Marketing Versus Commercialization

A Vital Distinction For Business Owners

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Using the wrong terminology when asking for help is a significant challenge for entrepreneurs.

When you say one thing and expect another, you often get what you asked for rather than what you need. This terminology disconnect can lead to misunderstandings between business owners and their suppliers. It creates frustration and wastes time and money.

Business Development Jargon

We routinely experience people saying marketing and meaning advertising. They say business development and mean sales. They also say marketing when they need help with commercialization. Confusion around terminology is rampant and leads to all manner of challenges.

Startups and small business owners generally need help with commercialization, but they ask for help with sales, marketing, or some promotional tactic. They have often not heard the term commercialization before, let alone understand what it means or why they need it.

Defining Commercialization

The most common arena the term commercialization is used is in relation to new technologies. The term is frequently used by university technology transfer offices, startup accelerators, business incubators and venture capital firms.

Outside the intellectual property or technology development universe, commercialization is an uncommon term.

So, what is commercialization?

Investopedia defines commercialization as “… the process of bringing new products or services to market. The broader act of commercialization entails production, distribution, marketing, sales, customer support, and other key functions critical to achieving the commercial success of the new product or service.”

The Law Insider defines commercialization as “any and all activities directed to marketing, promoting, distributing, importing, exporting, using, offering to sell, or selling a product…”

Given these holistic definitions, it’s a wonder more business owners don’t ask for help with commercialization versus marketing.

How You Benefit From Commercialization

A commercialization system is everything you do in your business to bring your products and services to market profitably. It’s the system as a whole that creates results, not any one of the independent parts.

Marketing often operates as a silo within the broader commercialization system. By itself, marketing will struggle to produce economic benefit. It relies on the rest of the system working well, for it to succeed.

If you don’t have a functioning commercialization system, no amount of marketing can compensate for its absence.

When you ask for help with commercialization, what you’re looking at is productization, marketing, advertising, distribution, selling and a customer support system working together to drive earnings growth. Your system is ultimately what allows you to operate at a profit and scale your business.

Is Commercialization Limited To Tech Companies?

Not at all. However, you need to ask for commercialization help by name. Don’t ask for help with marketing and expect to get help with commercialization. The disciplines overlap, but they are not the same thing.

Commercialization involves a systematic and cross-disciplinary approach. Marketing on the other hand, means something different to everyone, and you never know how people will interpret your request.

More often, requests for help with marketing get translated into advertising, promotions, branding, logos, websites, social media, or any number of independent tactical activities. Generally, the result is a bunch of random acts of marketing, out of context with any overarching commercialization strategy or strategic business objectives. The results are predictably poor.

The Rationale For Commercialization

As a startup entrepreneur or business owner, you are taking on a great deal of risk. You have a high percentage of your assets tied up in your business. You’re investing your time, money, ego, health, and relationships into your business. Your risk and the implications of failure are exceptionally high.

Why not follow the same approach as the professionals to safeguard your investment? Why choose random acts of marketing over a strategic commercialization strategy? There’s no practical difference in terms of the costs involved. The main difference with commercialization is you map out your plan in advance, then work to implement your system. You’re forced to look at the full scope of what you need upfront. It can be intimidating.

With random acts of marketing, you spend what seems like smaller amounts of money on independent activities. You pay a little at a time, with no real plan or sense of what you need to invest to reach an undefined finish line. You never see the full scope or magnitude of investment required, so it feels less daunting.

However, if your random acts of marketing synergistically align somehow, you chalk it up as a happy accident. Random acts of marketing are incredibly time-consuming and a wasteful approach. It’s like running on a treadmill. You’re working hard, but not going anywhere.

What’s The Take-Away?

The takeaway is to encourage you to step back and take a big-picture view of your business. Figure out how you intend to promote, operate, and grow. Once you’ve developed a commercialization plan, you can make sure all your marketing, promotional, sales, production, and service processes line up and reinforce each other.

Making the shift from marketing to commercialization thinking is a huge leap forward. It will change how you approach business development.

Commercialization In Practice

Our coaching and consulting practice is all about commercialization systems. We call it marketing to align with the language of our clients.

Google reports the term “commercialization” is infrequently searched. The monthly demand in the US is only 8,100 searches. Compare that to “marketing” at 110,000 monthly searches. Product commercialization only receives 260 monthly searches, technology commercialization gets 210 searches, and startup commercialization gets nothing at all.

To put this into perspective, there are over 700,000 new businesses started in the US each year. Canada sees about 95,000 companies formed. And yet, the most common search terms related to commercialization are people asking what the term means.

Regardless of the term used, the bottom line if you take the time to learn about the commercialization process and take a systematic approach to marketing, you’ll take your business to the next level.

Next Steps To Consider

To help you get started, I wrote a book called Mastering Marketing: Leading A Journey of Becoming. The book breaks the business startup and commercialization process down into 20 practices. I’ve also written several free eBooks on marketing to help you make good investment decisions.

I hope you’ll take the step to start learning about marketing and the commercialization process. As a business owner, you don’t need to become an expert in this area, but you do need a sense of the process, the terminology to use, and what you truly need when you’re asking for help.

If you’re starting a company or investing in growth, I invite you to read our book or download our free marketing resources. They’ll help you understand what you’re getting into and how to proceed strategically.

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