Thursday, May 2, 2019

Marketing or Sales – Take your pick?

I participated in a professional debate after a very long time last week. The Topic was “Marketing or Sales - Take your Pick” organised by TiE Chennai. Quite obviously I was given the topic of Sales and the co-speaker was a much senior person to me with vast experience in Marketing & Lead Generation. The Moderator conducted the session very well asking some uncomfortable questions on behalf of the august audience who were all members of TiE Chennai and many of them young Entrepreneurs. The topic was more in the scheme of Entrepreneurship and Start-Ups. For a young Start-up, be it 1 month old or 3 years old (Oh, btw, Flipkart and Ola are not start-ups anymore – the unofficial timeframe that is globally accepted for a new business to be called a Start-up is only 5 years!), should it put its focus, money and effort on Marketing (Offline or Online) or on getting the first Sale (and successive Sales) therefore effectively in building a Sales Team which will eventually build a Sales pipeline. The jury was out that evening, as decided by the Moderator and “Sales” won the topic of the day hands down. However, my co-speaker as well as a few in the audience (and some of my friends too) had a different view. Many felt that a product becomes a Brand only because of it’s Marketing, Promotions, Brand Recall and so on. 


Here’s my take. If a Brand is only remembered for it’s Marketing and probably not for its Sales, then it is, perhaps not selling enough! There’s a good old saying that a good product doesn’t need Marketing. Then there is evoking, invoking and hard selling the theories of Ace Marketing Professor Peter F Drucker (with which accompanies loads of 2 decade old emotions from University PG days) by one and all. I am of the humble opinion that Marketing, in it’s true definition and application has truly changed in the last 3 decades, more so in the last decade with the emergence of the Millenials and Gen Z as consumers of products and services.

For Ex., the newest Indian Interest which are the Food hailing Apps, affectionately (sic) known in the Start-Up ecosystem as “FoodTech” – apparently using technology to sell food (hic). Companies that are funded by Wall St., the Chinese and the Japanese, tease customers who order through the App with deep discounts, at times 50% or more effectively making a mockery of the efforts of the Restaurateurs who prefer to align with these Apps for the fear of losing out to competition. Interestingly, none of these discounts are offered in most cases by the Restaurants themselves, rather by the FoodTech companies – in order to acquire new customers and retain existing ones. The so called coupon codes aka cost of acquiring new customers is shown as Marketing – for convenience purposes as well as for the Balance Sheet. So, what was traditionally known as a one off “Sampling exercise” has now morphed in to this. Most e-commerce companies that sprang up in the past 10 years or so have effectively used this tactic to raise more funding. This, I do not call as Marketing. Cut to bigger and established consumer brands who offer 10% extra Shampoo or 15 gms extra of Biscuits and 20% more of Air in packs of Chips for the same price – No, this I do not call Marketing either. 


The core principles of Marketing haven’t died, they have just been tweaked conveniently to suit new age Marketing Campaigns, created by new age Marketers, approved by new-age Marketing Standards to please new-age Millenials and Gen-Z Consumers. Be it is a Start-Up or a Larger company, if you are not selling enough to fund your cash flows, you will cease to exist in the short term, no matter how strong a brand equity you build. Everyone is not as lucky as a Flipkart or Idea Mobile. 

I have been a firm believer of the adage, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. In the recent Tamil film “Petta”, there’s a conversation between two friends how a Facebook video garnered thousands of likes and shares to which another quips, if these could fetch him a beer. This is the reality of the so called new-age Marketing. Even as we felt that the physical sampling of audience viewership by Research Firms was a dubious exercise, today’s digital marketing metrics are not just dubious but futile. In fact, most of today’s new-age techniques do not have a conversion to sale, thereby making the money and most importantly the time invested in the exercise, a gross wastage.


Yet, there’s so much hype for Marketing a new product or service without giving it the much needed Sales push. There’s only so much Marketing can do, finally the product has to sell. And sell again and again for the company to remain in business. Be it a Start-Up or an established one. Take your pick.