“The purpose of a business is to create a customer” is attributed to Peter Drucker, the renowned management consultant and author.

Drucker emphasised the importance of marketing and innovation as the two core functions of a business. He believed that marketing was not just a specialised activity but encompassed the entire business from the customer’s point of view. As discussed elsewhere on this blog, that is a lofty aim.

Customers have inherent needs and wants that exist regardless of marketing efforts.
An event usually triggers a need. Often that need will be easy to satisfy (transactional); in others, the potential customer will search for a solution. Sometimes the need will be difficult to quantify or articulate.

Now a business (not necessarily marketing) comes into the equation. They have identified a need (a demand) and defined a product or service to meet that demand. The business may influence or guide choices.

As discussed elsewhere, marketing is a business department like HR or manufacturing. It is arrogant to argue that marketing creates customers. They don’t; a business creates customers. Depending on the business and market, marketing may have a greater or lesser influence.

If we look at the 4As of marketing (awareness, accessibility, acceptability, affordability) then marketing has a major impact on the first A – awareness.

They will develop messaging and experiences that align with customer expectations. They will design ways to bring that message to the attention of potential consumers. Marketing will be a driving force in outlining what a business stands for and building trust (branding).

Marketing will often work with influencers such as industry experts and thought leaders. They can play a significant role in creating new customers. Their endorsements, testimonials and word-of-mouth recommendations can shape perceptions and build trust. These are all important tasks.

Beyond awareness, marketing will have an impact on the remaining three A’s, but it is rarely their exclusive domain.

Understanding customer needs, pain points and preferences through market research and customer insights is crucial. Is this marketing responsibility alone, or does sales have a role?

Delivering the product at the point of need (accessibility) requires the input of several business departments. Marketing may suggest a price a market will stand (affordability), but they alone do not have ultimate control.

It’s clear that businesses need to innovate. Does marketing lead that innovation process? Again, we suggest not.

So has marketing created customers? Nope, but they have helped. Has a business created a customer? Probably yes, because an entity has satisfied a need via a product or service. Some entities have paid for that product or service and, therefore, they are a customer.

What is marketing’s contribution? It can vary depending on the market and the situation. In general, marketing’s contribution peaks at the awareness, brand (trust) and messaging elements. It is significant at the product refinement and nurturing stages. It is often less significant at the need identification and initial innovation stage.

While marketing plays a key role in tactic execution, the customer creation process is a collaborative effort. The process involves various stakeholders, including product development, customer service and even existing customers.

It is arrogance to state marketing creates customers, and that does the marketing profession a disservice. Businesses can, in the right circumstances, create customers. Marketing, as one business department, often plays a valuable role.

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