I do agree with many of the assertions in his reply regarding the poor state of marketing and especially product management in the Linux World and the Tech world in general. I would not, as he does, differentiate between marketing technology products versus marketing consumer electronics or consumer packaged goods. The role of marketing and the skill set requirement are very much the same across all industries. Having deep industry experience is an additional requirement layered on top of that.
Across all industries, marketers must play the role of “cultural anthropologist” to distinguish the real needs from the short term annoyances that people will find workarounds for by the time you can address them with either a new product or a new feature. They must also be able to interact, negotiate, and mediate with R&D, engineering, suppliers, competitors, partners, and other groups, to finalize “feasible” product plans that will meet the customer needs and include all the “relevant” innovations coming from those groups. And they need to be able to do that without being a gatekeeper or information traffic cop. In an age of rapid development and co-creation, they need to be comfortable in an environment where everyone can and should talk to everyone – regardless of organizational boundaries. Because, and within the constrains of not aggravating the customer, all of those groups need to have direct access to the customer to test and validate certain assumptions. Again, there is no difference in those fundamentals across industries.
Next they need to find ways to communicate with customers about the new products and services in the face of “attention” being the new scarcity. And while the solutions will differ from market to market, the range of options that need to be evaluated are the same across all industries. As part of that they also need to make sure that they set up the proper infrastructure to “listen” to market feedback on an ongoing basis instead of in episodic waves as they currently do.
Whatever marketing becomes will be enabled by technology. Wiki’s, blogs, social bookmarking, technology enabled CGM, and many other new technologies are very powerful tools for companies to execute all the marketing functions – including all the customer touch-points – in different and better ways. Hopefully marketing will not become “defined” by technology, as that would make things much worse. Just take a look at what CRM did to sales and marketing…
Lastly, it is important to keep all things in perspective. What marketing becomes is not all that different from what it should have been all along…just take a look at what Peter Drucker said during the last three quarter century:
- “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”
- “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself. “
- “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”
- “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”
And hopefully, what marketing becomes will also be heavily influenced by other disciplines besides technology – including sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, science, and others. Some of the best “field-specific” innovations have come from seemingly unrelated fields. Again, Drucker has a good example of that: “The new approaches to the study of history have, for instance, come out of economics, psychology and archeology all disciplines that historians never considered relevant to their field and to which they had rarely before been exposed……. By itself, specialized knowledge yields no performance.”