So, What is Marketing?

January 5th, 2010 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on So, What is Marketing?

Typically in any organization, Marketing is the biggest mystery to those who work there. All of the other departments tend to focus on operations – getting the product or service out the door and in front of the customer – and this is usually easy to understand as a concept. It’s not that Marketing doesn’t play a key role in that pursuit – it’s more that it’s not as obvious, or often people will tend to think of Marketing as simply advertising, which misses a huge chunk of what marketing actually does. So, what exactly is marketing and why is it important to a company? Simply stated, marketing is everything that is done to place your product or service in the hands of potential customers. There is a great story from author and humorist, S.H. Simmons who likens marketing to a date between two people – person A and person B. The story goes something like this:

If person A is out on a dinner date with person B, and person A begins saying things to person B like ” you are so intelligent, you really look nice tonight and you are so much fun to talk with; person A is saying all the right things to person B – and that’s Marketing. If person A goes on to tout themselves a bit by saying how fit they are and how well they have done in school, that’s Advertising. Now, if someone who happens to know person A is also at the restaurant and stops by the table and begins to tell person B how wonderful person A is, that’s Public Relations. These 3 aspects – Marketing, advertising and public relations are key to any marketing department.

While this little story is quite elementary from a relationship perspective and not necessarily recommended as a “how to guide” for dating, its simplicity does allow us an easy peak at the fundamentals of marketing. Most people think that Marketing begins with great ideas. Actually, it begins with customers – those people who want or need your product and will actually buy it. The most innovative ideas, the greatest products, or a superior service succeed only when you market within the framework of people’s perceptions. The job of marketing is to understand how customers think. People don’t just “buy” a product. They “buy” the concept of what that product will do for them, or help them do for themselves. So, for example, people don’t buy organic food because it costs more and they are looking to impress their friends with how much more money they are spending on food. They “buy” the concept of good health, both for them and the planet. More specifically, let’s look at Volvo – an automobile that took the U.S. by storm during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Volvo never tried to compete in the arenas of style, speed or road performance, which is what just about what every other car company focuses on. Instead, they focused on safety. Volvos became known as the safest vehicle on the road – great for families and traveling. Volvo wasn’t just selling a car. They were actually selling safety! This is the true art of marketing. To look well beyond what your product appears to be and create a perception of what it can best offer. Whatever you are selling, there is typically an ideal behind that product that is your ultimate marketing strategy. Are you selling food or are you selling a sustainable future? That’s the difference. Customers will tend to see food when they enter your store. Your marketing innovation is to help them understand that when they shop at your store they are buying much more than food; they are investing in a sustainable future for themselves, their families, and for future generations. Marketing is storytelling. But to truly understand the story that needs to be told, you must understand what you are selling. And, in order to do that, you must look well beyond what seems most obvious. As Mark Twain once wrote, “You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus”.