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‘Tis The Season To Declare “The Death Of [Fill In The Blank]”

by David Brock on January 8th, 2013

The other day, Paul Dunay tweeted about an article on “The Death Of Marketing.”  He and I ended up tweeting back and forth about  the title being trite.  It seems this time of year brings out lots of articles pronouncing the “Death Of Something Or Other.”

I suppose, after bloggers and writers have exhausted all the topics about New Year’s Resolutions, there’s a struggle to come up with blog topics—at least until Valentine’s Day.  “The Death Of…..” topics are probably fashionable.

I get a little tired of these pronouncements.  It seems ever since I started my business career, there have always been predictions of the death of something or other.  I don’t know how many times I’ve read of the “Death of US Manufacturing,” yet US manufacturing is on the cusp of a rebirth.  Since I’ve been active in the blogging community, I don’t know how many Death  Of Sales, Death Of Marketing, Death Of Customer Service and other columns I’ve read.

All of these articles remind me of the famous Mark Twain (actually Samuel Clemens) quote, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

The reality is these, like virtually everything else, aren’t dying, they are being transformed.  As an example, US manufacturing has gone through huge transformations.  The traditional “rust belt” manufacturing left decades ago–though much of it has reappeared in a different form.  Likewise, much of electronic and consumer product manufacturing left long ago, though different types of technology and consumer products manufacturing have re-emerged.  And there are bright spots in other type of manufacturing segments in the economy.

Likewise, sales and marketing have been and continue to be transformed.  What sales and marketing people do, has changed tremendously.  How they do it continues to change.  Their titles change.  The skills required for success have changed.

So will sales and marketing die?  Look at it differently, will companies no longer need revenue generation, awareness, or demand generation functions?  Absolutely not!  These will always be critical functions in any type of organization.  They are at the core of “commerce.”   Economies won’t exist without this.

But how sales and marketing are performed have and will continue to transform tremendously–as they should.

What does this mean for those of us who have jobs in selling or marketing?  Are our jobs safe?  Yes and No.  There will always be sales and marketing jobs–but they will be transformed.  What we do, how we do them, who we sell to have changed and will dramatically change.  Some job “categories” will shift or disappear, and some we had never imagined will appear.  We’ve seen this transformation in sector after sector.  We’ve seen it in function after function.   So there will be jobs, new jobs, new roles in sales and marketing.  There may be diminished need for what we do today, if we are a  [fill in the blank], but the awareness, demand and revenue generation functions will always be critical to organizational success and growth.

There are those that say the majority of buying transactions will be electronic, I suppose that’s true, but that’s not really a statement about jobs and what people in those job functions do, rather it’s about workflow or how they do the work.  The same is true for engineering functions, secretarial functions, accounting, and so on.  We no longer keep physical ledger books, they’ve all been moved to electronic form, and our company’s reside in the cloud.  So the function is still critical, but much of the workflow has been moved to electronic transactions–it’s great it causes us to focus on where we have impact.

But there’s an important warning between the lines.  If we, as sales and marketing professionals, aren’t driving that change, if we aren’t transforming ourselves–what we do, how we do it, our skills, and so forth, we will find ourselves without jobs or careers.  Our professions will have passed us by.

I see too many sales and marketing people who aren’t changing.  They do the same old things day after day.  They rely on the same old tricks and manipulations.  It may be masked with a different approach.  It may be masked with technology—junk mail is junk mail, whether it comes in the mailbox, over the phone, in email, in a text message, a tweet or whatever.  These people will become dinosaurs.

So we really aren’t talking about the death of sales or marketing.  We are talking about transformation, innovation, re-invention.  If you aren’t driving it, you will become the victim of it.  It’s your choice.

(I understand the irony of writing an article complaining about the “Death of…” yet writing and article about the “Death of….”)

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