Marketing… it’s a funny old game. It’s probably one of the most mistrusted and misunderstood professions known to man, yet apparently the world and his wife have had a go at it; I wish I had a tenner for every person I’ve ever met who, when I tell them what I do for a living, squeals: “Ooh, I’ve done some marketing!”
More often than not, though, what they’ve actually done is a bit of cold calling, or they’ve drawn up a leaflet or placed a classified ad in the local paper. But real marketing? I doubt it.
What marketing’s not
The most common misconception about marketing is that it’s the same as selling. It’s not.
Marketing and sales are of course closely related – I won’t deny that. The information that’s collected as a result of good marketing should serve to support the sales team in doing what they do best – selling.
But while sales exists to shift units of product, marketing’s role – in a nutshell – is, through a number of strategic processes, to identify opportunities to satisfy customers, efficiently and profitably. And while it’s true that satisfied customers can lead to more sales, there’s a subtlety in marketing that you don’t often see in sales (a salesman will bang on about the product’s features – bambambam! – whereas a marketer will spend considerable time helping customers to identify the product’s benefits).
So marketing isn’t sales; nor is it ‘the pretty’. That’s another common misconception about marketing: that as a marketer, you exist purely to draw pretty pictures. In fact, there are many legendary marketers that wouldn’t have a clue how to do ‘the pretty’ (they leave that to the experts in the agencies they hire), yet they’ve transformed businesses with their strategic marketing talents.
And marketing isn’t purely about advertising, either. Of course, advertising comes into it, but before a marketer can begin to think about advertising, there are a number of strategic and organisational processes that must first be followed.
If marketing isn’t simply sales, ‘the pretty’ and advertising, then what is it?
There’s a wide range of marketing activities that marketing managers take responsibility for – and this list is not exhaustive:
- Customer orientation
- Customer care
- Product development
- Employee relations
- Brand development and management
- Supply chain management
- Corporate social responsibility
and here they are in context:
When you put your customers first, and work with them to develop products and services that satisfy customer needs in an efficient and profitable way – that’s customer orientation, and it’s the very foundation of marketing.
When you first decide to start your business, or when you develop a new product, and so you carry out some research to get an idea of the potential market for your products or services; and when you look at what your competitors are doing, and figure out ways to do it more successfully – that’s marketing research, analysis and planning, an essential preparatory stage of marketing.
When you look at your business and think: “What do I want my company to be recognised for? What do I want customers to feel about it when they hear its name or see its logo? How do I build and maintain a fantastic reputation for my business?” – that’s brand development and management, a strategic marketing discipline that goes way beyond designing logos and colour schemes.
When your staff wear a corporate uniform, when they answer the ‘phone politely stating your company name, when they send letters on your business letterhead, and they hand out company business cards; when your business has a policy of honesty, openness and integrity, which is drummed into every single employee – that’s also brand development and management.
When you model a variety of prices to find the ones that enable you to be competitive, to provide value for money, and to make a profit – that’s marketing planning, a marketing discipline without which your business is more likely to fail.
When you deal with complaints quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction, limiting damage to your brand; and when you get things right, creating happy customers who tell their friends about how great your company is – that’s customer care and brand management. It’s marketing.
When you encourage your employees to make suggestions, you keep them informed of developments, you empower them to carry brand messages correctly and consistently, and you ensure their contributions to the business – no matter how small – are appreciated: that’s internal marketing, which helps employees take pride in the company and in the jobs they do. Happy, proud employees make amazing brand ambassadors, so… It’s marketing.
When you’re a great customer to your suppliers; you’re reasonable, you pay on time, you’re friendly, you don’t mess them about (and you apologise on those rare occasions where it can’t be avoided), you recommend their services to others, and you provide testimonials – that’s supply chain management, and it’s part of marketing.
When you keep an eye on your business’ carbon footprint, use recycled materials in packaging, recycle your business waste, give something back to the local community, or adopt a charity – that’s corporate social responsibility (CSR), and it’s part of marketing.
When you create or commission brochures, a website, pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, press releases, exhibition stands, newsletters, a direct mail campaign or you set up a company blog – that’s marketing communications or ‘marcoms’, the ‘promotions’ part of your marketing plan (you do have a marketing plan, right?) – and it’s marketing.
And when you measure the number of products you’ve sold, the ways your customers found you, the revenue your company earned last month, the number of new partners you’ve signed up, the number of visits made to your website, the number of clicks on your pay-per-click campaign, the number of subscribers who opened your newsletters – that’s marketing analysis, and whaddayaknow? Yep, it’s all part of marketing.
Marketing: it’s a dog’s life
The marketing manager takes on a huge amount of responsibility and is one of the most hard working and driven employees in the organisation; she puts in long hours, is held accountable when sales aren’t great (because naturally this will be her fault – poor sales have nothing to do with market pressures, consumer behaviour, social/economic/political trends and all the other market conditions she’s been monitoring), and she often receives no recognition – let alone thanks – when she achieves results.
It’s the marketing manager’s efforts in collating market intelligence that arm salesmen to do their selling, but they’ll rarely thank her for this. Like a mum she’s expected to hold their hands and wipe their bums, helping them meet their targets; in return for this, the salesmen will be paid big “well done for hitting your targets” bonuses and be hailed as geniuses, while the marketing manager’s input will be largely unacknowledged, rarely rewarded.
She keeps a zillion statistics in her head; well, she’d be stupid not to, as she’s expected to rattle them off parrot-fashion at the board’s whim… She’s an expert at juggling relationships, as a key part of her role is to keep a large number of people happy: customers, partners, suppliers, the board, the workforce, governments and regulatory bodies – to name but a few. Like a pleasure GELF (yup, I’m a Dwarfer), she is whatever those around her want her to be.
The marketing manager is a seductress, mistress of the art of persuasion; she’s a glass-half-full kinda gal, able to put a positive spin on just about anything. She’s a negotiator par excellence and she rarely lies – good marketers don’t need to – but she is an amazing communicator. And, tactful to the last, she rarely lets on how physically, intellectually and emotionally draining her job is.
But when all’s said and done…
She enjoys a workload that’s fascinating, challenging, varied and exciting. She’s given free samples of cool stuff which, if she’s lucky and nobody else grabs it first, she’ll be able to keep. She’s courted by partners and suppliers, who spoil her with posh meals, freebies, and boxes of luxury chocolates at Christmas.
And if she’s lucky – really lucky – every now and then she’ll get to draw some pretty pictures and do some advertising.