faculty speak

Myth 6: Marketing = Selling

Every moment is a golden one
for him who has the vision
to recognize it as such
 – Henry Miller

This myth of ‘marketing = selling’ is probably one of the most commonly held myths about marketing, by amateurs and entrepreneurs alike. This is also one of the most dangerous myth since its potential damages to the organization could be far reaching. In this article, an attempt is made to burst this myth.

There is an oft-told story of two representatives of a footwear manufacturing company, who were asked to visit a new territory and submit their reports independently. One representative wrote in his report, “No one wears footwear. Let’s not waste our time on this territory.” The other one wrote, “No one wears footwear here. Let’s enter this market immediately.” This story is often told in the context of ‘optimism versus pessimism’. Whereas, I think it is more appropriate in the context of ‘vision versus lack of it’.

For the same issue, two representatives had two radically different perspectives. Though both observed the same thing- ‘no one wears footwear here’. The way they interpreted it was very different.

This is where the difference between ‘sales orientation’ and ‘marketing orientation’ lies. While the first representative – who was clearly a sales oriented person – interpreted the situation as lack of opportunity, the second one – who was a marketing oriented person – interpreted it as a distinct opportunity.

The organizations which are overly focused on sales – no matter how efficient they are at planning and executing sales – will always be focused on ‘serving the markets’. In the process, they may outdo their competitors. However, this focus of theirs – of revolving around the short-term – has a potential pitfall of becoming counter-productive.

Such organizations, while being busy with planning and executing the process of ‘serving the markets’ most efficiently, end up ignoring not only the sight of what may lie in the future but also some ‘opportunities in disguise’.   

On the contrary, a marketing focused organization will not only ‘serve the existing markets’ efficiently but also work on ‘making new markets’. In doing this, while they look at developing new markets for their existing product line; they also contemplate developing new products for the existing markets.

There are enough examples in the annals of corporate world, which will substantiate the fact that those organizations which were overly focused on merely selling have been overtaken by their marketing focused competitors – albeit much smaller than them. Some of them have even become history themselves in the process.

Having understood the results of ‘sales focus’ versus ‘marketing focus’, let’s look at the fundamental differences between these two approaches and how does an organization become one or the other. The main aim of a ‘sales focused’ organization is to ‘sell’ whatever is produced. At the face of it, there is nothing wrong with this approach. This is how it should be for any organization to sustain. However, there is a major pitfall in this approach. In a bid to achieve this target, such organizations often overlook some important factors which contribute to the success – mainly long-term success – of any organization.

As we discussed in some of the earlier articles in this series, marketing begins even before the 4Ps. It begins at ‘Segmenting, Targeting and Positioning (STP)’. This is necessary to make your product relevant and appropriate to a section of the population. This is one sure way of creating a great value around your product (or service) offering. We have discussed in one of the earlier articles that no matter how good your product is, it cannot be relevant to every consumer.

Now, the sales focused organizations – in a bid to sell whatever is produced – overlook this basic premise and end up ruining the process of value creation around their product (or service) offering. For them the sales becomes more important than whether the right kind of consumer is buying and using the product.

Another major pitfall with focus on selling is the organization ends up compromising on ‘pricing’ all the time. In strategic terms, their focus is always on ‘pushing’ the product to the consumer, rather than creating a ‘pull’ for the product among targeted consumers. And in the absence of any strong pull (or value), the consumer buys the product only on (low) price.

Many sales oriented organizations also resort to ‘dumping’ their goods to their dealers with an idea that the dealers will have no other option but to ‘dump’ it further to his sub-dealer and eventually to the consumer. This is where the pricing gets compromised. Many times this also leads to doubtful and even bad debts. But more importantly, the brand value gets slowly and steadily ruined.

The learned consumer, these days, does not like ‘hard selling’ done by any company or its dealers. She perceives such brands as weak and does not want to associate herself with them.

Contrary to all this a ‘marketing focused’ organization ‘taps’ the right kind of opportunities not only for its existing product line but also for logical extensions into complementary product lines. It then positions the product to the identified segment of population and connects with them through brand communication. Such organizations work on a balanced combination of ‘Pull + Push’. That is, they create a good amount of pull for their products among the target consumers so that they go to the dealer and ‘demand’ it. While doing this, they also apply requisite ‘push’ at the ‘point of sale’ through dealers so that the interest of the consumer in the product gets converted into actual sales.

Such organizations also work relentlessly in developing new markets while nurturing the existing ones. To do this effectively, they also engage themselves in efforts such as consumer education. For instance, the second representative in the example at the beginning of the article will put requisite efforts in educating the consumers about the benefits of using footwear, and create a new market for his organization.

Let it not be misunderstood that the marketing focused organizations do not put efforts on the sales front. They do. They understand it very well that selling is a sub-set and one of the important aspects of marketing. Hence they integrate it very well into their overall marketing strategy and use it as a strategic tool rather than a tactical weapon.

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well
that the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
– Peter Drucker    

Prof Rajeev Kamble
Associate Professor
Marketing