The Real Value of Marketing (?)

As a small agency we work with many companies in a wide variety of industries. As a Silicon Valley agency we work with a lot of tech companies. And I have noticed something that seems especially rife here in the valley; many companies simply don’t realize the real value of marketing–and it makes me wonder whether this is true across other industries, companies, and geographies. If any of you have any thoughts or comments, we’d love to hear about them.

This is course leads to the question about what is the real value of marketing and, like many many questions in and about marketing, a lot of the answer depends on context. Here I am thinking about companies who are launching something. It might be a new product, new sales initiative, a new channel program, or a complete relaunch of the company.

What is the value that marketing brings to this process. I would argue that while the creative work of materials and online development are incredibly valuable, the highest value comes much earlier in the cycle. This is the ability to see and understand the market, then translate that into actionable strategies that form the foundation of messaging, storytelling, media selection–in other words all of the rest of the activities that will be taken on later in the marketing production cycle.

The problem that many companies have with this kind of thinking is that it is hard, time consuming, and can be somewhat pricey (although usually not in relation to the value of the market they hope to penetrate). So this gets pushed off, minimized, or simply ignored (especially in tech companies), and they take the process right into the production phase of “these are the values, these are the benefits, go make us marketing that sells the product.”

Some months later, when things aren’t going to plan, the executives tend to blame the marketing department for the failure–or come to us to “fix” the problem with the brochure or the website or the social media, or whatever.

We have seen this process of often (not that we mind the work it brings in!), it does cause me to question: Have we, as marketer/strategists, so thoroughly failed to communicate our value, or are companies just in such a rush to get to market that they are willing to ignore the obvious value to investing the time and resources into developing a real understanding of who they’re selling to, what’s important to them, what’s the best way to tell the story, and how best to tell it?

It is a very important quandary. Since the days of David Ogilvy and Claude Hopkins (BTW, see Greg Satell’s great piece on Hopkin’s Scientific Marketing) we have understood the incredible value and ROI of developing this kind of understanding.

Where do we keep losing the recipe? Where do we continue to fail to communicate the incredible to the executives in charge of the companies we serve?