Thursday, February 12, 2009

Marketing doesn't matter?

Guy Kawasaki has a post on AlwaysOn entitled "6 Helpful Clues for CEOs" that offers a list of statements that a clued-in CEO should say to their employees. Number 3 on the list is:

  • "Engineering needs to make something so compelling that a $0 marketing budget isn't a problem." The pressure isn't only on marketing -- engineering needs to create something so great that the marketing doesn't matter.

I happen to agree, but this is absolute heresy. The conventional wisdom is that marketing (and sales) is everything - better to have a mediocre product with great marketing than a great product with mediocre marketing.

Two key points. First, how many products are actually truly "great", other than in the eyes of their creators? Second, I think the main intent when Guy said "marketing doesn't matter" was that a high burn rate is not the defining characteristic of successful marketing. I seriously doubt that he would advocate giving up on those "free" and "shoestring" marketing efforts as well. His preceding statement for clued-in CEOs was that marketing should focus on exploiting "free" resources and a "shoestring" budget:

  • "The marketing budget is now $0, and we will figure out a way to get to market." Maybe you have more than $0, but if you adopt a much better mindset. How can you use free resources, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, etc) to market your product on a shoestring budget?

Still, I do like the mere hint that products should be designed and engineered and built so that only minimal expense on "marketing" is needed.

Maybe this is a definition of "Utopia" - a world in which marketing no longer matters.

In any case, I am certainly a big proponent of marketing on a shoestring. In fact, back in the early 1990's I wrote an article for Midnight Engineering magazine entitled "Product Promotion on a Shoestring - Low-cost Marketing Ideas for the Software Entrepreneur". That was shortly before the Web took off, but the concepts are still the same. Old wine, new bottles.

-- Jack Krupansky

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