My jaw dropped, and I must have looked really stupid for a few seconds until I realized I was staring a potential customer in the face with my mouth half open.
I scheduled a day trip to meet with a large software consulting firm in Houston, one of the largest in their particular industry. They had nice offices in a fancy part of town, and they had plans to expand.
Then he said it: “We don’t believe in marketing.”
I must have done a really bad job qualifying this prospect, because if I had known this I probably would have told him “maybe we’re not a good fit for your needs.” But here I was, staring like a little drooling kid at somebody who was a long-shot.
As I drove back to Austin I thought “how can a company survive in today’s market without doing any marketing?” I know there are some firms that don’t do any marketing – at all – but how they survived in this hyper-competitive environment remains a mystery to me.
No wonder I couldn’t really find anything about them after some exhaustive Google searches, and I only saw one white paper dating back to 2011. It all made sense now.
It got me thinking about what it means to do no marketing, and it suddenly dawned on me: not doing any marketing at all is a form of “marketing kryptonite.”
Why the Most Sucessful Companies Invest in Ongoing Marketing
“Inexperienced companies regard marketing as medicine to be taken when something is wrong…This is completely wrong-headed thinking…Marketing is food.”
They said that inexperienced companies only start marketing when they’re “starving,” successful companies never stop marketing.
But my friend in Houston didn’t even think emergencies were a good reason to do any marketing. They were all about “sales.”
Isn’t Sales Enough?
I’ve heard this before too: “marketing takes too long – we just need to get some suits on the phone to start calling people. We need to pound the pavements.”
Just sell sell sell.
Again, Forty has the answer. Quoting Peter Drucker (my favorite business philosopher): “Marketing is not only much broader than selling; it is not a specialized activity at all. It encompasses the entire business.”
Preach it Peter.
Why “No Marketing” is like Marketing Kryptonite
As I thought about it more I realized that not doing any marketing is like kryptonite for your business – it’s more than just a lack of marketing, it can actually harm your business.
1. Everybody Defines What Is Said About You – Except You
We’ve all heard this before: you can’t control the conversation anymore. People are going to say what they’re going to say about you because social media has given everybody a soapbox.
But when you don’t about marketing, and you don’t even have a spokes-person or a PR intern, you can’t even shape the conversation about you.
Your reputation is 100% subject to whatever anybody wants to say about you – and believe me, people are saying it. The question is, are they saying good things or bad things? Are you sure you want to be in the dark about that?
2. No Marketing Tells Your Customers You Don’t Love Them
Now that content marketing has gone mainstream, consumers expect you to provide them with educational content, helpful articles, detailed specs, how-to videos, and thought-leadership white papers.
But when they go to your website and see…nothing, they’ll get the impression you don’t care about them.
You don’t care enough to provide them with a comparison matrix that shows how your solution stacks up to the competition. You don’t care enough to adequately describe your product or service. You don’t care enough about their time because you make them call you and face their fears of talking to a pushy sales person when they’re not even ready to talk to somebody.
3. Even If You Claim You Don’t Do Marketing, You Probably Do and You Don’t Realize It
This is actually a good thing. If you’re the CEO of a small company, if you do any of these activities (and you say you don’t do any marketing), then you’re probably doing some marketing:
- Giving speeches
- Holding breakfasts for clients (and non clients)
- Write articles for industry publications
- Ask for referrals from customers
These are all marketing activities, though you may not see them as such, because they don’t fit the mold of a Geico TV campaign, or a Hennessy billboard ad.
If these activities generate opportunities for you, then you should look at expanding it and embrace it as marketing (even though you might think you’re going over to the dark side).
Every Company Is a Marketing Company
As Peter Drucker said: “…the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”
If you don’t do any marketing, you’re generating costs. Costs are kryptonite. If you neglect the conversation about you, and if you don’t care enough about your customers to produce valuable content for them, you’re also neglecting your business.
But all is not lost – you can still incorporate marketing into the fabric of your business, especially if you start creating valuable content that adds value to your customers. You’re not only feeding yourselves, you’re feeding them – and we all know that customers will not bite the hand that feeds them.