Thought Leadership

We don’t do marketing.

“We don’t do marketing.” I’ve heard those words more than once in my career and I’m usually prepared to respond.  I just didn’t expect to hear it at a family reunion. A cousin I hadn’t seen in some time asked what I did for a living. It was a casual setting with lots of reminiscing and polite conversation, so I kept to my standard elevator speech on Navigate Marketing Group then asked him the same. Turns out, he owns a small manufacturing firm and when he finished telling me a bit about his company he ended quickly with “but my company doesn’t do any marketing.” I instantly got the feeling he thought he was sitting across from a lioness getting ready to jump on her prey.

After assuring him I wasn’t going to sell him anything or extol the virtues of social media over the next hour he relaxed a bit and we ended up having a great conversation about marketing, marketers, and why B2B struggles with embracing the changing communications landscape.


“I’m not even sure I know what marketing is or isn’t. The terminology seems to change every day and is different depending on whom I’m talking with.”

Just like any other business function or expertise, marketing has its own language. Ever feel lost in a conversation with an engineer? The difference is even marketers don’t always agree on the definitions of even our basic terminology or we alter definitions into something that more closely fits a specific agenda resulting in more confusion and complexity than is truly necessary. (No wonder my mother doesn’t know what I do for a living.) I offered up a couple simple definitions I have used successfully over the years that I think are a good place to start for any business owner trying to sort it all out.

  • Marketing – Developing a demand for the product and fulfilling the customer’s need to know, like and trust you.
  • Sales – The technique of getting people to exchange their cash for your product.
  • Advertising – Messages paid for by those who send them intended to inform or influence people who receive them.
  • Media – Communication channels through which messages are disseminated.


“It seems like just about everyone is a marketer nowadays. I’m not sure how to tell one from the other.” 

Marketing isn’t rocket science, but it is an expertise and does require asking the same questions you would of a rocket scientist – what kind of rockets have you built, and do they work? When meeting with a marketer, don’t be shy about asking where his/her/company expertise in marketing lies, where he/she/company is the strongest – promotion and pricing, research, strategy, creative, advertising, media, copywriting, content development, web design, programming, special events, experiential, etc.  Then determine if what you need to reach your goal is what he/she/company does best.

Marketing today is a complicated field. Not only is it in constant flux, driven by the rapid developments in technology and media, the level of deep specialization and wide knowledge base needed to be successful is extreme. It’s just not possible for one person, no matter how brilliant, to encompass all these disciplines and knowledge at the highest level.

Embracing the changing communications landscape

“I don’t have the time to learn all about the new stuff and I don’t have the money to try something I’m not sure will work.”

I’ve found most (not all) small to mid-size business owners fall into two categories when it comes to marketing. The first have simply decided to ignore the changing communications landscape, stick with what they’ve always done, and hope it continues to work so they can concentrate on other areas of the business. The other group suffers from marketing FOMO (fear of missing out) causing them to chase the shiny thing, commit random acts of marketing, or spend hours searching the internet for “the best marketing for my business.”

With all the clutter and complexity of communicating in today’s marketplace, business owners can find confidence in where to invest time and money by developing a solid foundation from which effective and sustainable communications can be built. That foundation includes:

  • Reframing your language
  • Becoming a proactive, vs. reactive, communicator
  • Fully defining your brand beyond logo and colors
  • Mapping your customer’s journey
  • Aligning sales and marketing efforts
  • Working with a budget
  • Making the strategy and planning a priority
  • Determining the right fit with outside resources
  • Developing key accountabilities for your internal team

“My sales team is responsible for developing client relationships and uncovering new opportunities.”

Historically, B2B has relied on the salesperson’s ability to create a demand for the product, fulfill the customer’s need to know, like and trust the company, and make the sale. Yet today, 55-70% of the buyer’s decision-making happens well in advance of contact with a salesperson and a new generation of purchasing agents are increasingly data-driven and web focused.  It’s just no longer possible for your salesperson to go it alone and achieve the goals you’re looking for. Your sales team needs the marketing resources necessary to deliver qualified leads and the marketing support to quickly and efficiently close the sale.

It was a day filled with family, fun and great conversation. As my cousin and I moved on to the traditional, yet dreaded, egg toss we agreed that every business “does marketing” in one form or another and doing it well, in support of your business goals, starts with the confidence to manage it successfully.

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