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What Is Marketing, Really?

What is marketing, really?

I speak with marketing executives, business owners and entrepreneurs everyday about marketing. Of course, some have a finer understanding of marketing and how it relates to an overall business strategy, and some actually know much more than they realize. I love it when a small business owner says, “I’m not a marketer.” But again, what is marketing, really?

If you are a long time business owner, the founder of a cool new tech startup, or even if you are running a non-profit organization, you are a marketer. Whether you know it or not, you are a marketer. So many people think that marketing is “putting up a website” or “doing social media”. But it’s so, so much more. 

Marketing at its core, is identifying opportunities to create value.

That’s sounds really textbook and buzz-wordy, and that’s so not me. So let me rephrase that: Marketing is the ability to see where “business” can be generated. Value in this sense, can then be defined as revenue/profit/social good. 

 

If you have ever driven through a neighborhood and thought to yourself, “Hey there genius, you know what this neighborhood needs? A nice, cozy cafe where you can sit down and have a decent cup of coffee, and hang out with your laptop”. Or, “G#$#D#@#T!  Where is the remote to the TV!

Can’t they put a button on the cable box or something to make a buzzer go off like the old cordless phone stations we had growing up???”

If you ever had a moment, like that, then you experienced the cognitive spark of marketing! So now imagine yourself starting that cafe, or inventing something to find the remote. You have to research the industry, the potential revenue, how to develop and position your brand, and much, much more. And that’s all before you “put up your website”.  But now you’re knee-deep in marketing.

What we really do as marketers, is figure out how we can attract not only any old customer, but the right customers (or prospective students, or donors). And we want to make sure we’re doing it in the most cost-efficient way. Marketing is developing repeatable processes, which inherently create their own efficiencies of scale, because we know the more you do something the less costly it can become. Once we know something works, we do it again, right? Marketing, just as in business, is looking at what’s working and what isn’t and using that information to make better decisions moving forward. 

Marketing is determining who your desired audience is, and how best to relate to them. If you haven’t figured out who is going to purchase your products and services, how they want to purchase it, how they will use it and whether or not they will buy it again, then you need to take a step back and get to work on it. 

And we still haven’t Tweeted yet. 

Websites, email, social media…they are simply vehicles. And we know vehicles evolve as technology advancements are made. The things that seem so critical today may not even exist in five years. Marketing professionals who rely too heavily on today’s technology may find themselves struggling to keep themselves employed (or in business) as that technology is becoming increasingly easier to use and more “self-serve”. Understanding and embracing what marketing truly means will allow you to use technology to an even greater degree to achieve greater results from your efforts. 

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