Do great products and businesses really need marketing?


Is marketing really necessary?

The days of “create a product that is so good that it will market itself” are gone. As are the days of “create a website with information about your business and sales pitches about your offerings, and the web visitors and sales will just come”.

PayPal is a great example of this. It has created a product that is extremely useful with a customer base of more than 228 million accounts (of which 73 million are active).

You would think that they do not need to spend time on marketing or public relations, however their continual success and growth is largely due to a carefully orchestrated drip-feed of marketing activities.

For example:

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  • The purpose and benefit of PayPal is well-known and clear in the minds of the right people

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  • They have fostered referrals and consider them invaluable to their success. For example in the early stages of their success they deposited $10 in new users’ PayPal accounts and gave existing account holders $10 for each new user that they referred. PayPal also have a Merchant Referral Bonus Programme that encourages users to refer new merchants to them.

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  • They widened their nets and took on new types of customers that would increase PayPal’s profitability when they created a special charity offer to win over the business of the large not-for-profit market.

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  • They researched the buying habits of their customers and launched PayPal Mobile that allows users to make payments using text messaging on their mobile phones.

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  • Their branding is prominent at each form of interaction with them (how would you like to be on that many e-commerce web pages for free?).

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I could go on listing the results that PayPal receive from marketing.

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Sorry about that. It’s the way it is. Every day there are thousands of businesses vying for our attention, so why on earth would someone take time to stop and give your business their attention (particularly when there are probably similar businesses also wanting their time and money)?

Want to know what your business is up against when it comes to getting your ideal client’s attention? Take a look at this short video:

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Now of course PayPal is not perfect.

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  • I personally find their website to be unappealing and it could be more user-friendly.

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  • They really need to reform their customer service such as complaint resolution and ease of use (last time I checked, PayPal’s user agreement was 25 pages long).

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  • PayPal could also improve their public relations activities to address concerns that are expressed in the media and online (just google PayPal complaints to see what happens when unaddressed concerns are left to take a life of their own).

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More effective marketing and public relations would benefit their business success substantially. So how do you make your marketing and public relations effective?

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  • Have a marketing plan that takes a big picture point of view and then schedules in the smaller steps for implementation.
    This is attainable for every small business and a good marketing consultant will be able to let you know what steps you can implement yourself and what tactics need to be outsourced.

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  • Make your plan a living document that takes into consideration:
    • New internal and external developments
    • Customer feedback
    • Campaign measurement and evaluation
    • Holidays, events, issues and personalities that will compete for your audience’s attention at certain times
    • Rate of business growth (for example an increase in users or enquiries needs to be supported with extra customer service and fast business processes).

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Over to you now.

Do you agree that marketing and public relations are essential to small business?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


2 thoughts on “Do great products and businesses really need marketing?”

  1. Couldn’t agree more Pheobe. Name a small business that is thriving without paying attention to marketing? If you look at 37 Signals who some would say didn’t do much marketing, they still had a blog, regularly spoke to customers and leveraged their database of past clients when launching new products. Eventually they released a book and started to speak at conferences and events.
    You can have the best product in the world, but fi you don’t put any thought to your marketing no-one will hear about ti and no-one will tell their friends about it.

  2. I’m a freelancer (SEO, copywriting, etc). I’m convinced that marketing a sales are actually more important that product. I’m not saying product is not important. It’s just that if someone is better at what I do than I am, I’ll beat them every time through better marketing and sales. Of course, there’s a minimum level of competency required to build any service oriented business. Great post!

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