Over the past decade, I’ve noticed a sea change in people’s perceptions of marketing.
I first noticed this when I was talking about marketing at networking events. I could sense a disconnect that took me a while to fathom. What I came to realise was my understanding of the term marketing was different from how others perceived it.
When I used the term ‘marketing’, my audience heard ‘social media marketing’ ‘digital marketing’, or ‘promotion’. When I talked about ‘strategic marketing’, they interpreted it as ‘defining your ideal client’ and/or ‘developing social media plans’.
A couple of weeks ago, I tested this out by asking contacts on LinkedIn and Facebook what they thought marketing was.
The word cloud below summarises the responses I received.
Sales and selling came up top in the survey, usually with negative connotations – ‘trying to sell something’, ‘persuasion’ and ‘selling me something I don’t want or need’. This is not marketing as I perceive it, but I understand why some might assume that marketing is just another word for selling.
Others had a more positive viewpoint, but still limited in scope – ‘making people aware of what you’re selling or offering’, ‘Showing…buyers what you have to offer’, ‘making what you can do visible to those who need it’.
Indeed, nearly all responses related to the promotional elements of marketing – selling, advertising, promotion – about getting people to want to buy your product. (No one mentioned public relations, incidentally). One person recounted an illustration someone had shared with them: “I have a box of matches to sell. What does this person in front of me need most? How can I apply my insight in order to show them how my matches (or the box) can genuinely help?” Someone else noted that good marketing creates desire for your product so people come running to you for it.
While there is an element of truth in these statements, I personally struggle with these definitions.
Marketing is not just about pushing your product on an unsuspecting customer or making them feel their life isn’t fulfilled until they buy it. Some brands do employ these techniques but marketing is much more fundamental than this.
A few responses provided insight into the role of relationship between supplier and customer
‘marketing is everything the customer perceives’ – this statement reflects the importance of branding and that branding is not just the hype that a business pumps out about itself but how the customer perceives every interaction with the brand. So, for example, a rude salesperson or a faulty product will probably impact on the brand perception more than any advertising campaign.
Some noted that marketing creates a connection between the buyer and the seller and is the ‘scientific process of understanding individual thought processes…’ A couple mentioned segmentation and positioning and the marketing mix (product, price, place, promotion) was referred to once. All good stuff.
But every single definition missed the most important contribution that marketing has for a business.
It’s not about trying to sell what you can make to a potential customer, however sophisticated you might do it.
It’s about finding out what customers’ wants and needs are – sometimes before they even know themselves. It’s about conducting marketing research, scanning the environment, listening to existing and prospective customers, and identifying which market segments to work with. It’s about the creativity of new product development – designing something that you believe customers will want at a price you can sell it at – and making sure there’s enough product available when and where they want it. If you just confine marketing to just promotional activity then you’re missing a trick!
I’m on a mission to help your business succeed through accessing the full power of marketing – to develop strategy and open that big box of marketing tools that are lying unused and start to see exponential results. That’s what makes me happy!
Contact me if you want to discover more about how marketing can help your business.