In Defense of Marketing!

There have been some posts in the association blogosphere the past week that have my attention. Here is an example. Scott Briscoe posted on September 18 on Acronym the following.

“I'm not such a big believer in associations and traditional marketing. I've often wondered what would happen if the 50-gazillion dollar flashy 500-page annual meeting brochure were replaced with three reminder postcards? Could you take the money saved and plow it into other efforts, efforts that would build WOM marketing?”

I value the Acronym blog and the dialog there. But I have some concerns with his comments. I think that it is incorrect to blame marketing for a “flashy 500 page brochure”. Traditional marketing is the professional discipline of understanding and communicating the best message, to the best market segments, with the best marketing channels and techniques,

In fact, good marketing probably would not have sent out a 500 page brochure. At the very least, good marketing would have designed a test of the big brochure against some other vehicle to determine what statistically generates the best return for the association.

Here is what some other authors that I respect say about marketing.

Philip Kotler,
Kotler on Marketing: How to Create, Win, and Dominate Markets “Successful companies are learning companies. They collect feedback from the marketplace, audit and evaluate results, and take corrections designed to improve their performance. Good marketing works by constantly monitoring its position in relation to its destination.”

Michael Treacy, in his book,
Double-Digit Growth, says, “Growth endures not because of fortuitous demand, a hot product, or any single tactic. Growth endures when management follows a portfolio of disciplines to ensure that a broad set of growth opportunities are identified and captured as routinely as costs are controlled and processes are improved.”

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D. in their book,
Return on Customer: Creating Maximum Value from your Scarcest Resource, say “to remain competitive, you must figure out how to keep your customers longer, grow them into bigger customers, make them more profitable, and serve them more effectively. And you want more of them.”

These authors are all talking about traditional marketing. Good marketing, however, does not mean that an association can offer poor products or service to members. My recent posts on
Meaning, Mission, or Money and Tangible Benefits Matter, support the importance of mission and solid membership benefits in an association.

Here is a final thought. I am concerned when association people look down on traditional marketing. Having worked with associations for nearly 25 years, one consistent fault that I have seen in many is the tendency to operate with the Field of Dreams philosophy that says “if you build it they will come.” This has limited so many great associations and products from reaching their potential audience and having the impact that they deserve.

So don’t judge marketing by the 500 page flashy brochure. Remember, anyone can find examples of bad doctors, lawyers, bloggers, etc. That does not mean that the profession itself is bad.

Do you have comments or thoughts?


Lindy Dreyer said...

Thanks, Tony, for so eloquently defending our honor! I'm guilty of using the word "traditional," though I prefer "comprehensive." It's easy for a bunch of bloggers to rally behind technology, but it's not a perfect solution for everyone.

Maddie Grant said...

Hi Tony. I was going to post a comment but then had too much to say, so posted it over on my blog instead ( Thanks for your post!

Tony Rossell said...

Lindy, thanks for the feedback. I assume that Scott was throwing out a topic to generate discussion, but my fear is that there are some associaton staffers who will believe it and dump decades of marketing knowledge without understanding what they are doing. Tony

Matt Baehr said...

Tony -

I have a feeling Scott was exaggerating with his 500-page example, but I see where he is coming from. I also see where you are coming from. I think "Marketing" gets a bad name just like "Sales" does. But what really goes on most of the time is much more than what the stereotypical definition implies. Long story short, folks need to step outside of traditional thinking and just do what they know is best. Call it whatever you want.

Tony Rossell said...

Matt -- I agree that Scott was just using that as an speculative example. But there are people out there that are very much anti marketing. I have heard it many time, "we tried it and it didn't work." So my post was really designed to defend the true practice of marketing instead of the sometimes poor practices that others call marketing. Tony