Marketing is the act of getting customers to want your products or services. It starts at the product development stage when you design offerings to meet the needs of the audience you want to attract. It continues once your products or services hit the market, as you devote resources towards letting people know that they're available and educating potential customers about reasons to buy.
Marketing doesn't stop once your customers have made their purchases. Following up and responding to concerns and feedback are parts of the process as well. If you do that diligently, you increase the odds that your customers will continue to support you in the future, and may even help your cause with word-of-mouth marketing.
Definitions of Marketing
Because marketing covers so many aspects of your company's operations, there is no single standard definition. Merriam Webster defines it as, " the process or technique of promoting, selling and distributing a product or service." The American Marketing Association describes it as, "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." The digital strategist Doreen Moran defines it simply as follows: "Marketing is helping your customers understand how much they need something they never knew they needed."
The fact that there are so many different definitions does not mean that there is disagreement about what marketing means or how it works. Rather, the marketing process is complex and multi-faceted, and each of these definitions contributes something to an overall understanding.
What Is a Marketing Strategy?
Businesses that take their marketing seriously develop coordinated strategies integrating the many elements of the process. Developing a marketing strategy is a way to think through your big picture objectives and then align your daily marketing activities with this vision. A marketing strategy should include ideas for branding or taking ownership of the ways your products and your company are perceived and identified. It should also include a marketing budget which outlines how you will spend your marketing resources, and specifies the tangible outcomes you expect your investment to yield. Your overall strategy should include substrategies for marketing through different channels, such as social media, email newsletters and fostering word-of-mouth marketing.
Marketing Tips for Small Businesses
Build a marketing strategy that makes sense for your product and your business. If you earn most of your revenue through face-to-face relationships and plan to keep things that way, use your in-person interactions to communicate and build awareness of your brand. If your products are quirky, build a quirky and surprising advertising campaign. If your offerings are targeted towards knowledgeable and detail-oriented professionals, make sure your marketing materials are created with meticulous attention to detail.
Although it helps to have a marketing budget, you can do plenty of heavy lifting without spending a penny. Use social media cleverly and often. Think carefully about what makes customers want to buy your products, and organize your business and your presentation to emphasize those features. For example, if you own a cookie business that makes a homey product, orchestrate your baking so your shop will smell like freshly baked cookies for as much of the day as possible.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.