Why mysticism and marketing are incompatible bedfellows

Imagine the reaction of your local doctor if you presented yourself with a cough and a slight fever and proceeded to inform her that you were suffering from tuberculosis!

Can you imagine her obediently writing a prescription for Isoniazid and reporting your bad news to the relevant health authority?

Of course you can’t.

There’s no way that your doctor would be prepared to allow you to self-diagnose.

She may listen patiently to your analysis of your symptoms, but when it comes to formulating her prognosis she’s going to rely almost entirely on the results of her tests.

If we wind back the clock 200 years (the scene is Paris in the late 1700s), your doctor would have been a little more compliant.

At this time, the French medical profession held the view that each disease produced a differing set of symptoms in each patient.

As a result, physicians had no choice but to treat each patient as the patient requested. It may not surprise you to know that the death rate in Parisian hospitals was 59 percent.

Fortunately, the view of the medical profession has changed. Systematic observation and statistical analysis have identified that diseases manifest almost identical symptoms from patient to patient. As a result, doctors can now diagnose most diseases without even consulting patients.

Today most businesses manage their sales processes (and, in fact, their entire marketing functions) with a method comparable to that of the French medical profession 200 years ago.

When was the last time you heard a sales manager argue that, because each sales situation is unique, systematic study (and process thinking) is of no use whatsoever?

In the absence of an appreciation of cause and effect, mysticism prevails.

Organisations lurch from one magic cure to the next. These cures address symptoms, rather than root causes — with predictable results.

As if that isn’t bad enough, marketing mystics defend their craft with religious conviction.

They even use quasi-scientific terminology to inoculate themselves from the incursion of rational thinking into their sacred territory.

If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of Marketing & eBusiness and see for yourself. Note the technical discussions of branding: one area where cause is always mistaken for effect! (Sales build brands, and not the other way around.)

If you’re a rational thinker — one of the fortunate few — it’s important not to underestimate just how entrenched mysticism is in marketing and sales departments.

It took a good 50 years for scientific method to change the way the medical profession thought about the diagnostic process.

You don’t have 50 years.