I thought this might be a question that is a little too obvious to ask, but since I am in the marketing business, I thought it best to define the definition that I use.  Even though marketing has been around for 100 years, and become very mainstream over the past 10 years, there is still a lot of misconception about the true meaning.

Some businesses still say – “Of course I do marketing”, and when you ask them exactly what they do, they say that they advertise their product/ service…  Well this concept of marketing is exactly why businesses can fail in this area.

Defining Marketing

There are many definitions of marketing floating around the web, from textbooks, and educational institutions.  I could never find one I could agree with, so here is my definition:

“Marketing is the process of researching and analysing your customers needs, then tailoring the promotion of your products or services to meet those needs.”

From this point of view, the point of focus and interest is the CUSTOMER, rather than the business, and this is a very important distinction.  Every business needs customers to survive.  So what marketing does, is make sure the products or services of the business are tailored in every way to satisfy the customers.

This is very different from taking your business, and advertising everywhere hoping people will buy.

What is so Good about Marketing?

  • You can define exactly who your customers are. It can save your business wasted time and money chasing and advertising to the wrong people.
  • It helps you understand your market better.  It gives you a chance to look at the overall market, your competitors, and where you will fit into the mix.
  • You can uncover promotional channels you didn’t know existed.
  • You understand more about your business strengths, and can be more prepared for any negative issues that could affect your business.
  • Through tracking and evaluation of your promotion efforts, marketing can show you what has worked.  Then you will know what to try again, and what to ditch.

Do you have a definition of marketing you’d like to share?  Do you invest time, energy and money into your marketing?  Feel free to share below.

19 comments

  1. Love the definition.

    Do you wonder at some marketing? Like Coors Beer is selling a label that tells you that your beer is cold. You say what…like that is really needed and wanted. Weird! I wonder where that survey came from.

    My definition of marketing is. “Conceiving an idea, packaging the idea and getting it into the public’s hands.”

    1. @Sheila Atwood, Yes, I do wonder at some marketing…. 😉 And I really like your definition as well.

      I guess if you break down the actual word – marketing – meaning “to market” or to present to the market (the place where buying and selling transactions take place) it really does become a “process”, or a combination of processes, rather than just “selling” or “advertising”.

      But I believe selling and advertising have their place in the marketing process. This is really fun to think about 🙂

    1. @Techfudge, Hi Techfudge, Thanks for your comment. I think the educational process for marketing is ongoing, and I’m happy to provide some food for thought 🙂

  2. “Through tracking and evaluation of your promotion efforts, marketing can show you what has worked. Then you will know what to try again, and what to ditch.” It is the statistical data that shows what works (to a certain extent), not the marketing itself.

    I also think your definition of marketing is wrong. Marketing comes from taking a product or service to market, which means putting your product or service in front of people who would potentially purchase it.

    Also, you say:
    “So what marketing does, is make sure the products or services of the business are tailored in every way to satisfy the customers.”

    That is not what marketing does. That is what market research, product research and product design do. Marketing is selling to the customer.

    1. @Ben, Hi Ben, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. When I mentioned in the blog, a list of what is good about marketing, each point is not specifically marketing, but a PART of marketing. And through marketing, you research and gather statistical data, and this shows you what works. So if you are following your marketing planning process, and implementing your marketing strategies and campaigns, you uncover this valuable information.

      I do not mind that you think my definition is marketing is wrong. This is just my opinion, and I’m happy for people’s feedback on this. Like I said, I read a variety of definitions all over the internet, and no two definitions looked the same.

      For example:
      The American Marketing Association says:
      “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (Approved October 2007)”

      The BusinessDirectory.com says:
      Marketing is “Management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer”.

      The Chartered Institute of Marketing says:
      Marketing is “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably. ”

      Also when I mentioned another point that is included in marketing – “So what marketing does, is make sure the products or services of the business are tailored in every way to satisfy the customers.” Similar to the first point, this is NOT marketing, but falls UNDER marketing, like the first point I mentioned.

      But I must disagree with you, Marketing is NOT selling to the customer. Selling is just a small part in the marketing process.

      Feel free to read a friend of mine’s blog post – http://www.melaniekissell.com/2010/10/the-best-parts-of-marketing/. We have similar minds when it comes to marketing…

  3. Thanks for your reply Fiona. I took a look at your friend Melanie’s blog, and it would seem she agrees with me:

    “Marketing is a softer, gentler, more palatable strategy for getting you, your business, and your products and services in front of the eyes and in the minds of your potential clients and customers.”

    This is what I said marketing is:

    “Marketing comes from taking a product or service to market, which means putting your product or service in front of people who would potentially purchase it.”

