Without vision, we perish

The problem with marketing in most technology companies is that it isn't marketing. It's sales support. And most marketing VPs are, in reality, sales engineers. Real marketing is a conversation. A marketer doesn't just listen to the customers, but to the customer's customers, and to the the people that influences those people. After he's done listening, he then starts thinking and formulating responses and directions that he believes will open paths for the sales people. Before he responds, he tests his hypotheses with this audience he's developed to establish a reality basepoint and only then hands off to the sales team.

And if he doesn't see any paths open for the sales people at least three years down the line, he arranges for an exit for the company that provides value for everyone involved -- his company, the company's customers, and the acquiring entity.

I've been thinking about all this with the news that another small technology company went away in a "fire sale" of the assets. The good news is everyone kept their jobs and got raises. The bad news is they left a bunch of money on the table a couple of years ago that could have given the investors something back, kept everyone's jobs and given the company an opportunity to make a real difference in the industry and economy. All this came about because they ignored the advice and insight of the marketing team two years ago. They believed their own sales hype. Always a bad idea.

While sales is a crucial element of any company, it isn't the real driving factor of success. Sales is short term, marketing is long term. Sales is reactive, marketing is proactive. Our focus on sales is what drives the irrational swings of the stock market, creates corporate failure, hampers investment in and development of new technology, and puts us in the situation we are now: faltering economies and pessimistic expectations for the future.

Market-driven companies succeed without solid products. Market-driven industries grow year after year. But market-driven corporate philosophies are like eagles. We don't seem to have many left.