What Should the Universites Teach About Marketing?

A client recently asked me an interesting question:

I teach marketing from time to time [at a local university] and am teaching “Creating and Measuring Customer Value” this Spring (at night) at their graduate school (MBA program).

“I’m looking for some recommendations on texts for the course.  I would rather not use “Peppers and Rogers, Managing Customer Relationships: A Strategic Framework.”  Any suggestions?”

This is a great question!

IMHO, universities have been doing a pretty lousy job in this arena. For this reason I have not paid attention to university settings for years, so I admit I might be out of touch in some cases.

At any rate, the generally poor/weak state of the marketing profession is one that needs fixing, and I’m excited that people might be able to take some of the more modern practical experience and thinking into the university setting!

One thing that will help people “get it” when thinking about marketing and selling, and trying to apply process and quality principles is this:

  • In manufacturing the concept of quality refers to requirements defining what the customer wants. These requirements are called “Critical to Quality,” and they need to be broken down into specifications of physical and functional attributes that can be engineered and manufactured.
  • In marketing and selling, what the customer wants is also the foundation. Here, they are called “Critical to Value.” Instead of looking “inward” to define physical and functional specifications, we look in the opposite direction. We look “outward” to the customer’s context to clarify their problems and actions they might take.

When you are reading the quality-oriented texts, recognizing that when the authors say “Critical to Quality” they really mean “Critical to Value” helps to clarify things and connect them to the marketers and seller’s world.

Here are some books that should be REQUIRED READING in any course on marketing:

  • Managing Customer Value, by Bradley T. Gale
    The Market Perceived Quality tool in the early chapters is particularly powerful for marketers
  • Six Sigma for Marketing Processes, by Clyde Creveling, Lynne Hambleton, and Burke McCarthy
    An excellent description of the “stage gates” necessary for innovative companies to be successful, especially in their product development
  • The fundamentals of Business to Business Sales and Marketing, by John M. Coe
    A helpful description of the changes in the sales function in the last 15 to 20 years

Of course, I would also recommend sections of my book, “Sales and Marketing the Six Sigma Way” for their clarification of marketing, selling, and servicing as a production system that can be measured and therefore improved.

The Role of Direct Response

If you want to delve into the direct response marketing aspect, there are a host of older texts with invaluable insights. I believe these are critically important. My reasoning is based on the principle that people take actions to achieve what they value, so getting people to take actions is creating value by definition!

Direct response marketing is a field rich in creativity and hard data. The fact that it is generally slighted in university programs (and therefore in marketing in general) is a major oversight in the marketing profession, and one of the reasons it does not get the credit (or the resources) it is due in many companies.

At any rate, here are some texts I consider foundational:

  • Scientific Advertising, and My Life in Advertising, by Claude Hopkins (these are from the very early 1900’s!)
  • Tested Advertising Methods, by John Kaples
  • Business to Business Direct Marketing, by Bob Bly

If marketing is to become more measurable and accountable, this is the path it must take.

Michael J Webb
January 4, 2007


Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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