What is marketing? That’s a question I’ve attempted to answer many times, in many ways, both for myself and for others. While my answers have always been accurate and truthful, I can’t honestly say any single answer has ever been complete.
Marketing is (and isn’t) a lot of different things, depending on the context. With that thought in mind, here’s my list of the most important points about marketing.
1. Marketing is not a process. This is soooo important. As a marketing manager, this is something I tried to instill in every person who ever worked for me. You can’t limit marketing to checklists, spreadsheets and reports. If you take a cookie-cutter approach to marketing, you get cookie-cutter results (or no results at all). And yet this is exactly what I see many marketing professionals do.
2. Marketing is reactive. Sometimes the word reactive carries a negative connotation, that it implies some lack of planning. Planning is important, but no more important than being flexible and being aware of changing environments. If Google Maps tells you to take the bridge and the bridge is out when you get there, are you going to drive your car into the river for the sake of sticking with the plan? Or I could use a sports example. Ask 2017 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack if he thinks being reactive is a bad thing.
3. Marketing is cumulative. Marketing executives like to see results. Anything that doesn’t produce measurable results has no value. They want to see that someone clicked the link, hit the landing page, downloaded the white paper, initiated a sales contact, and eventually bought the product. This naïve approach totally ignores all the other times your brand likely touched that user before he or she ever clicked that link. Bottom line: There’s some very good marketing that just can’t be quantifiably measured.
4. Marketing is not lead generation. Lead generation is a part of marketing – and an important part, to be sure – but it’s only a part nonetheless. Perhaps unfortunately, the digital age has conditioned many executives to equate marketing with only lead generation. That’s because digital marketing is very good at generating and tracking leads. Lead generation and digital marketing are only part of a successful marketing plan.
5. Marketing is not the realm of sales folk. There’s one school of thought that believes great salespeople inevitably make great marketers. Nothing personal, sales folk, but I’ve never actually seen this proven out in real life. That’s because salespeople only see the parts of marketing that impact them directly – like lead generation. And we all know (now anyway) that there’s more to marketing than lead generation. Marketing is a discipline unto itself.
6. Marketing is strategic. I once wrote that marketing is the strategic side of the coin, and sales is the tactical side of the same coin. Sales says, “Buy something from me today.” Marketing says, “Let me plant a seed so you’re more likely to buy something from me tomorrow.” Is that to say marketing is more important than sales? I’m not that delusional. A company can go a lot further with a great sales team and so-so marketing than with a so-so sales team and great marketing. The big payday comes when you have both great sales and great marketing.
7. Marketing is important to your organization’s success. I’d much rather have a mediocre product and great marketing than a great product with mediocre marketing. Just look at McDonald’s. A McDonald’s hamburger tastes like an old shoe and is slightly less healthy, but thanks to aggressive marketing, they sell millions of them. Marketing makes a difference.
Do you have your own thoughts about what marketing is and isn’t? Leave a comment below or drop me an email.