One of the terms more talked about than practised is marketing. Nearly every entrepreneurs talks about marketing and knows its importance as an indispensable pillar of entrepreneurial success. It is often used interchangeably with sales.

Basically, marketing is not same as selling, but its chief aim being to increase sales. Consequently, selling is one element of marketing that starts when the latter is almost complete. Thus, effectiveness if marketing is measured in terms of increased sales.

If then, marketing is so important in driving sales why is it that most start-up entrepreneurs spend a lot of money on shop fittings, stock and sometimes on equipment such as cars, computers and high tech management software, but fail to allocate sufficient money to do marketing?

Relegating marketing to the back seat is not only a problem of start-ups. Even established businesses often fall victim of this mislaid priority. It is notable that when most businesses experience recession or financial crunch and cost cutting or downsizing becomes the best survival option, marketing budget is the often the first to be slashed. The consequences are almost always disastrous because marketing is the nucleus that holds all other elements together.

Experience has shown that whether it is starting a new business or building a house or any other project, the cost is almost always underestimated. This is likely to bring undesired results such as stalled project, stunted business and losses, especially to first timers without alternative financing options.

It is common for entrepreneurs to optimistically underestimate the start-up cost and overestimate the revenue. It is for this fact that most experts advice that, when starting a business or a project, pre-empt a situation where the cost could jump up to three times your projection, and revenue shrink by up to one third, and make provisions for such scenarios.

A likely scenario is where one starts with pomp — quality products, nice exteriors and interiors, good business cards, glossy brochures and other things designed to create the imagined image. But soon, even before the money start flowing in, they run out of cash.

At this point it becomes evident that things are not going to be as rosy as they imagined. They become nervous and start a cost cutting spree. They cut what they consider non essentials such as marketing, advertising, branding and promotions. Some businesses owners are even too naïve to sit down over the counter and wait for customers hoping that they will come on the strength of their quality products.

Quality without marketing will not help you. Quality in the market today is the minimum accepted norm rather than a competitive advantage. You only enjoy a competitive advantage if you have something that no one else has, or is capable of acquiring easily.

Quality is no longer a competitive advantage if your competitors can offer more or less the same. Therefore, when most of the competitors in the industry can offer same quality products or services, you cannot sell because of quality but indisputably you can lose customers if you lower your quality.

 To illustrate this further consider two decades ago when computer skills were rare. Companies were looking for computer literate people to hire. Possessing the skill then, give one a competitive advantage in the job market.

But today it is expected that every job seeker is computer literate. Thus solely having computer skills cannot help you get a job but lack of it will prevent you from securing employment in many firms.

Therefore, the old maxim that, build a better mouse trap and people will beat a path to your door applied to Ralph Emerson generation, not ours. In our generation, marketing drives everything.

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