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Marketing, Between the Word and Its Application

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In my previous article "Marketing, The Challenge of Understanding" I had introduced the various management styles that were applied in the company I worked for.
In this article I will discuss the market status and the reasons for not applying the marketing principles at that time.
To be honest with my readers, even my own understanding of marketing went into different stages, and the more I knew about it, the more I understood how it can be spread into the various departments of the company, sometimes leading the whole strategy.
By looking back at the type of product and markets' variety and variables, I realize that although I was contracted as the sales and marketing manager, the word marketing was more used under the understanding of being a sales function and because it was a fancy trend to use at that time.
This surely developed into a further understanding of marketing and when I took the role as a commercial director marketing became the blanket for all commercial activities.
At the initial stage, marketing was not the company's focus due to the following reasons:
  • Type of product: We are in mobile business.
    When landlines practically do not exist, and communication is essential for your business or type of work, you probably consider the facility of mobile communication a need and not a luxury.
    Our customers in that time were mainly businessmen, government officials, and international entities' representatives (Whether embassies, UN organizations or Non Governmental Organizations) and they were all in need for the service and ready to pay for it.
  • Lack of Competition: In some markets where I operated there was no direct competition.
    The landlines were not enough to cover the growing needs and covered only some areas of the capital city.
    In other markets, there was a minimal competition where another operator existed yet none of us was big enough to cover all the market needs.
  • High Investment: Even though our operations started in developing markets, the investments made were high.
    At that time many governments did not charge high licensing fees as they wanted mobile service in their countries, yet the cost of bringing the equipment and the expertise was high.
    The shareholders' belief that our services were needed in the market made the whole company adopt a technical approach, where we provide the coverage and expect people to come to us to purchase what they need.
  • Profit Margin: Although securing a high profit margin or keeping the existing one can be used as an argument to deploy marketing essentials, the points aforesaid made it more of a reason not to spend (or invest) in such an activity.
    The benefit from marketing including promotions was not measurable as we did not know nor had the means to do it.
    When such a measurement is not available we could not justify the expenses to ourselves, the management, or the shareholders.
     On another hand, our focus was to ensure the Return On Investment (ROI) the soonest possible, and any "unwanted" expenses were simply rejected from the budget.
The combination of the aforementioned points along with lack of visibility at the headquarter management to any marketing approach lead us to practically ignore marketing.
The commercial approach was in the backseat compared to the technical priority based on the assumption that our products are needed hence customers will come to us.
The marketing mix during this stage looked as follows:
  1. Product: Mobile communication
  2. Price: Determined by HQ based on benchmarking
  3. Place: Company's head office in the country of operation
  4. Promotion: None, other than a basic user guide which can be actually viewed as part of the product definition rather than promotion.
The article that will follow in this series will discuss what I call the opposition stage, where marketing started to make its way through the management approval process to the dismay of some, and rejection of the technical department.
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