What is Marketing?

After numerous conversations with small business owners and entrepreneurs about what aspects of business fall under the marketing umbrella, we realized that it may be a good idea to explore what marketing really is.

Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is marketing?

Is it television commercials and radio ads? Is it glossy magazine ads? How about the discount coupons you receive in the mail? How about the ads you see on Facebook while you are trying to look at your friend’s photos from her trip to Seattle? Is it the cute email you received from Warby Parker telling you about their newest styles of eyeglasses?

The answer is yes. All of the above are examples of marketing efforts, but they are just small parts of what marketing actually is.

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), “marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes of creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

The dictionary defines marketing as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”

You should think of marketing as a collection of all the steps needed to prepare, introduce, sell and deliver a product, service, idea or cause to a defined target audience.

Marketing Has Existed Longer Than You Think

But before we dive deeper, let’s take a step back. Since the first trade, barter, or sale of our human civilization, marketing has existed. History is filled with examples of marketing, like the ones found in ancient Rome.

Long definitions can try to pin it in a corner, but at its essence, marketing is persuasion. It always has been. Now, the way we persuade has definitely changed thanks to modern advances in technology, but the goal of marketing has always been the same. It’s less of a discipline or an industry, and more of a tool.

Let’s jump back in.

The Marketing Mix

The marketing mix may remind some of you of your first marketing class in college. The marketing mix is the combination of seven core components organizations consider and control in their efforts to reach, communicate with and convert members of their target market.

The seven core components of the marketing mix are commonly known as the seven Ps of marketing. They are products, price, place, promotion, people, process, and physical evidence.

Once the target market (audience) has been identified and defined, this is how organizations of all sizes consider and control the seven Ps of the marketing mix:

1. Product

What is the product or service and what makes it unique? What type of packaging will most effectively communicate its unique selling proposition (value proposition)? When will the product or service be available for purchase?

The ultimate goal of any marketing campaign is to sell your product or service, or promote a cause. But how does marketing play a role in your product development?

Let’s assume you’re selling a product that already exists, but you believe the materials you use are of better quality. This could be one unique selling proposition you would want to highlight. Does your product or service solve a problem? Highlight that as well.

Are there any concerns people may have at first glance of your product or service? If so, you should make an effort to alleviate these concerns from the get-go via product presentation and packaging. Using focus groups, where a diverse group of people can discuss your product, will help you discover more about your product as it relates to different individuals.

These are just a few examples of marketing elements you can build off of by studying your product or service. You can also study your competition’s product or service and explain to your target market why yours is better.

2. Price

What price strategy is the most appropriate for the product or service in question? Should the product or service be positioned as a premium or a low-cost item?

Whatever your product or service is, you should have a price strategy for it. How much does it cost to produce and what are people willing to pay for it? Return on investment (ROI) is important, but from a marketing perspective, you should also focus on what your price represents.

Do you want your brand to come off as affordable, like Walmart? Or are you trying to appeal to your target market as a high-end, luxury brand? While the price may just feel like a number, it is also a reflection of your brand, and thus falls under the umbrella of marketing.

3. Place

How will the product or service be distributed/delivered to the target market? Will the product or service be available online, in person, or both?

Wherever your customer will end up interacting with your product is the place. However, place also includes warehouses, distribution centers, and shipping methods, which interact with your product.

If you sell your product in brick and mortar stores, then the place would be the aisles and the shelves your product is placed on.

Are you shipping your product directly to your customer? Then the place would be their home. If you sell online, your website is also a place where your customers are shopping.

When it comes to delivering a service, where does the customer interact with you? Is it over the phone, through email, or do you meet in person?

All of these locations should be considered in your marketing strategy. The packaging of a store-bought product may not be the same packaging to use for a product shipped to someone’s home. There are many other things to consider, besides packaging, that relate to location or place of your product — and more specifically where your customers will interact with your product.

4. Promotion

How, when, where and how often will product or service information be communicated to the target audience (market)?

Most people are very familiar with this aspect of marketing and often assume that it encompasses the entire field. But it’s just one piece of a bigger puzzle.

Any aspect of your business where you are communicating with your audience can be considered promotional. While TV commercials are a form of promotion, it doesn’t even begin to cover the wide array. Promotion also includes emails, newsletters, social media content, billboards, flyers, t-shirts, etc. The list goes on.

Whatever strategies you choose to promote your business, it’s important to understand their effectiveness. How, where, and how often will this promotional material reach your target market? And will it produce the results you need?

5. People

Which organization members will be responsible for marketing the new product or service? What will be their assigned roles?

From your managers to your sales staff, people are the driving force behind any business. You can implement marketing through people in many ways.

Train and educate your staff on how to engage with customers. This could be a sales pitch, but it could also be the attitude or culture you want to portray. As a representation of your brand, your employees and the people involved in your product or service can go a long way to reinforce your brand’s ideals and personality.

It’s important to know which organization members will be responsible for marketing the new product or service. And what their assigned roles will be. Knowing this will help you implement a solid marketing team, where everyone is on the same page.

6. Process

What steps and processes will be in place to ensure for a smooth product or service launch, delivery, and consumption? If things don’t go according to the plan, what is the recovery plan?

When we talk about process, it really encompasses a variety of elements. But when it comes to marketing, again, we’re focusing on the processes where the customer is involved.

How will the product be delivered to the customer? If you are a service-based organization you need to clearly recognize how your service will be delivered.

The steps you take to ensure a smooth transaction between you and the customer should be viewed from a marketing perspective. Your organization’s process should be structured in a way that elevates your brand.

7. Physical Evidence

Once the customers have purchased the product or service, what type of physical experience does the organization want them to have?

Physical evidence is simply the customer’s experience with your product or service. Think of this from the customer’s perspective.

An example would be the moment a customer receives the Kate Spade handbag they purchased online last weekend. Now it’s time to open the box and see their new handbag in person for the first time. Whatever is in the box is most likely strategically planned by the Kate Spade marketing team and it is intended to evoke a very specific emotion and result in a very specific physical experience.

While sometimes overlooked, a customer’s experience with your product or service can make or break your brand. Do everything you can to go above and beyond, inspire emotion, and become memorable to your customers. Not only will they return to you for future purchases, but they will most likely talk about and recommend you to their friends and family.

What is Marketing?

In the end, marketing can be many things. But it all boils down to the art of persuasion. Whether you’re selling a product, delivering a service or promoting a cause — the things you do to convince people to take action are considered marketing. The 7 Ps of marketing, or the marketing mix, will help you isolate different aspects of your business. This makes it easier to study your product and processes in order to improve your marketing campaign.

Is there anything else that you consider to be marketing? Have you ever used the marketing mix in your business strategy? If so, please let us know in the comments section. We’d love to hear more.

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