Dictionary.com defines marketing as “the act or business of advertising and selling products or services, including market research and advertising”.
If you’re in a marketing role like me, it is probably difficult for you to define marketing even though you see and use it every day – the term marketing is a bit broad and variable for easy definition.
This definition is not helpful.
For example, the sales part overlaps a little too closely with a “what is sale” definition, and the word advertising makes me think of Mad Men brainstorming sessions.
But as I digged deeper, I found that marketing actually overlaps a lot with advertising and sales. Marketing is present in all phases of the business from start to finish.
What is marketing
Marketing refers to any action a company takes to attract an audience to the company’s products or services through high quality news. Marketing aims to deliver value in its own right to prospects and consumers through content, with the long-term goal of demonstrating product value, strengthening brand loyalty and ultimately increasing sales.
At first I wondered why marketing was a necessary component during product development, a sales pitch, or retail sales. But it makes sense if you think about it – marketers have one finger on the pulse of your consumer personality.
The purpose of marketing is to constantly research and analyze your consumers, conduct focus groups, send surveys, examine online shopping habits and ask a fundamental question: “Where, when and how do our consumers want to communicate with our store?”
Here let’s examine the purposes of marketing as well as the types of marketing, the 4 Ps of marketing and the difference between marketing and advertising.
Whether you’re a seasoned marketer looking to update your definitions or a beginner looking to understand what marketing is all about, we have it for you. Let’s dive in.
Purpose of marketing
Marketing is the process by which people become interested in your company’s product or service. It does this through market research, analysis and understanding of your ideal customer’s interests. Marketing refers to all aspects of a business, including product development, sales methods, sales, and advertising.
Modern marketing began in the 1950s when people used more than just print media to promote a product. When television – and soon the internet – hit homes, marketers were able to run entire campaigns across multiple platforms. And as you’d expect, marketers have become increasingly important over the past 70 years in optimizing how a company sells a product to consumers in order to optimize success.
In fact, the basic purpose of marketing is to use messaging to attract consumers to your brand. Ideally, this messaging will be helpful and educational for your target audience so that you can convert consumers into leads.
Today there are literally dozen of places to run a marketing campaign – where do you do that in the 21st century?
Types of Marketing
Where your marketing campaigns live depends entirely on where your customers spend their time. It is up to you to conduct market research that will determine what types of marketing – and what mix of tools within each type – are best for building your brand. Here are some types of marketing relevant today, some of which have stood the test of time:
- Internet Marketing: Inspired by an Excedrin product campaign that took place online, the idea of having a business presence on the internet is a kind of marketing in itself.
- Search engine optimization: Abbreviated as “SEO”, it is the process of optimizing content on a website so that it appears in search engine results. It is used by marketers to attract people who do searches that imply that they are interested in learning about a particular industry.
- Marketing Blog: Blogs are no longer restricted to individual authors. Brands are now blogging to write about their industry and attract the interest of potential customers searching for information on the internet.
- Social Media Marketing: Businesses can use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and similar social networks to impress their audience over time.
- Print Marketing: As newspapers and magazines better understand who is subscribing to their print material, companies continue to sponsor articles, photographs, and similar content in the publications their customers read.
- Search engine marketing: This type of marketing is a little different from the search engine optimization described above. Businesses can now pay a search engine to place links on pages in their index that are well known to their target audience. (It’s a concept called “pay per click” – I’ll show you an example of this in the next section).
- Video Marketing: While there used to be only commercials, marketers have now poured money into creating and posting all types of videos that will entertain and educate their key customers.
Marketing and Promotion
If marketing is a wheel, then advertising speaks of that wheel.
Marketing includes product development, market research, product distribution, sales strategy, public relations and customer care. Marketing is required at all stages of a company’s sales journey. It can use numerous platforms, social media channels, and teams within its organization to identify, communicate with, amplify its voice, and build brand loyalty over time.
On the other hand, advertising is only one component of marketing. It’s a strategic effort, usually paid for, to spread awareness of a product or service as part of the more holistic goals outlined above. Put simply, this isn’t the only method marketers use to sell a product.
Here’s an example (read on, there’s a quiz at the end):
For example, let’s say a company is launching a brand new product and wants to create a campaign to promote that product to its customer base. This company’s preferred channels are Facebook, Instagram, Google, and the company’s website. All of these areas are used quarterly to support the various campaigns and to generate leads through these campaigns.
To broadcast the new product launch, the company is posting a downloadable Product Guide on its website, posting a video on Instagram demonstrating the new product, and investing in a series of sponsored search results on Google that will drive traffic to a new product page on its Manage website.
Which of the above decisions related to marketing and which advertising?
The advertisement took place on Instagram and Google. Instagram is generally not a promotional channel, but using it for branding can help build a base of followers prepared for a gentle product announcement every now and then. Google was definitely used for advertising in this example. The company paid for space on Google – a program known as pay-per-click (PPC) – which was used to direct traffic to a specific page that was focused on its product. A classic online ad.
Where did the marketing take place? This was a trick question, as was marketing the whole process. By targeting Instagram, Google, and its own website on a customer-centric initiative, the company ran a three-part marketing campaign that identified the target audience, created a message for that audience, and served it across the industry to maximize impact.
The 4 Ps of Marketing
In the 1960s, E Jerome McCarthy developed the 4 Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Location, Promotion.
Essentially, these 4 Ps explain how marketing interacts with each phase of the business.
Suppose you have an idea for a product for your company to sell. What’s next? You probably won’t be successful if you just start selling it.
Instead, your marketing team needs to do market research and answer some critical questions: Who is your target audience? Is there a market that is suitable for this product? Which messages increase product sales and on which platforms? How should your product developers modify the product to increase the likelihood of success? What do focus groups think about the product and what questions or concerns do they have?
Marketers use the answers to these questions to help businesses understand demand for the product and improve product quality by mentioning concerns from focus group or survey participants.
Your marketing team will review competitor product prices or use focus groups and surveys to gauge how much your ideal customer is willing to pay. If you set the price too high, you will lose a solid customer base. Price it too low and you could lose more money than you win. Fortunately, marketers can use industry research and consumer analysis to find a good range of prices.
It is important that your marketing department uses the understanding and analysis of your company’s consumers to come up with suggestions on how and where to sell your product. Maybe they believe an ecommerce website works better than a retail location, or vice versa. Or they offer insights into the locations where your product can best be sold nationally and internationally.
This P is probably the one you expected from the start: advertising includes any online or print advertisement, event, or discount that your marketing team creates to increase awareness and interest in your product and ultimately generate more sales. At this stage, you will likely see methods like PR campaigns, ads, or social media promotions.
Hopefully our definition and the four Ps will help you understand the purpose of marketing and how to define it. Marketing overlaps with all areas of a company. It is therefore important that you know how to use marketing to increase the efficiency and success of your business.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated for completeness.