    I don´t disagree that using data obtained from marketing campaigns to improve your products or services is valuable, I just think that in these times where everybody seems to be an expert on marketing and business, people loose sight of the fact that everything is much simpler than they believe. For example, I speak a lot with kids coming up out of school with MBAs, qualified up to their eyeballs that fail to realize the basics of business: selling a product or service at a profit. They get so tied up in half-understood concepts of “branding” and “consumer engagement” that they forget why all that stuff exists in the first place- to shift product.
    I think salespeople and marketers spend so much time tring to “integrate concepts of emotional leverage into their marketing” or some such nonsense, and tip-toeing around their potential customers, trying to seduce them into giving them cash, they forget it is much simpler than that.
    For example, I worked with a small company that spent a fortune on “marketing”, with ads in print media, a flashy website etc, but they weren´t making any money. You know what worked? Cheap, photocopied flyers placed where people who ALREADY WANTED what they were offering would see them, at a cost of about 30€ instead of 20,000€. That worked, and got them making money.

    Granted, if you are CocaCola or Nike, and have the resources and exposure to MAKE a market, you want to be doing this more advanced stuff, but most small to medium sized business are just burning money on “marketing”. They don´t want want to be tailoring their products and services in the hope that they will “engage” a potential client, they want real leads, to sell what they are already offering to people who already want it. They should be firm with their customers and clear what they are offering to whom, instead of pandering to customer’s inconsequential whims.

  4. Wow ben that comment can be compared to the size of the post itself.
    Looks like to have a great deal of information to be shared on the topic.

    1. @Techfudge, Yes Techfudge, this question has spawned some amazing debate, in the Linked In groups as well.

      I’m thinking of compiling all the definitions I have received. It’s amazing how such a simple word has created such a variety of definitions. One gentleman, Michael Hall, suggested “marketing is to secure future sales by whatever form it takes to help do this”.

      And I really like this definition too. But I think, as long as the business wins, and the customer wins, then marketing can take any definition.

    1. @Sofia@Hispanic Marketing, Hi Sofia, Very true. The basic goal of marketing is to attract and target our preferred customers.

      And of course, businesses these days need to have separate strategies and plans for their online marketing and their offline marketing. As long as the business fundamentals are in place, the same message can reach the ideal customers no matter where they are – online and offline.

      Thanks for commenting.

  5. Great Definition, For me marketing is also very basic…

    Satisfy your customers needs by creating a win to win situation in which they get the product or service they want so they are willing to paid you for it.

    It have to be a win to win.. More today that clients.. have many option and products.

    We marketeers have to work to make this trade happen, by creating great communications strategies.. in which booth parties win.

    1. @Ernesto Gonzalez torres, Hi Ernesto, Thank you for sharing your definition of Marketing. I really like how you emphasise that the outcome of marketing has to be win-win.

      Yes, this work, this process is exactly why we marketers exist 🙂 And creating great strategies of course…

  6. Thank you Fiona for a thought-provoking discussion.

    It’s refocused my mind on what marketing can and should be. I hear so many small businesses talking about ‘marketing’ when what they actually mean is ‘doing something about getting new business’.

    Ben, you make the point than many companies lose sight of the end goal (get business-make money).

    Maybe any ‘marketing’ definition should have an addendum: “….with the aim of developing and maintaining a profitable business”

    Just off to meet a few customers’ needs right now…..

    1. @Liz Wren, I’m glad you liked it Liz.

      Yes, the word “marketing” gets thrown around a lot lately, and I realised it means different things to different people. And I’m happy to see this topic generating such excellent discussion and consideration.

      Businesses even now treat marketing like airy-fairy branding and colourful adverts, and they do tend to miss the real purpose of marketing = to make money for your business.

      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  7. I really like your definition Fiona, and mine is very similar:

    For me “Marketing is identifying a target market and what they need, putting together a package of products and services to serve that need, and selecting communication mediums to connect with that target market and deliver your package”

    1. @Sheldon Nesdale, Thank you for sharing Sheldon. I’m happy to hear we share similar thoughts when it comes to defining marketing. I would probably tag on the end of your detailed definition something like “…, and track and monitor the results”. 😉

  8. Exemplary post – love it!

    You’re going to giggle, Fiona, but the instant I think of the word, “Marketing”, I think of myself as a 5-yr-old in kindergarten who’s just gone off to school in a brand new pair of Keds sneakers (that’s the brand my mom always bought for myself and my three siblings).

    I couldn’t wait to get to my classroom in my crisp, clean (always blue!) pair of Keds so I could proudly show them off. Inevitably, some of my friends would ask me what store they came from and how much they cost.

    I feel as if I’ve been ‘marketing’ my whole life! I’ve never hesitated to “recommend and promote” things I love and enjoy — starting with the shoes I wore to kindergarten. 🙂

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