionwas synonymous with time-sensitive business communications, and IBM synonymous with computers
These examples aren’t meant as slights to the companies noted. The purpose in citing them is to make the point that everything looks easy when it works. But it should be clear to anyone who follows the ups and downs of business that few executives can feel truly secure that they have mastered marketing.
Misconception 3: There’s a magical “marketing bullet” that works for everyone. The converse of this is that a single overall explanation exists as to why successful marketers stumble. Successful marketers invariably attribute their accomplishments to some special practice–a focus on product quality or top-notch service or speedy delivery or the best prices. The stumbles come about, they typically say in retrospect, either because of some force beyond their control (Japanese imports or a recession, for example) or because they “took their eye off the ball.”
If one analytically picks apart the successes and failures, though, they are invariably much more complicated. Lee Iacocca can certainly blame Japanese imports and a recessionary environment for Chrysler’s problems in the early 1980s and again in the early 1990s. But there are no doubt a variety of pricing, feature, positioning, segmenting, promotional, and other issues that adversely affected the company. And perhaps Iacocca became more infatuated with his own success than he should have been if he were to stay objective about his company’s marketing prospects.
Misconception 4: Marketing and selling are the same. This misconception comes about because many of the most successful entrepreneurs are also very good salespeople. Talented salespeople can often go a long way selling a particular product or service without having a clear understanding of the true dynamics of the marketplace. Thus their success in selling can delude them into believing they have mastered marketing.
In reality, though, selling is only one aspect of marketing implementation. That is, once you have identified your customer prospects and determined how best to reach them, you move into the sales process–convincing customers to buy your product or service. If you haven’t done your marketing homework, you can easily fail when it comes to selling. And if you are fortunate enough to convince a random group of individuals or companies to buy your product or service, without some notion as to why you picked them, your success may be a testimonial to your sales rather than your marketing skills.
This confusion between marketing and sales often becomes apparent when companies seek to move past a particular sales plateau–typically in the $500,000 to $3-million range.