What is Marketing?
Marketing is a business discipline through which the targeted consumer is influenced to react positively to an offer. This can relate to the purchase of a product or a service, the joining of an organization, the endorsement of a candidate or ideology, the contribution or investment in a cause or company, or a variety of other choices of response.
The marketer can use a number of techniques to reach the consumer which can be based on artistic or scientific strategies, or a combination of the two.
Usually, the consumer is identified as a member of a particular segment of the populace, known as a market. For example, markets can be defined by age, income, area of residence, home value, interest, buying habits, industry or profession, etc., which facilitates and simplifies the marketing process. Knowing to whom the marketing effort is appealing greatly assists the marketer in developing appropriate language, reasoning and incentives to find success in its marketing efforts.
Choosing to target a particular market as opposed to the entire universe also greatly controls marketing expenditures but also may limit response. If anyone anywhere can be a customer, sales expectations may be higher but marketing costs will certainly also need to be higher as well with such a huge target as its goal.
To address this dilemma, more creative means of marketing are sometimes utilized to assist with marketing message delivery. If what is being marketed is considered newsworthy and of public interest, editorial coverage in the media can greatly assist marketing efforts. Since this usually is not reliant on major marketing funds other than what is needed to support the development, distribution, and yes, marketing of press releases to editors and publishers, the advantages of such publicity can be priceless, albeit usually miraculous on such a large scale.
Marketing is everywhere!
Everywhere we turn, everything we do is somehow connected to marketing, whether we have been induced to participate in some activity because of it or develop an interest in some idea as a result of it. Whether we realize it or not, there are personal, political or commercial agendas cloaked as news we read in the paper, behind the books, movies and music we experience as part of our culture, and within the confines of our stores and supermarkets where we shop. Of course, we easily recognize the blatant marketing efforts that reach us through direct mail, media advertising, and all over the Internet including the spam we receive ad nauseum. Marketing has become one of the most all-pervasive elements of life and we are fools if we do not question the validity or innocence of everything we read, see and hear.
Marketing is communication and education!
In order to be successful in business marketing, the customer must be reached in a variety of ways. First of all, not every customer gets the daily paper or listens to local radio. We have limited knowledge of which TV station they may watch, where they shop, what roads they travel or where they dine. Depending on what we are marketing, we may have to utilize a whole assortment of avenues of marketing to get their attention. And, if we reach them just once, that is hardly enough to make a lasting impression. Marketing is necessary on a repeated basis in a diverse number of ways in an ever-changing presentation to assure that every customer can relate to it in some way, learn what we are offering and understand how it can benefit them. To achieve long-term customer loyalty, the targeted consumer needs to be coddled into familiarity with what we are selling so they feel it is something they truly want as opposed to having it forced upon them as something they desperately need, only to find out later they were tricked!
Marketing Sounds Expensive!
Yes, marketing can get pricey particularly if it is done on a consistent basis. But in today’s world, we have marketing options we never had even twenty or thirty years ago. Now, instead of paying for expensive printing and postage to mail a brochure or postcard to a targeted consumer, we can utilize email marketing, website presentations or online banner ads to reach the same market, usually at a fraction of the cost. Today, instead of buying expensive print advertising, we can work on improving our website’s SEO (search engine optimization) – (something we can do for free, if we are so inclined) so that people in need of what we offer can find us through Internet searches, rather than our trying to find them at an astronomical expense.
What About Social Media Marketing?
In addition to alternative marketing options already mentioned, there is the latest craze for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other incredibly popular social media where people, young and old, spend hours developing relationships with “friends” they may never have met or ever will meet. Yet they share intense secrets of their deepest thoughts and desires as well as actual photographic representations of the same which sometimes land people in trouble with the law, or at the very least, their employer, school or parents.
Whether social media marketing is a worthwhile endeavor for businesses remains to be seen since businesses rarely accumulate millions of followers the way celebrities do. But as a way for customers to interact with a business for which they may have developed a fondness cannot be disputed. Can this translate into more sales for the business? We’ll have to wait and see, while continuing to devote precious time to composing meaningful 140-character tweets and building a Facebook “persona” for the business. From this writer’s standpoint, the only worthwhile social medium for business is that of LinkedIn since it provides a serious platform on which to create a business résumé where anyone interested in your professional stature can quickly summarize your capabilities, experience and accomplishments.
