Why do so many businesses see marketing as a ‘necessary evil’?

I’m now a small business owner and I’ve worked in several small businesses and start-ups. Money is always tight. But why do so many business owners appear to turn off when the word ‘marketing’ is mentioned?

Is it the thought of spending lots of hard earned cash and then seeing nothing in return for it? Is it because you can’t easily calculate a return on investment? Is it because marketing just seen as a necessary evil?

Marketing has got a bit of bad reputation with the words  ‘hype’, ‘spin’ and ‘just flower arranging’ all being thrown into the equation. We are bombarded with marketing messages every day; perhaps we just see marketing as being another word for advertising or hard selling?

In my view, marketing is more vital, and so much more important, than that.

Marketing is all about understanding your market at a really deep level. It’s about discovering your customers’ needs and how you can truly satisfy them. Marketing is about change and great marketers can make change happen. Marketers should also help you identify the value you offer, rather than just promote the products and services you sell. Marketing is about storytelling so that your customers appreciate what you are offering so they can truly understand how you can help them.

You might think your product is great. But until your prospects see how you can solve their problems, or give them a competitive advantage, you’re invisible and perceived as offering no value.

Marketing, fundamentally, is about matching what you sell with what people want to buy. If there is a mismatch, you’re potentially giving away value or worse still, you’re going to lose your customers eventually.

Don’t be marketing-led, be market-led. Use marketing to understand your customer needs not just to spend money on advertising or pay-per-click because you think you ought to. Get your story right, a clear value proposition and then work out what's the best way to invest your hard earned cash to make change happen. That way, you increase the chance of seeing marketing as a valuable tool in your business armoury, not simply an unnecessary cost.

Thanks to Seth Godin's book, This is Marketing, for his inspiration.