What is marketing?

Do you think our marketing world is getting too complicated and more expensive? I am arguing that with a great product strategy, marketing could be straightforward and yet efficient. As my mission is to promote blockchain technology adoption, I will use one of the blockchain use cases to support my argument. 

One of the questions I keep asking myself all the time is – what is marketing? The world of marketing has evolved and become highly sophisticated. I think it’s too sophisticated that it crosses the line to become very complex. Does marketing have to be this difficult? Let’s find out. 

Steve Jobs used to explain the difference between sales and marketing in a straightforward way. Marketing generates demand, and sales fulfil it. The keyword here is “demand“. A marketing job would be very difficult if there is no demand for the product. Therefore, a great product strategy is the critical success factor for any business, and it will make or break the role of marketing. It sounds simple, and everyone (should) know it. But it’s very difficult to do. This is why I always start looking at a product strategy in every of my business strategy work. If you have a mediocre product, I can almost guarantee that a business would have to spend a lot of money in either marketing or sales activities or both. 

Someone used to say marketing (and sales) expense is like the tax on your mediocre product. 

What constitutes a sound product strategy? And the answer is every product should address customer problems, one way or another. If we break it down, each business solves customer problems differently. Some do their jobs better than others. I would then like to throw another keyword in the mix, which is “differentiation”. Again, everyone knows about differentiation, but very few truly understand and do it well, which could be very frustrating. To offer solutions to customers with differentiation, the product strategy should fall into the following categories. 

  • New products that don’t exist in the market before. This is very difficult and could be costly to do. The scary part is most new products fail. 
  • Existing products with clear differentiation: This can be done in 2 broad ways: marketing-driven and sales-driven differentiation. 

Marketing-driven differentiation

Using a marketing approach for differentiation takes time. It requires a lot of thinking and planning. Businesses must have a clear understanding of what customer problems they are solving. They have to know what they stand for and what they want to be known. It’s a basic concept of brand building. Most importantly, once businesses know all of these requirements, they must laser focus on resource allocation. By resourcing, I mean both financial and skillsets. The main benefit of this approach is businesses are likely to last a long time.      

Sales-driven differentiation

Many businesses do not want to wait and prefer to see quick results. When the product offers similar functions to competitors, building a brand would be laborious and time-consuming. The shortcut is to differentiate by investing in a salesforce. The pattern is identical – a business generates cold leads, drop those leads to a call centre, and put those customers in front of the sales team to close them. It’s a quantity driven approach with low conversion. The benefit of this approach is that revenue turnover is quick. The major drawback is that you cannot get more leads forever, especially if businesses operate in a strict consumer protection environment. 

What is cryptocurrency? 

One of the major use cases of blockchain technology is cryptocurrency. The total market cap of all cryptocurrencies has exceeded US$2 trillion this year. The demand for crypto products has been surging. Where do those demands come from? The short answer is they come from the solutions that those crypto projects offer. 

Before we continue, I should explain first what cryptocurrency is. A concise definition is that cryptocurrency is decentralized digital money designed to be used over the internet. It is built on blockchain technology. Crypto makes it possible to transfer value online without the need for a middleman like a bank or payment processor. 

Cryptocurrency as a product

One of the cryptocurrencies that is in very high demand is Ethereum. The total value locked for Ethereum2.0 is now over US$33 billion. You might be curious to know what Ethereum is and why it is so popular. You would be surprised to learn that Ethereum doesn’t require a lot of marketing or sales efforts to be in its current position. The success of the Ethereum project comes from the simple fact that it is a great product. Ethereum offers a new way for people to build a new future of finance. It solves the real-world issue that our current financial system is inefficient with too many middlemen. And those middlemen, e.g. banks, make things too complicated, time-consuming and costly. 

Final Thoughts

If you are a marketer, what do you think about the current stage of marketing? Do you think we make it too complicated? I have been working in marketing for almost 20 years. I have spent most of my marketing time keeping up with changes in consumer behaviours, marketing technologies, lead generation and all kinds of advertising tactics. I took a pause to rethink what marketing is all about. And I derived a conclusion that the idea of marketing is very straightforward. We should spend most of our time figuring out how to make customer’s life better. And, the product and service that we offer is the key to making this goal happen. 

I used cryptocurrency as a product to elaborate my point. This is because a project like Ethereum does not need much marketing to push its adoption. It offers real-world benefits that could help its users to get financial freedom. 

I want to finish this post by encouraging us to allocate more times to work on the product strategy. If you have to spend a lot of money on advertising or offering discounts, it’s an obvious sign that your product is or is about to be mediocre. It means customers cannot differentiate your offer from your competitors. Profitability will soon erode.   

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