Marketing Can Be Intuitive
Much of what becomes marketing strategy is based more on common sense than on some mysterious scientific formula. As we see on a daily basis in stock market gyrations as well as political leanings, the herd mentality rules. On any particular day, if the Japanese or European stock or bond markets are selling off for one reason or another, you can safely bet that the U.S. markets will follow suit. And in any political race, as we are witnessing in the U.S. presidential primaries, the more one candidate gains ground, baby step by baby step, the more likely that candidate will become the Party nominee. Today’s world is governed by a minute-by-minute opinion survey measured by the endlessly publicized polls where people see what other people are thinking and use those results to form their own opinions. Monkey see, monkey do. The same holds true for marketing.
If we are told that a certain brand of coffee is the leading brand in America, we will probably believe what we are told, assume it tastes best, perhaps buy it ourselves regardless of cost, and perhaps adopt it as our own favorite. All because we were told everyone else was doing it. Safety in numbers, as they say.
It is ironic that those who become successful marketers usually dwell on the outskirts of the herd, have a more astute grasp of mass psychology, and approach business and life in a more innovative, creative and unique way, a mindset they use to formulate the next marketing phenomenon. The world is made up of leaders and followers: a few choice leaders and a glut of followers. It takes a lot more gumption to become a leader than it does to join the herd. That’s why marketing is a profession based in psychological control by a choice few over the mindless masses who have no initiative or courage to decide for themselves.
What is the difference between marketing and selling?
Selling is one aspect of the greater process of marketing. Marketing begins long before the product or service is even ready to sell. Marketing encompasses the concept, naming, branding and promoting of the offer while selling is the much more individualized effort to convince a lead who has possibly responded to the marketing offer to make the purchase. You can’t have one without the other, at least not easily. Marketing is a process by which we strive to reach the final goal of making the sale. Without marketing, the sales process is extremely difficult because the entire onus of educating the consumer about the offer is on the shoulders of the sales representative. On the other hand, if marketing has been successful, the sales rep can waltz in knowing the consumer is well apprised of the offer and can work his magic to convert the prospect into a satisfied customer.
What are some of the instruments of marketing?
There are many ways to market an offer, some of which are expensive, and others of which can be free. The methods we use that cost us dearly may not work as well as some of those we receive as a gift. Among the costly ways are media advertising, direct mail, conference presentations, distribution of printed literature, online advertising, email marketing, etc. Of those that are free are efforts referred to as guerrilla marketing, which are things we do ourselves to spread the word, network and publicize what we are offering. This can include posting flyers on bulletin boards in supermarkets, libraries, delis, small shops, and government offices, etc. Every time we add a tag to our emails where people can click to go to our website, we are using guerrilla marketing at no cost. Making sure we are easily found in Internet searches through search engine optimization of our website or other online presence, is an excellent way to achieve free marketing. One way to do this is to register your company or organization on every possible free online directory in your industry, region or interest group which translates into exponential growth as time passes.
What is viral marketing?
Viral marketing (as it relates to the word “virus,” meaning contagious and capable of spreading) is another means of free promotion facilitated by shrewd decisions we can make to further our cause. The easiest way to define viral marketing is that which is communicated via “word-of-mouth.” Related to the herd mentality discussed above, if a friend or business acquaintance mentions a product or service in a favorable light, we will be much more inclined to remember it and check it out. This can happen in a business meeting, at a mall, at a soccer game or over lunch. However, since most of us spend so much time on the Internet, it can happen practically everywhere we turn by clicking on the “like” buttons on Facebook or the “1” button on Google, among others. These are our personal endorsements where we give a “thumbs up” to something we have experienced and want to share with our friends so they too can enjoy it. Getting your offerings out with such buttons attached can result in viral marketing in your favor.
Viral marketing can have powerful repercussions as experienced by one client with an online auto accessories store. Many of his customers frequent online special interest forums related to the model of car they drive where members discuss products they have installed and the source of their purchase, followed by a link to his referenced website. Such referrals are repeated in other ensuing discussions, multiplying the number of links back to his site, increasing the power of his SEO and catapulting him to the tops of Internet searches for what he sells. He paid nothing for this phenomenon of parlayed good fortune except the daily effort he consistently expends to offer top quality merchandise and equally excellent customer service.
Do you need marketing?
If you are in business, of course you do. While you can attempt to do as much of it as you can on your own, it is advised that you begin with a reliable base of professional name, logo, website and search engine optimization to get started on the right foot. From there, you can work on promotion via guerrilla marketing and seek professional marketing services as needed for special needs, like a strong, effective ad to run, the development of professional sales literature to distribute at an upcoming show, or a direct mail promotion to your list of repeat customers, for example. Some business people choose to handle their own taxes to save on the cost of using an accountant for such critical functions at the risk of getting audited. Likewise, you can certainly attempt to produce marketing tools yourself but for long-term branding purposes and best return on investment, it is advisable to leave marketing development to the professionals.