The following magazine article was written by Mike Sands - MD of the Durham Associates Group and a Chartered Marketer.
What’s the difference between Marketing and Promotion (Durham Associates Ltd)
Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.
Hardly anyone these days believes the old cliché about a better mousetrap. Most companies "know" that’s only half the battle, but unfortunately they are pretty sure that the rest is down to promotion.
But what is a better mousetrap? In these days of animal rights is it one that dispatches its victims in the kindest possible way? Is it one that’s foolproof and uses the latest infra red detectors and laser stun guns? Or is it one that can be made for 1 rupee out of old cardboard and string, and that any household can afford? Of course there is no right answer, because "better" is one of those words that we all use like "quality" - we know it must be good, but we don’t think much further than that. Better must be put into context. What’s better for one group of people might be useless for another. It’s easy to see that a high-tech mousetrap costing $100 may well appeal to consumers in industrialised countries, but no amount of promotion will sell it in large numbers in the third world.
But it’s not always so easy to see things so clearly when it comes to our own products and services. That’s why a marketer needs to ask himself questions all the time about the environment in which his products exist. There are frameworks to help do this, because it’s not easy. It’s not like accounting or production engineering. All the questions are woolly and interdependent, and it’s this very fuzziness that puts marketing into the social sciences rather than the hard sciences. The frameworks put the vague generalities on to a comforting pseudo-scientific basis, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Until social scientists manage to develop a set of equations that accurately describe all human behaviour it’s all we’ve got.
So when a marketer is using his PEST and SWOT frameworks what’s he really doing? What he’s certainly not doing is spending a $million on a promotional campaign for his mousetrap. The clue to the difference between marketing and promotion is in the strategic nature of the thinking that underlies marketing; thinking about who the people are who buy his products, how they are changing, where they are going to be in 5 years time, and most importantly what they are going to need. He has to do this with a knowledge of the constraints acting on him to be able to deliver what his customers need, better than his competitors can.
So what kind of basic activities does a marketer do:
- Usually, the marketer is very keen to know what existing customers think, and what they are planning to do. And arguably the best way to find that out is to ask them, either by collecting informal feedback from the sales people, or by getting customers to fill in questionnaires.
- Although it’s very true that it’s always easier to sell something new to an existing customer than to find a new one, we still need to find those new customers if the organisation is to grow. So another important gap is filled by research into new market segments. And what is a segment ? In simple language, a market segment is any big enough group of like-minded people who use the same kind of products, and who read the same newspapers. And if a marketer can identify a segment he can usually target the promotional spend much more effectively than a campaign that tries to hit everyone - potential customers or not.
- And it’s no good working out that there is a segment of mousetrap customers for the high-tech laser zapper, if you weren’t aware that your main competitor had worked it out 6 months ago and was already producing his mark II model at half the price of yours. Competitors’ antics need to be well understood too.
How many of us decide on an advertising budget as an arbitrary percentage of sales, or more likely decide it on the basis of last year’s spend?. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend half the sum and sell twice as much. Well sorry, there’s no guarantee that taking a marketing approach will do that exactly, but it’s got to be better to take the "promotion" decisions at the end of the process rather than up front. It’s got to be better to know who your promotion is aimed at, and what it is trying to achieve, and to be sure that you’re not promoting a product that nobody wants.
These days a marketer might rephrase the old adage as:
Build a better marketing system and you can beat a path for the world to come to your door (again and again)