Thinking about launching a new product – or even a new business? Find out why marketing should be at the heart of your planning process, from the beginning.

It used to be that Marketing professors and books opened up marketing discussions by presenting the “4 ‘P’s of Marketing,” most of which occur toward the end of the long range or marketing planning cycle:

  • Product (the goods, services, information, etc., that will be sold)
  • Price (the amount of money or other rate of exchange at which a product will be sold) )
  • Placement, also called “Distribution” (the means by which goods or services will be made available for sale, including the means of distribution and the real or virtual stores where they will be made available for purchase), and )
  • Promotion (how you will tell potential buyers about your goods or services and the ways you will entice them to buy)

In fact, for many people, the last “P” in this list, “Promotion,” actually comprises their view of marketing. They view the other three items in the list as part of other business processes (such as accounting and operations).

So when should marketing come into the equation?
Recently, marketing guru and best-selling author Seth Godin asked this question: When should you add marketing?

He makes the point that marketing is not something to be added after you have all of the rest of the questions answered, suggesting instead that now, more than ever, marketing is the starting point for any business. I couldn’t agree more!

If you adopt Godin’s conclusion, that it is marketing conversations which are the starting point and so must be the core of your business planning process, it begs the question: What are these marketing conversations?

I would suggest that there are two major categories of conversations which comprise the beginning of any effective business start up, planning or long range process, both of which come down to a phrase I saw many times while visiting London: “Mind the gap.” You’ll see signs with this phrase at entrances and exits to subways, the bottom of escalators, etc., warning pedestrians that they need to pay attention so that they don’t trip over the gaps between where they are and where they want to be.

And gap-finding is a great way to think of marketing when it comes to determining whether your start-up business idea or the product or service you want to add to your business is a worthwhile endeavor.

Here are some of the marketing conversations that can help you determine consumer supply and demand:
The first category of marketing conversations that should be at the starting point of your business process pertains to totally new products and services. The gaps that you need to identify, or which must exist in order for you to know that you are on the right track are these:

  • Is there an unfilled need or desire that represents demand for the product or service (or new business type as a whole)
  • Is there an underserved market or niche market which represents demand for the new product, service or business
  • Is there an as-yet undefined up and coming market which represents demand for the new product, service or business

The second category of marketing conversations which should occur before launching new products or services or changing your business model have to do with current customers, rather than new markets or un-served demand. When thinking about your current customers, clients or patrons or the “ideal client type” and target markets that you pursue, you will want to identify these types of gaps:

  • Are there other products or services your customers, prospective customers or ideal client types want or need that you could provide
  • Could you provide the products or services that your customers, prospects or target markets want in a better way (more efficient, more quickly, etc.)
  • Can you significantly improve the customer experience in a way that is meaningful to your customers, prospective customers or ideal client types

Starting with marketing is essential!

You can see how putting marketing conversations at the beginning point of your business planning accomplishes many things. First and foremost, it puts the needs, desires and wants of your customers and ideal client types at the heart of your business planning. And consequently, this type of thinking can also help you make better business decisions and avoid costly mistakes!

The question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is representative of man’s quest to know which came first in the process. And it’s a question which has yet to be answered, in terms of the literal chicken and the egg. But when it comes to the question, “Which comes first, the product or the marketing?” the answer should be clear.

Marketing conversations are essential if you want to know whether a new business idea, or an idea for a new product or service for your business has merit, because if no demand exists, you may be left with ‘egg on your face,’ as the old saying goes!