What is marketing?

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Marketing is often confused with advertising and promotion. If you ask most people to define marketing, they will come up with a number of descriptions including “advertising”, “selling”, “hype”, “packaging” and more.

Actually marketing involves many more activities that work together to facilitate a satisfactory exchange of relationships via creation, distribution, promotion and pricing of goods, services and ideas.

To succeed, a business requires satisfied and happy customers who return to the business to provide additional sales. In exchange for something of value, like payment, the customer receives a product or service that satisfies their needs.

Such a product or service should have an acceptable level of quality, reliability, customer service and support, is available at places convenient to the customer at the “right” price and is promoted effectively by means of clear message that is readily understood by the customers.

Understanding customers and anticipating their requirements is essential to effective marketing. Also important is the understanding of market trends.

With an understanding of the customer and the general market trends, a company should then devise a marketing strategy. Identifying the right market segments, selecting a suitable positioning platform and beating rivals are some of the core elements of a marketing strategy.

In Europe and the USA, between 25% and 35% of all civilian workers perform marketing activities such as strategic planning, personal selling, advertising, packaging, transport, storage, marketing research, product development, creative design, wholesaling, retailing, marketing planning and consultancy.

The priority of marketing is to identify customer needs, determine priority target markets and achieve sales through implementing marketing principles and practices. Relationship marketing focuses on long term, mutually beneficial arrangements in which both the buyer and the seller focus on enhancing the value of the exchange between them.

Relationship marketing continually deepens the buyer’s trust in the company and in turn helps the company better understand customer needs. Better markets respond to customers’ needs and strive to increase value to buyers over time.

So how does a company go about marketing? It all starts with gaining marketing intelligence through analysis. The analysis should focus on the customers, the competition, the general market trends or factors and finally the company’s own capabilities.

By analyzing customer needs and trying to understand buying behavior, companies can try and formulate effective marketing strategies. This leads to improvements in the product or service, quality management, strategic promotion and overall improvement in service.

By studying and understanding the competition, companies can try and change their marketing strategies and be better able to compete. This leads to changes in features, benefits and price of the products or services. This also leads to improved promotion and better brand positioning.

By keeping an eye on general market trends and in particular related market factors, companies can come up with pre-emptive marketing strategies, attacking potential threats and take advantage of future opportunities.

Finally, by fully understanding it’s own strengths and weaknesses, a company can improve it’s processes and ultimately improve the quality of it’s products or services. This also prevents the company from getting into ventures or areas that they might not be able to handle or which have a potential to fail. At the same time, it could also show the company opportunities that they might have been missing.

For online businesses, many of the same principles are relevant. Online companies should also focus on marketing analysis, strategies and programs. In the coming weeks and months, I will be writing more articles about each of the above mentioned ideas and principles and how they can be applied to small businesses.