Introduction Marketing: What Is Marketing?

There is only one valid definition of a business purpose: to create a customer.Peter Drucker

Marketing Planning Model
Marketing Planning Model
The purpose of this post is to help you plan, develop, and implement the fundamentals to successfully market your business, whether it is a billion dollar consumer goods company, a business selling to other businesses, or a small nonprofit. Every organization is unique and each one competes in a slightly different way, but the successful ones have one thing in common:

They understand what their customers really want and how to engage customers with their brand.
It sounds simple. In many ways it is simple. The format of this article is intended to keep things as simple as possible for you to effectively market your business.

Definition of Marketing

The word marketing gives us clues as to what the discipline is all about. A market is a group of consumers who share similar characteristics. Therefore, marketing is the discipline of:
  • Identifying your target market
  • Discovering the needs and wants of your target market
  • Developing and executing a plan to build a relevant and differentiated offering
  • Creating loyal customers, who have an emotional engagement with your brand

Consumers choose products and services for many reasons. If you ask them, most consumers will typically point to the functional reasons they chose a brand: the taste of the French fries, the handling of the car, or the convenience of the retailer. And yet, when it really comes down to it, there is very little functional difference between most competitive products today.

How is one baby powder functionally different from another? How many consumers can really distinguish between two light beers in a blind taste test? What good marketers understand is that the feelings matter when it comes to their consumers’ relationship to their brands. In a world where two products or services are nearly identical, how consumers feel about your brand can be the feather that tips the scales and makes all the difference.

Marketing is about creating a positive relationship with your target audience so that you win the ties.

Two of the top retailers in the country today, Wal-Mart and Target, are very similar on a functional level. A lot of the products these two retailers sell are similar and the prices at which they sell them are nearly identical. Both are usually found in similarly convenient locations. They both advertise heavily. And yet, when you talk to shoppers around the country, you will find very strong loyalties for one over the other. Target has generally done a brilliant job of marketing itself, while Wal-Mart is just beginning to discover their marketing shortcomings and facing significant marketing challenges. When was the last time you heard about a local group protesting the opening of a new Target? In many localities, Target is referred to by a familiar nickname: “Tarjhay.” In these markets, it is not at all uncommon for a consumer to boast about purchasing a pair of shoes or a new shirt at Target. One rarely hears consumers boasting about their new Wal-Mart shoes.

Many organizations with which we have worked make the mistake of believing that marketing is solely the responsibility of the marketing department. Your customers will never see your marketing plan. They will never see your strategic plan. They will only know your company or brand from their interactions with them. Maybe they have called your customer service desk. Maybe they have tried your product. Maybe they have seen an ad. Or, perhaps, they have read an article about your president. All of these interactions help guide their feelings about your organization. The best companies understand that marketing is the responsibility of every person in the organization.

Marketing is too important to be the responsibility of just the marketing department.

When marketing becomes the company’s job, you align around a target market and speak with one voice—across product, operations, and communication. When everyone in your company listens to the desires, needs, and wants of your target market, you act as one. And when these needs and wants get translated into a plan or business model that everyone follows, all of the pieces of your company act in unison. You end up consistently communicating with your customers: reinforcing who you are, what you believe in, and how you are different—whether it is in the design of your product, what your store or office looks like, your customer service policies, or how you advertise.

Tips and Traps for Using This Article

This article is organized into chapters marketing that take you through a marketing planning process that we have found to be very useful. It also includes tips and traps that the authors have learned, sometimes the hard way, in helping organizations market their businesses. You can read every page for a detailed understanding of the process, choose just the chapters that address your specific needs, or, if you are a seasoned marketing veteran, you can skim the tips and traps in each chapter.

We have structured the article around the marketing planning model shown at the beginning of this chapter marketing. The outside ring of the model marketing highlights the activities necessary for any first-time business marketing: to define the business you are in and what your brand stands for. The inner ring shows the activities marketing most companies use to build engagement with their customers through the brand experience. We have worked at, and with, some of the largest global multinationals, as well as some of the smallest. This model is a useful tool marketing for guiding marketing activities at several organization.