What is Marketing? (Or What I Do All Day)
The glamorous life of a marketing professional isn’t always what’s it’s cracked up to be. I don’t sit around all day in a big conference room drinking expensive coffee and coming up with the newest and most innovative way to get people to spend money on something they don’t want. But then what do I do? I have plenty of friends who know what company I work for and what my line of work is, but have no clue how to answer that question. So I’m here to tell you right now.
The Definition of Marketing
Marketing as defined by Webster is: The activities that are involved in making people aware of a company’s products, making sure that the products are available to be bought, etc.
Still clueless? Me too.
My definition is, “Everything anyone does when they want someone else to do something.” Pretty vague isn’t it? Marketing involves all forms of communication, not just written or verbal. Customer service representatives are marketing when they try to help a dissatisfied customer. A receptionist is marketing when she gives a good or bad impression of the company as she answers the phone. Marketing is not just about selling. In fact, I think motherhood is a lot like marketing, but that’s another post.
Often I get asked if marketing is the same as sales or advertising or PR (short for public relations). The short answer is ‘yes’ to all of the above. You see, marketing is an umbrella that can cover all of those things plus more. The entire job of marketing is to communicate with people about your product and create positive opinions and impressions (thus leading to eventual purchase). And this can be done in a variety of ways, through advertising, PR, word of mouth, social media, and the list goes on.
The Stages of Marketing
Marketing is more than getting someone to buy something, it also includes communication that lets people know about a new product or encourages someone who has already purchased to purchase again. At any given time a prospective customer can be in a number of places along a continuum of stages in the marketing lifecycle. These stages are Awareness, Interest, Research Evaluation/Trial, Purchase, Satisfaction, and Advocacy.
Awareness & Interest
In these first two stages the goal of marketing is to let people know you have something they want or need. No one will buy your product or service if they don’t know anything about it. So the first step (and often most important step) in most marketing is creating awareness. Often this involves what many companies call a launch. You have probably seen advertising that announced a new product, or the latest model of a car. This is all creating awareness. Then once people are aware of you, marketing’s job is to get them interested in what you have to offer. You want the public to want you. (Queue Cheap Trick here) Many times the same piece of advertising or PR tries to accomplish both of these at the same time.
Now that your potential new customer is interested, they might try to find out more before actually buying. This is where the internet has come into play a lot in the last several years. The number one place people go to find more about something they might buy is the internet. People might try looking for your website. Yes, your website is definitely a marketing tool. Or maybe they go onto social media and ask their friends about it. Or perhaps they look up reviews on Yelp or other review sites. Research can also mean something as simple as picking up the product at the store and reading the label, which is why product packaging is also part of marketing.
Now that your potential customer knows about you, is interested, and has done research, they are ready to try out the product. For a car this would be a test drive. It could also be a sample of lotion at the boutique store, or my favorite, samples at Costco. For some types of things there really isn’t a trial, but that means that the job of marketing prior to evaluating whether to buy that product or not is all the more important.
Purchase & Satisfaction/Loyalty
Then the moment comes that a customer actually buys! WooHoo! This is what it is all about right? Getting the sale. Oh no, we have just begun. What you really want is not just a customer, but a happy customer. You want that person to know they made the right choice, and more important to make the same choice the next time they go to purchase the product. You want repeat customers. You want to build loyalty. You see, it is easier to get an existing customer who likes you to purchase again than to get a new person to make their first purchase. So marketing is also aimed at existing customers.
Once you get loyal, repeat customers then marketing has done its job right? Nope, still not done. Word of mouth is a very powerful tool for marketers. Back up in the research stage the opinion of friends and family can be very important. So now you want those loyal repeat customers who love you to spread the love and tell other people. But not just when someone asks them, you want them to actively sing your praises. Marketing gets your loyal customers to market for you, making all of us marketers.
Marketing is about more than getting new customers, it has turned into managing the entire “customer experience.” While that may sound like just another buzz word, the customer experience comes down to every interaction someone has with you or your product. So marketing is everything anyone (people working at the company or a loyal customer) does that influences someone to take an action you want them to.
Who have you marketed to today? Your friends? Someone on Twitter? Your kids? Now that you know what marketing is, I want to hear your marketing stories, good and bad. Please share in the comments below.