AN INSIDE STORY
By MOHAMMAD MURAD
May 21 - Jun 03, 2001
Living in the midst of a complicated world, man often
tries to find simple answers to rather complex questions, situations and
problems. Most of these intricacies are man-made. As ironical as it may
sound, these complex problems can have simple solutions. This article
attempts to unravel certain complexities involved in business systems in
general, and marketing in particular. This should not be taken as an
immaculately binding testimonial, but rather, as a beginning to the
development of a whole new system of processes based on simple, but
technically sound designs.
Many a times we come across people who wish to know
more about Marketing. Has there been a time when somebody asked you to
define Marketing? For marketers, during interviews and in general
discussions, this is the most commonly addressed question. How would you
define Marketing? I can give you numerous definitions taken from various
books and Journals. Some of them may look pertinent, while others may
not. Some definitions are too difficult while others are just too
lengthy. Considering the vast horizon of marketing, it may seem
difficult to give a concise and complete definition on this subject. At
times, Marketing becomes more or less obscure and abstract. Things
become gloomy and marketing, all the more mysterious. Just to clear
things up, we need to develop a simple, concise and yet complete
interpretation of Marketing. If you ask me to give you a one-word
definition of Marketing I would say, "Relationships!"
Marketing is all about relationships. Developing, Managing and
Sustaining Relationships! Nothing more and nothing less....
Dozens of books have been written on Customer Care,
Product Positioning, Brand Development, Market Analysis and
Segmentation, Consumer Behaviour etc. all of them have their own ways of
dealing with such matters and I have my own. Marketing and all its
associated processes revolve around "Relationships". Pure and
simple relationships! Quite simple.... Well, Not quite! The difficult
part comes in when you have to understand, manage and maintain these
relationships. That is where your test starts.
Lets get involved with the nitty-gritty of Marketing.
Think of anything and everything that comes to your mind when you are
thinking of Marketing and think of it, in terms of
"Relationships". Strategic Marketing Planning; Target
Marketing; Customer needs, wants and demands; Marketing Research;
Consumer Roles and Behaviour Analysis; Product Design and Management;
Product Pricing, Placement and Promotion; Personal Selling and Sales
Management; Competitor Analysis; Brand Management and Presentation etc.
Let's mark them as activities and processes. The relationship cycle
starts with you. At first, you need to develop a strong bonding with
yourself. This would be the beginning of your growth and development. It
will take you in the right direction and all other relationships/
processes would start from this point onwards. Your relationship with
your company or business (since companies are living and breathing
entities with their exclusive prestige, image, needs and wants), your
team members or employees, your offerings; the relationship you have
developed with your Customers, how well you understand them and how well
you keep pace with them; Your relationship with your surroundings or
environments and how well you respond to them. You can even develop
relationships with competition. You + You, You + Company (You + Employee
including all sales force, Upper and Lower level Management, IT
personnel, Distribution Channels, Production and Purchasing Department
etc., You + Corporate Goals, Needs, Image and Prestige. This is where
company focused loyal relationships are formed. You are a part of the
company, and the company is an integral part of you), You + Product, You
+ Customer, You + Competition, You + Environments (this may include;
changing life styles, technological advancements, social adaptations,
altering governments, global policy shifts etc.) are all basic
relationships and every other process/ activity (marked above) no matter
how complex or intricate, starts from these relationships. They form the
foundation of all activities. Most of these relationships are
interlinked and have overlapping concurrences. Develop a strong base and
you have secured a strong building. A building full of activities,
processes, and full, of relationships! You see, Marketing has more to do
with people than with ordinary, lifeless things and where human element
shows its presence, relationships emerge automatically. Take a look at
all the above listed entities; You, Customer, Competitor, Product (in
relation to its producer and consumer) and finally, the Company (in
terms of its employees, need, identity) are all human-enriched
possibilities possessing endless opportunities of developing everlasting
It's about time to get acquainted with relationships.
Declaring, that Marketing equals Relationships, is not enough. To clear
things up we would require a little more elaboration. Marketing is a
continuous process of developing, managing and sustaining relationships.
Even after one has managed to develop strong relationships, holding on
to them becomes all the more challenging. You, The Company, The Product,
The Customer, Distribution, Environments, Competition & Human
Resource, are all distinct entities with distinguished relationships.
Each relationship is unique and needs to be handled accordingly. Nobody
can tell you how to develop a relationship, or let alone, manage one,
but people can always give you a few pointers or commonalities, which
can guide you in shaping such lasting relationships. Devotion, Caring
and Honesty are just a few to start with.
