February 4, 2021

Marketing and innovation for small businesses

In his book The Practice of Management, consulting legend Peter Drucker says:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation.”

Fellow list member Navin Boricha wrote in to ask a question about this quote (shared with permission):

Hi Jonathan,

Could you share an example of how a simple business does innovation and marketing, and what do these 2 broad functions practically involve?

This Drucker definition invariably comes with the Apple example, which is impossible to apply.

Please share a simpler example, so more of us can learn and apply.



At a high level, I would define marketing and innovation like so:

  1. Marketing is the process of creating a desire
  2. Innovation is the process of inventing something

You need both to build a durable business.



A small business example

Okay so, what about an example of a small business that is doing a good job with both marketing and innovation?

The one that immediately comes to my mind is Knapsack.

On the surface, you could easily confuse Knapsack with any other garden variety small web design shop.

Except for this...

  1. Knapsack’s Innovation: A repeatable process for building a website in one day that clients will be proud of
  2. Knapsack’s Marketing: A crystal clear offer shared across multiple educational content marketing channels

Is this a groundbreaking innovation? Is this genius level marketing?

No and no.

But it’s enough that they’re booked solid, reliably profitable, and the owner has loads of time available to explore other areas (i.e., to do more marketing and innovation).