It's commonplace to hear non-Marketers give advice like "forget about marketing" to up and coming businesses.
This is a big mistake. This is a stupid mistake. This is advice being given by people who don't even know and/or understand what the definition of Marketing is. In almost every case where I see mention of the "forget marketing and focus on your product," commentary, the individual writing this statement is confusing "marketing" with "advertising." No, not every company that is just starting out has to use advertising to generate awareness and sales, but advertising is only a small component of the marketing mix.
Not to get into a whole "Marketing 101" lesson, but The Four P's of Marketing (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) are all functions of Marketing. Seth Godin often says that the best products and services have the marketing "built into it," and he's right (he usually is). When someone tells you to focus on the product, they're forgetting that the product must be something that people will buy, talk about and share, for it to be successful (and we're talking about everything from silverware to a rock band). Anything that is out in the market for people to attach themselves to requires marketing. It requires attention paid to what is being placed in the marketplace (the product), how much it is being sold for to be competitive (the price), where it is being sold (the place) and how you're going to create awareness and excitement about the product (promotions).
Take the music industry as an example.
If a modern band thinks that all it has to do is focus on the music, they've lost their collective minds. Artists create music to attract an audience. The very act of putting pick to guitar strings is an act of marketing - it's an act to get attention. From the clothes that the artists wear to their genre of music, they are marketing a look, sound and feel. That first gig that they're going to play in some dumpy bar? How are they going to get people there? They're going to get their friends to talk about it on Facebook and Twitter. They're going to post videos to YouTube. They're going to put up posters at the local hangouts. They're going to try and get their band mentioned in the local listings, etc... They're going to price admission to the show at a cost that makes it affordable for their audience and they're (hopefully) going to have some swag to sell to people at the event. After they play that first set, they're going to hang around, meet the fans, takes some pictures and sign some autographs. That's all Marketing. That is all a function of everything that happens after the product (in this case, the music) has been created.
Don't forget about Marketing.
I have no idea why there is this sudden trend to have people not think about Marketing. Any product or service that is put into the market better have a message (and a story) to tell. It better be something that will get people excited, that will raise an eyebrow or that solves a problem. If creating, pricing and getting that product in-market is not a function of marketing, then everything in business has gone haywire.
Marketing is critical to your business' success. Forget Marketing... and you can forget success.