What is Marketing?
In this article, we are going to define the umbrella term Marketing, its responsibilities and see how it fits into an organization.
The following may be a very personal experience, but people thought of what I as a marketer do is advertising. Period. Interestingly, advertising was the activity least on my mind on a daily basis. Working in digital marketing meant that I work on online advertising. Then there is SEO, which is considered to be an entirely separate activity. In fact, as a digital marketer, you had to go by this definition to land a contract, as within organizations people in top positions saw digital marketing and SEO just the way I described. Shockingly, once you got the contractor were hired, you were often kept entirely separate from the marketing team. Any organization who didn't follow my plea to be more integrated into their marketing efforts & team will not achieve its full potential. A lot of resources are wasted - financially and opportunity wise. So let's set the record straight.
Marketing is present in all stages of the business, from beginning to end. As a marketer, you are involved in sales, advertising, product development, and seeking the right distribution channels. And why is that so? Well, as a marketer you have the tightest grip and most developed idea about the consumer persona. You hold the answer to many questions an organization may have to get a product that matches consumer needs to the market. Marketing gives clues to the "what," "where," "when" and "how."
Official definition by AMA
The definition for marketing that was approved in July 2013 and published by the American Marketing Association is: "Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for the customers, clients, partners, and society at large." This definition is most definitely the most appropriate summary of what marketing is, but I for once find it very difficult to understand what is meant by the term marketing. So let me coin my definition, which I will subsequently cut into small digestible chunks that help to understand what marketers do and what marketing is all about.
My interpretation of Marketing
Whenever I am asked for a definition of Marketing, I say the following: "Marketing is the process of understanding consumer needs, assist in developing a product or service that satisfies that need. Subsequently getting the consumer interested in your company, services, and products, as well as educate and influence their buying decisions by utilizing the most appropriate combination of marketing tools, methods, and distribution channels." Not sure if that was any better.
As you can see, marketing is an umbrella term for many things and contrary to the beliefs of many it indeed is not just advertising. Advertising is part of marketing, but if you were comparing marketing to a bicycle wheel, then advertising is one spoke. To make it more understandable, especially for marketing novices to what marketing is let's split up my definition of marketing above into pieces.
1: Understanding a consumer and their needs
Understanding a consumer and their needs is achieved through marketing research. Great, so what is marketing research? Well, there is the definition by AMA, that was approved in October 2004, which can be found here. For the time being, I use my very own definition that's easy to follow. "Marketing research is gathering information and data, that is processed and analyzed as to learn about the consumer, trends, and opportunities. The process information is used to evaluate and take actions, as well as monitor and improve a companies performance.". So basically, you continuously look at data that helps you consistently making informed decisions. The source of the data can be extracted from surveys, focus groups, and digital marketing tools such as Google Analytics and what not.
2: Assist in developing a product or service that satisfies that need
Well, that's an interesting one. Marketers know plenty about a consumer and so they are a great source when it comes to shaping the product. Engineers are the geniuses who build the product. If you let engineers make a product without any input from the outside world, you will end up with something that won't find much acceptance. The other two essential departments that help to shape and design a product and its variations are customer service, shop floor assistants and sales. They have direct contact with individual customers on a daily basis, and a company must have procedures in place to backchannel all the information they distract from customers that can improve their products and services. Anyway, you as a marketer rely on data, surveys and perhaps focus groups on understanding the consumer and help to shape an outcome that is accepted and hopefully subsequently also celebrated by the market.
3: Catching the consumer interested in your company, services, and products
That's more or less what is understood as the advertising activity. The thing is, it is much more than just creating fancy posters and coming up with catchy slogans. This is where the customer journey begins. Catching the interest of consumers is like all other tasks a significant and resource heavy activity that is based not only on creativity but plenty of data, science, and psychology. In short, there is plenty to say regarding this point, so for the sake of this article - this is the advertising bit.
4: Educate and influence their buying decisions by utilizing the most appropriate combination of marketing tools and methods:
These activities are further down the customer journey. People research the products and services they are about to buy or take advantage off. The more capital heavy the investment is, the more thorough the research will be. You as a marketer have methods and tools available to influence this customer journey. This activity is the race where you compete with other companies in the industry for the customers. By the way, advertising is not the only tool to compete with competitors; this point also includes pricing strategies. You may want to penetrate a market with low prices, or do you wish to be perceived as a high-end brand and sell it for a premium? All-in-all you facilitate the prospect's purchasing decision.
5: Utilizing the most appropriate combination of distribution channels:
This refers to the development and implementation of a promotional strategy. In plain English, how do you get the product or service to the man? There is the distribution network, for example, a consumer product company may sell to a wholesaler who in turn sells to retailers, or are you going to trade directly on the internet, or do you have a brick-and-mortar shop with shop floor assistants. There are plenty of options, and as a marketer, you must find the most economically most beneficial way of selling the product to maximize profit and provide the customer with specific, low risk and easy-to-take action.
Other ways of defining the activity Marketing
So the above was my very own definition of how to summarize marketing in one or two sentences. Another way of understanding what marketing is and what it entails is to look at the Marketing Mix, also known as the 4Ps of marketing, that is Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. It is what every marketing and business student is taught at the very beginning of their studies. The "Product", which entrails procedures to ensure the products are ready for selling, the "Price" that lays out the pricing strategy in comparison to your competitors, "Promotion" as to generate interest by facilitating a combination of marketing channels, and last but not least the "Place", which is figuring out a distribution channel to optimise sales.
Right by now I hope you have a good understanding of what marketing is, and the next time you hear someone saying that marketing equals advertising you know what to do. Either a hard slap in the face or the more peaceful and from socially accepted way, correct them and set the record straight. You, the marketer, are at the heart of every operation and not just a by-product that plays the drums to make noise.