We were wise once, long before the term marketing existed. In that long-forgotten time there was only one question. What do our customers want?
On the streets outside Bangkok, kids ask it over and over again. What do these tourists want? What can I give them in exchange for some of that money they have bulging in their pockets.
We call it integrated marketing; a new term we say, inviting us to involve the marketing department earlier in the game. Rather than developing a product which is later assigned to the marketing department to send out into the world, integrated marketing dictates that marketing is involved from the beginning, in the asking of a critical question, possibly the most critical question; what do our customers want?
I sat on a university marketing committee. A dozen delightful doctors who know nothing about marketing. Question after question, discussion after discussion, mass confusion. “I don’t think we’re smart enough to figure out what the students want” I suggest. “Why don’t we just ask them?” A professor ask questions of a student? That’s backward, a slap in the staunch academic ego. They wouldn’t hear of it. A new study was commissioned that day. A couple of hundred thousand more dollars spent to hire experts to survey other experts to find out what students want.
I have been asked tens of thousands of question about marketing. I now know, immediately if the company “gets it” or not. What color should it be, where should we locate, how large should we make it, how should it be packaged? If you are asking your CEO, R&D or accounting department, new product development, or me, you are indeed contemporary, right with the times. If you are asking your customers, your policy is antiquated, passe’, out of date. So far out of date that you may well have remembered what we once all knew. I have finally learned that the answer is virtually always the same. To most questions I am asked, my answer is “Hmmm, that’s an interesting question, what do you think your customers would say?”
They are still wise in Bangkok. They have to be. For them the difference between feast and famine is really that simple. To a salary-laden American, the question is not nearly as critical. We will eat tonight.