Marketing as a Four-Letter Word_ Round 2

May 1, 2011

Peter Drucker said that “the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” He uses a similar maxim, quoted by former pupil William A. Cohen, to the effect that good marketing makes sales unnecessary. In the first case, he is discussing knowing the customer well enough to know his need, and then apply innovation and find a way to meet that need. In the second he is speaking of knowing the customer well enough to understand whether or not one’s product or service meets his need, and if so, the product is displayed in a way that is attractive to the customer.

In neither case does Drucker advocate trying to persuade someone that they need something that they do not, or even something they may need but are unaware they need. To Drucker, the goal is simply two-way communication. The provider seeks what is needed by the customer and makes it available in a manner of which the customer is aware. It then is up to the customer to take advantage or not, and if the product is good enough and the communication about it good enough, no persuasion will be necessary.

Too many times I have gone to a repository where the archivist or reference person failed to discover my needs. Too many times they have tried to persuade me that I wanted something other than I really wanted. Too many times the staff never really attempted to meet my research needs because they didn’t explore what they really were. As professionals, they were in the position of authority and saw no need to “market” their product by determining what I needed and let me know what they had. And too many times I, being fairly intelligent, found other sources for my information and returned to the repositories either only as a last resort or never.

I cannot count on my two hands the number of these places that have had major staff reductions and lack the resources to do their jobs well. I know of several that have been transferred to the control of other institutions. They remind me of the folks I know at churches that stick to their guns as the ship sinks for lack of anyone who cares. They are not standing on great principles. They are obstinately refusing to even consider that they do not know best and ask others what might be best. They refuse communication because they are not interested in it. In the end, I expect they are afraid of loss of control. In the end, I suspect they will change or lose more than control.

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5 Responses to “Marketing as a Four-Letter Word_ Round 2”

  1. […] Peter Drucker said that “the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” He uses a similar maxim, quoted by former pupil William A. Cohen, to the effect that good marketing makes sales unnecessary. In the first case, he is discussing knowing the customer well enough to know his need, and then apply innovation and find a way to meet that need. In the second he is speaking of kn … Read More […]

  2. the advertising industry came into it’s own in the 1940’s and Sigmund Freud’s nephew injects his uncle’s ideas into advertising.

    Early advertising was very plainly, letting people know why it was good for them to buy the product. Coke a Cola was the first company to advertise a product for the fun of it in the 1890’s.

    Advertising, after the Freud injection, was no longer about identifying a need ahead of the curve and being there to fill it – but to actually create the need, usually by playing to our fears.

    If you want to get laid, use our toothpaste, buy our car – the basis of advertising now is that we are not good enough without their product in our lives.

    That is well beyond find a product to sell itself.

    As for the reduction in service staff – well, it’s hard to actually bother to know what individuals wants, and it’s easier to cater to the herd’s fears and desires, especially after you’ve broken them and primed them to grasp for anything to make them socially acceptable.

    It may well be that these archivist could have met your needs, but that their own needs were not being met, so they saw no need to attempt to meet other people’s needs.

    They are not professionals in a career, they are wounded people in a job that’s under constant threat – and wounded people can barely manage to meet their own needs, never mind the needs of others.

    • The Heretic said

      I wasn’t thinking so much in those terms, but I suspect there is something in what you say. I suspect from personal interaction that there are many walking wounded in the profession. This is, of course, true of other professions, but is very much an obstacle in a service profession. I don’t know how many of these “professionals” realize they are really in service professions, though.

  3. Maybe something else Peter Drucker did not advocate? – trying to persuade someone they need something they cannot afford or perhaps do not understand, like a mortgage or credit agreement

  4. The Heretic said

    Point well made.

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