What's the role of marketing? Depends on who you ask. For product people, marketing serves to educate: the more people about our product, the more we grow. For sales people, it's support: the marketing exists to drive leads for closing. For advertising folks, it's communication: tell a great story and figure out how to make it real later.
Great founders and marketers understand that true product differentiation is rare, sales without profits is useless, and a great story can only go so far without a great product.
Marketing is the glue that binds product development, distribution, communication and pricing, aligning it with customer needs. It closes the loop on creating, distributing and capturing value between customers and the company. As Seth Godin eloquently puts it:
"Don't find customers for your products, find products for your customers."
The first step for marketing success is accepting customer-centricity.
This subtle but powerful shift in thinking opens up a whole new world of opportunities. The role of marketing evolves from a necessary evil, a task to be completed, a "hack" to be stumble upon, into a dialogue with the market: a process of discovery, development and distribution.
Understanding that you are not the customer forces you to ask who the customer is, how best to solve their problems and how to communicate with them.
The reluctance to understand what customers need, or the arrogance to assume that they know the answers hold founders and marketers back. The humility that comes from letting go of biases and the openness to get to know customers is the foundation for marketing success.
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