What’s the first thing you think of when I say the word ‘marketing’?

Is it deceiving advertisements filled with hidden subtext? Slick, used car salesmen? Lies designed to get you to part with your money?

I’ve been in marketing for over 20 years and I can tell you that real marketing is none of those things. So what is it? Many of my friends who have known me for a long time, still have no clue what I do all day. I can tell you 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.

There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about what marketing is about. I’m going to bust some myths about marketing, and correct any misconceptions.

The dictionary says that marketing is the process of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service. I like to think of it more as bringing together two people with the goal of a mutually beneficial transaction. In other words, I have something you want, and you have something I want, and we trade. Marketing is what brings us together so that we can trade. So its really not that complicated if you just look at it from that perspective.

Marketing is not lying to get your money

If I sold you a car that turned out to be a lemon, would you trust me? Would you ever buy another car from me again? Probably not. I would have ruined that relationship.

As a marketer, I want to build a relationship with the customer so they like me. If they like me, then they will buy from me again and again. They will tell their friends to buy from me. So why would I use any of those sleazy tricks that may jeopardize that relationship? The best marketing brings customers back to buy again and generates word of mouth marketing, which is happy customers telling others to buy.

It’s true that is some cases, marketing alerts you to the fact that there is something out there that you didn’t know you wanted until you knew it existed. In other cases, you are actively looking for something and marketing shows you all the alternatives and benefits of each.

Marketing is not just advertising

Selling and promoting is definitely part of marketing, but it is so much more than that. Marketing is the entire customer experience.

Imagine two different car dealerships. The first has a building that looks like it was built in the ’50s and hasn’t been updated or even painted since it was built. The pavement where the cars are parked has potholes and the sale banners are frayed and ripped. The salesman who walks up to you has a huge stain on his shirt when he walks up to you and he wipes food off his hands on his pants before extending his hand to shake yours. When you go inside, the building kind of smells funny. You decide to use the restroom (against your better judgment at this point) and it too is dirty and sorely needing an update.

The second dealership looks like it was built just last month. The salesman is dressed neatly in a tie. The inside of the building smells like the inside of a new car and there are the best looking chocolate chip cookies and coffee on a table beneath clean sparkling windows. The bathroom looks like it came from inside a hotel.

Which dealership are you more likely to feel comfortable in? How would you feel about the quality of the cars each one is selling? Even if both were selling the same exact cars at the same price, my guess you might be willing to pay a teeny bit more from the second dealership.

Marketing is anything that brings people together to have a beneficial transaction. You feel better about your car buying experience, and the dealership makes money.

Marketing is not complicated

Sure, there is some science and art to it, but that is true of just about anything. It’s more like a recipe. If you can figure out what you want to make, how you want it to taste, then you mix the right ingredients to make it happen. If you aren’t a chef and have never developed your own recipe from scratch, then it might look super hard, but not for the chef.

The chef knows what the end result will look like (or this case taste like) and how to get there. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error, but that part is exciting too. And seeing the look on their customers’ faces when they take that first bite is worth it.

Marketing is not just playing online

Social media and other online platforms are definitely a part of marketing, but I can assure you that playing online is not productive for anyone. With so much noise online, a marketer doesn’t have time to post endlessly with the hope that their content will be seen. Facebook and many other platforms are not as easy for businesses to use as they once were. It has become a pay-to-play arena. So once a business gets online, they have to be super strategic with targeting their audience, crafting high-quality content, and engaging with their customers.

What marketing IS

Marketing is about relationships and it’s ultimately everything involved in building a positive relationship that results in a mutually agreeable trade. It takes knowing what you want the end result to look like, the flow of truthful information, the elements that give the customer a positive feeling, and a bit of science and art to make it all come together. It’s about real people making a real connection. Or at least good marketing is.

Unfortunately, the same marketing tactics that are used by companies that want happy customers for life, are also available to shady companies that can and will twist them for their own purposes to deceive you. How do you know the difference? That’s one reason I started this blog, to teach you how to tell the difference.

If you want to learn more about marketing and how to know if a company is trying to keep you as a customer for life by building an honest relationship, or if you are being tricked with gimmicks and schemes, then please stick around and browse through the rest of the site. I’d love to hear from you on any topics you would like to know more about.

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