Firstly, you need to do a little convincing. You have
to convince yourself whether you wish to establish a relationship or
not. This is where, "You-You" relationship plays its role.
When you establish a relationship with yourself you immediately know who
you are? What you are? Where you should be? What you need to be doing?
It answers all the mysteries about you as you are playing the lead role
in all of these relationships. It makes you aware of your
characteristics, your strengths and weaknesses etc. You see, when you
decide that you need to develop a relationship you try to know each and
everything about the other person or entity and this is the best part of
making relationships whereby continuous exchange of information takes
After you have established a "You-You"
relationship you are ready to institute other relationships for example
a relationship with your company, product, customer etc. All such
relationships would then be based upon sound foundations of altruistic
Working with relationships
The relationship Life Cycle consists of three
distinct phases, The Creation Phase, The Building Phase & The
Maintenance Phase. The Creation phase may require a 180% commitment from
your part (the 80% above 100 is for the other participant, there are
times when you need to do his share as well) but as the cycle progresses
your commitment lowers and things start progressing naturally. Mind you,
this commitment should never go below the danger level or your
relationship will cease to progress. Once built, relationships define a
never-ending process, where things keep on changing and you keep on
adapting accordingly. Let's consider the "You-You"
relationship. Here, you start off by knowing more about yourself; with
continuous dialogues you gradually build a rapport with yourself. With
the passage of time, people tend to change, and only by maintaining a
continuous rapport you can change your plans and actions accordingly.
Similar situation occurs with other relationships. In
a "You-Environment" relationship, external forces and agents
(Macro & Micro factors etc) change quickly, thus requiring
continuous adaptation from your side. That is why, sustaining
relationships, is so important. Whereas in a "You-Product"
relationship you begin by understanding your product's features, build
your relationship by digging deep and identifying its benefits,
strengths and weaknesses, maintain your relationship through continuous
monitoring whereby entering the realms of Product Improvement and
Enhancement. This is when your creativity is performing at its peak. You
start adding value to your product; find new markets or uses for your
Customer Relationships need special care as well.
Getting a customer is easy but keeping him isn't. You can only achieve
this by maintaining deeply rooted robust relationships. Customers'
demand personalized long-term relationships. If your relationship ceases
to progress after reaching its maturity level, you have a very good
chance of loosing your client.
All relationships pass through a definite life cycle.
As the number of relationships increase, maintaining them become all the
more cumbersome. When working with relationships one must always
remember, that he has promises to make and relationships to keep.
If you look around you, you will find a network of
relationships. We work in clusters of relationships all linked together
to complete our life Cycle. Maintaining a harmonious equilibrium within
this Network is quite important. When this equilibrium is disrupted,
We adopt different professions and perform distinct
roles during our lifetime. Let's take a look at some of these
professions. IT professionals develop relationships with computers;
Developers with programming codes while Designers have a knack for
Graphics, colours, nature etc. I for one knew that I couldn't develop
such "human-computer" relationships therefore I chose to
develop relationships with those who knew how to develop relationships
Students on the other hand develop relationships with
books. This reminds me of my childhood story. I was in 9th class and my
final exams were near I had to pass my Sindhi Language paper which comes
as a compulsory subject if you are studying in Karachi. I was finding it
difficult to come to terms with this language and in my anxiety I
squashed my Sindhi book gave it a few twists and threw it in disgust.
After a while I realized that if I need to pass, I have to make friends
with this book. So, I picked up my Sindhi book and started my first ever
relationship with a book. Eventually, I passed! From then onwards I have
managed to continue my friendship with books and this relationship has
indeed paid me dividends.
Developing relationships is a natural trait and can
only come with experience. What I can suggest here is, that, whenever
you are thinking of something, let's say Marketing, think of it in terms
of relationships. All the puzzling pieces would then, start falling in.
This world is all about relationships, making,
breaking and strengthening relationships. We have a relationship with
God (Allah), with our parents, friends, relatives and every other thing
that affects our lives. A mathematician's relationship with numbers,
chemist's with chemical compounds and reactions, a scientist's
relationship with science and so on. Relationships have always played
their role in our lives. Their initiation takes courage; their
development requires perseverance; and their maintenance demands
patience. In order to utilize the full potential of relationships, one
must always remember the golden rule, "initiate, build and keep
them for life!"