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Marketing is the process of teaching consumers why they should choose your product or service over your competitors. If you are not doing that, you are not marketing. It’s that simple! The key is finding the right marketing method and defining the right marketing message to use to educate and influence your consumers.

Companies make the mistake of thinking that marketing is just “one” thing, but marketing is everything that the consumer encounters when it comes to your business, from advertising, to what they hear, to the customer service that they receive, to the follow-up care that you provide. It’s all marketing and creating the decision within the consumer whether or not to choose you initially or for repeat business. Marketing is often confused with advertising and sales, but it is important to know the key differences.

How Marketing Is Defined

On the first day in many Marketing 101 courses, professors often define "marketing" as "all the processes involved in getting a product or service from the manufacturer or seller to the ultimate consumer." It includes creating the product or service concept, identifying who is likely to purchase it, promoting it and moving it through the proper selling channels.  

How to Identify Marketing

Marketing is best identified using what is called the 4 P's or a mix of marketing: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. Starting with products, companies have many procedures they must undertake to ensure their products are ready for selling. The first stage is called the "ideation stage," where the idea for the product is conceived. Then, marketing departments usually test new product concepts with focus groups and surveys to ascertain interest levels among potential buyers.

If the interest level is high, marketers may then sell products on a limited basis to track sales. If product sales are high, products are then rolled out on a national level. Before products go to the market, companies must decide what styles, sizes, flavors, and scents they should sell and the packaging designs they should use. Consumers have much input in these decisions. Price is also tested through focus groups and surveys. Companies must know the optimal price to sell their products to achieve maximum return.

One way to determine price is to set it at a level comparable to competitors; that is if the company can recover all associated product expenses and still make a profit. If the company is introducing a new product that has never existed, they must determine how much the consumer is willing to pay for it. Customers will only pay so much for products. Price a product higher, and sales can drop off exponentially. Promotion pertains to brochures, ads, and information which companies use to generate interest in their products.

For more complex concepts, like spas or computers, companies may promote their wares at trade shows. Promotions usually have two purposes: generate leads for sales reps or initiate actual purchases. Place in marketing nomenclature is the distribution. It is how and where products are sold. Consumer product companies, for example, sell to wholesalers who, in turn, sell to retailers. In the industrial market, the buying process is longer and involves more decision makers. Some companies also sell products or services on a local level, while others sell nationally and even internationally.

All distribution decisions are part of the overall marketing process.

The Purpose of Marketing

Business consultant Evan Carmichael's does a great job of identifying the three main purpose of marketing:

  • Capture the attention of a target market.
  • Facilitate the prospect's purchasing decision.
  • Provide the customer with a specific, low-risk and easy-to-take action.

With these purposes in mind, coupons, sales and even merchandising, or how products are displayed, are part of the marketing process. Since marketing is the cornerstone of every business, the overall objective is to sell more products or services.

The Different Types of Marketing

Print, radio, and television advertising are types of marketing, as are direct mail and Internet marketing. Companies that sell via the Internet optimize their web pages, so they appear higher in search engines like Google and Yahoo. Newsletters, press releases, and articles are forms of marketing used to generate leads and orders. Some companies use referral marketing to increase business, where satisfied customers refer others to a particular business.

More recently, social media marketing is becoming a type of marketing that smart companies can't avoid when it comes to reaching potential buyers, whether it's advertising on Facebook or posting advice on Twitter with links to a website. All told, marketing is anything that informs, interests and gets people to make purchase decisions. Learn about growth hacking for businesses.

Apple, Inc. provides a great case study of successful marketing strategy. Apple's marketing team constantly listens to and communicates with their customers and makes progressive enhancements to their products based on the feedback they receive. Why do you think so many people own multiple Apple devices? First, there was the iPod™ which was great for music, but then we wanted to be able to talk to our friends and surf the Internet—so Apple developed the iPhone to fulfill those desires. Apple has listened to its customers and has evolved the design of its products according to their expressed needs and desires.

In our dictionary definition, marketing is described as an action, which is quite appropriate, considering all of the activities performed daily by marketing professionals. Marketing involves researching the target audience, advising clients how to develop their products to suit consumer desires, determining product pricing structure, selecting effective channels through which to communicate with your customers, and developing and implementing promotional strategies.

Let's use Apple again to illustrate this process: Apple design their products based on their perceptions of consumer desires. They make improvements in both software and hardware, then establish different pricing levels to fit into different customers' budgets. Finally, all Apple products are sold together in a convenient location—the Apple store—making them easy to find. The company advertises in a variety of media, from promotions at tech events to online advertisements and television, in order to reach as many potential customers as possible.

Based on these definitions of marketing, a clearer picture of what marketing is emerges. Studying marketing in the US presents a great opportunity to see some of the world's best marketing agencies in action and learn about marketing first-hand. Just don't forget that there's more to marketing than simply promoting and selling products; it's about knowing your customers, developing your products to fulfill their needs, and maintaining constant communication with them.



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