Marketing at the Crossroads: the Profession Struggles for Relevance


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I used to be in marketing. In fact, I was co-founder and CEO of a high-profile marketing agency – until I sold it in 1990, lived out my management contract, then in 1993 abandoned the profession to become a consultant and advocate for building customer relationships, my passion.

Why gamble on my career like that? Because I finally allowed myself to accept that “marketing” is mutually exclusive with fostering customer relationships that put customers first – relying on the dictum that adding new value to customers is the only sustainable way to add new value to the company. Fortunately, many, many companies have proven this reality – either through their successes or their failures.

But did marketing ever get the message? For the large part, no.

Why not?

Several reasons. Spurred on by so many companies treating strategic planning as a waste of time, marketing gradually morphed into marketing communication. Also, while the strategic side of marketing leans heavily on wisdom and experience, advertizing agencies run on youth and exuberance. And agencies lay claim to being the “marketing gurus” of the universe. Moreover, marketing strategy doesn’t satisfy the corporate “habit” for instant data the way measuring reach, traffic, inquiries, whatever else advertising does fulfills. And then there’s the lack of glamour in building customer relationships, analyzing data, working below the surface understanding customer whys and wherefores and dealing with (ugh!) process that drives relationship-building.

For all these reasons marketing sticks with promotional talking “at” customers, trying to persuade and cajole them, while the business world evolves towards listening to customers and responding to them.

The ship has left, and marketing’s still on dry land.


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