Just What Is Marketing?
Marketing has become an integral part of everyone's life -- whether you sell products into a target market or are in the target market.
You would think that a word used as much as "marketing" would mean the same thing to everybody, but that's not the case. The word takes on very different meanings depending on what somebody wants it to mean. Sometimes "marketing" is used to mean advertising. Other times it's used to describe the planning and research that takes place before advertising is created.
Then there are the meanings that each company applies to the word.
At companies that sell through a distribution channel, marketing may primarily be distributor relations. And at companies with field salespeople, marketing is used to describe the process of generating inquiries that are turned over to salespeople.
In each case companies define marketing to be whatever process they use to create interest in their products and move prospects toward making a purchase.
Too many companies focus on only one aspect of marketing, such as advertising or direct marketing, without taking advantage of other marketing aspects that can improve overall effectiveness.
In other words, most companies, to succeed, need to take a broader view of marketing.
The information-gathering and purchase processes of consumers and businesspeople have been researched, studied, and "proceduralized" until it has almost become a science.
At the same time, marketing is still an art. It requires marketers to truly understand what customers want, what competitors are doing, and what it takes to make a profit.
For marketing to be effective, management must understand what the needs of the target audience are, which product attributes they value, and what motivations they respond to.
This requires more than creative advertising. It requires researching and understanding a target market, making products convenient to purchase, and giving each customer true value and satisfaction.
Many people in online marketing today have not been exposed to the full range of marketing tools and techniques that traditional manufacturers and retailers have used for years. In addition, experienced marketers who took a few marketing courses in college usually focus on a particular area of marketing and may have forgotten just how broad marketing really is.
To get an idea of what marketing students are being taught today, take a look at what's included in an introductory marketing textbook. For many years the textbook
"Contemporary Marketing" by Gene Boone and David Kurtz has helped students gain an understanding of the breadth of marketing.
Introductory marketing courses show students that marketing is more than moving products out the door and generating revenue. As important as that is, marketing has a broader role.
In general, marketing is the process of planning and implementing the promotion and distribution of products that satisfy customers. A complete marketing program includes areas such as:
- Brand management
- Consumer behavior
- Direct marketing
- Public relations
When a company's marketing department ignores the value of these areas and their associated techniques, it deprives itself of many tools used by its competitors. Whatever definition you now use for marketing, the increased competitive environment requires that every bit of improved marketing possible be used to increase a company's performance.
Very few companies have a staff of professional marketers experienced in every aspect of a complete marketing program. Consultants can help bridge the gap. Networking with fellow marketers can also help.
When you draw on the skills of experienced marketers to supplement your marketing staff, your company stands a much better chance of succeeding.
Cliff Allen is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons, and has consulted with companies on strategic marketing for 20 years.