August 15, 2003 spout

The real goals of marketing?

I’ve long lamented that I have no clue what the basics of marketing are and therefore I’ve been at the mercy of actual marketing people whose skill I can’t judge. In fact, I so miss this important knowledge in my life that I interviewed for a marketing job at Microsoft (although I was in no danger of getting it). A *long* time friend of mine, Dave Stroble, said that I was too “customer-focused” to be in marketing, anyway, and I should be glad I’m not in that field. When I asked how that could be (isn’t customer focus the core of marketing?), he went on to say the following:

Marketing is not about giving the customer what he wants, or even finding out what the customer wants and trying to get engineering to create it. It’s about trying to sell the customer what you already have — whether that’s product, talent, or pre-conceived notions. If the needs of a customer occasionally overlap with an actual product, that’s merely random coincidence.

“Marketing people are customer-focused in the sense of always thinking about why customers aren’t buying enough stuff, and how to get them to buy more. You’re customer-focused in the sense of caring about what customers need, and helping them accomplish it, even if that doesn’t result in selling anything.

But don’t take it so hard. It’s not as if I said you were too honest to be a banker, or too smart to be a teacher. (God, what if girls thought you were too handsome to be sexy?)”

While I find this cleverly stated (even though I’m nowhere near too sexy for girls : ), I sure hope this isn’t the real goal of marketing. My hope is that it’s about taking a solution and letting folks that have the matching problem know so that you can trade your solution for their money and both consider yourselves lucky. Is this a naive view? Anyone with real marketing training want to chime in on the real goals of marketing?