An article by Prof. Dr. Uwe Sponholz.
It is always time to rethink what you think and do in marketing. Perhaps you have heard or talked about it before; marketing does not have a good reputation, especially in the B2B environment. Neither in your own company, nor as a job description, nor as a necessary competence. Here are a few statements that we come across from time to time:
- Anyone can do marketing.
- A bit of advertising isn’t particularly difficult.
- The marketing department is completely overwhelmed with digitization.
- Those in marketing want a big budget, but they have neither transparent processes nor measurable goals.
- Marketing invents a few new buzzwords every year to give itself a raison d’être.
- Marketing only wants to sell, disrupt, trick and bamboozle.
The list can certainly be expanded, and it does not apply to all of you in the same way. But if you reflect on the statements really self-critically, then you will be able to relate to one or the other. Such statements are not always baseless. Those who admit this have the best foundations to increase the possible value of their own work, their own contribution to their own company and society. Below is an effort to substantiate the reproaches.
Anyone can do marketing
I start with the question of the core competency of marketing. Waldemar Pförtsch and I have asked marketing experts in science and practice in recent years what they see as the core competence of marketing. Based on the popular term design thinking, we also asked what marketing thinking is. As a rule, we did not receive a spontaneous answer. Words like “customer orientation” or “market orientation” kept coming up. A core competence, something that has a perceptible value for the company, is difficult to copy, is rare and not easy to substitute, was rarely mentioned. After careful reflection, we have come to the conclusion that it is a matter of understanding and forecasting buying behaviour.
This understanding is achieved through the use of the most varied of the latest and appropriate market research methods, which go well beyond the evaluation of surveys. Anyone who knows that people predominantly decide emotionally and unconsciously or subconsciously, but rationally and consciously justify their decision, especially in the B2B environment, will find that it is a fine art to measure what people want unconsciously or subconsciously in order to satisfy a frequently latent need. The knowledge and application of suitable research methods to explain and forecast buying behaviour is the core competence. The interpretation of the data obtained in this way must be based on the latest findings of the sciences that deal with human behaviour. In addition to psychology and sociology, this also includes neurosciences. Marketing must therefore be interdisciplinary.
Marketing is just advertising
With such a core competence, marketing can (again) play a major role in the development of products and services. Marketing is the point of contact when it comes to assessing the “desirability” of an innovative value proposition or when it comes to detecting the need for a new value proposition. Anyone who can demonstrate the competence required above will have no problem in their own company being awarded added value in the development of the value proposition. Of course, marketing has another core competence, namely communicating the value proposition of the service offer in such a way that the user, the decision maker and other members of the buying centre understand it.
Digitization overwhelms marketing
With increasing digitization, the demands on marketing have increased massively in recent years. On the one hand, this concerns the new possibilities of communication and the new sales channels that have arisen through the Internet. Anyone who does online marketing or digital marketing will understand how difficult it is to keep up with technological developments, when it comes to choosing the right communication channels and platforms or choosing the right tools to create, curate and manage content to distribute. Anyone over 40 is already struggling to empathically understand the purpose and use of the latest platforms and apps.
But how do I want to design the right content in the right format for the right channel if I can’t understand the users? It is therefore an inevitable necessity to rejuvenate one’s own team. In addition, digitization means that internal pressure is growing on marketing to define goals that can be measured digitally in the form of clicks, likes, shares and ultimately in the form of sales. The use of big data analytics and the integration of artificial intelligence in user analysis has resulted in goals and results analysis being based on SR models (stimulus response) and not on the basis of SOR models (O for organism). To put it mildly, this is a relapse into the Stone Age, because then human behaviour (the “O”) can no longer be explained. As a result, the core competence described above is no longer necessary and marketing can actually be taken over by the IT department. That doesn’t mean that marketing doesn’t have to become more transparent when it comes to its own performance. If I want to reposition the brand (as S), then I have to be able to explain why I want to do it (the O) and what it should bring when (the R).
Marketing chases every buzzword
It feels like every year new buzzwords are found in the guild, which are nothing more than new wine in old bottles, and fuels criticism of marketing. At the moment it is buzzwords like content marketing, digital marketing, growth hacking, influencer marketing, omnichannel, SEO, gamification, marketing automation, pain points, (big) data analytics, etc. In the past it was terms like affiliate marketing, guerilla marketing , CRM, viral marketing, storytelling, etc. Marketing unfortunately no longer has any brackets, no foundation that can integrate and meaningfully combine these new phenomena. The marketing management approaches of Heribert Meffert in German-speaking countries or of Philip Kotler in the Anglo-American sphere have served as such for decades. In particular, digitization and the development from a goods and transaction-dominated world to a service and relationship-oriented world lead to the need to develop a new framework for marketing. Our answer is human marketing, or H2H marketing.
Marketing is not trustworthy
Marketing just wants to sell! First of all, that is true and, despite all of the discussion on “Purpose”, it should not be pushed into the background. If we have the core competence described above of understanding human behaviour, then we are able to influence human behaviour. Of course we want to influence people so that they buy our value proposition. But we should market offers that make sense for the customer and society. There are three requirements in the last sentence.
- First, the sense for the customer arises from the potential of the offer to solve a human problem that prevents people from fulfilling their needs.
- Secondly, the customer should not be fooled. You should not be duped or tricked when it comes to the value proposition.
- Thirdly, society (or our planet) as an important stakeholder group is at the centre of our thoughts and actions. At least since the “Friday for Future” movement, sustainability and environmental orientation have arrived at almost every company.
It is also out of the question that companies pollute increasingly scarce resources such as clean water and clean air, but that society has to bear the costs. We should not have announcement marketing (“CO2 neutral in 10 years”) that promises something that cannot be verified and possibly cannot be kept. Greenwashing, as with most CSR measures, does not help because people can feel exactly whether what is promised is being kept. Trust in our value proposition and in our communication will in future be the target to which marketing has to play, on an individual and a societal level.
“After careful reflection, we are of the opinion that marketing has to change and we look forward to giving you further insight into what we would like to change over the next few months.”