The terms "marketing" and "marketing communication" are sometimes used interchangeably. However, while they are related, they do not refer to the same concepts. When working on the marketing strategy for your business, be sure to understand the differences between marketing and marketing communication so you can effectively create a plan to entice prospects to buy your product.

Understanding Marcom vs. Marketing

Marketing and marcom are related areas of the business, but they are not one and the same. Marketing refers to the broad concept of developing strategies to satisfy customers with engaging products and messages. On the other hand, marketing communication, or marcom, is a subset of marketing that uses specific promotional tactics to implement the overall marketing strategies.

In order to create an effective marketing strategy, the business needs to start by understanding the target market. These are the people whose problems the business can solve with its products and services. Instead of targeting all available consumers, many businesses choose to segment the market by using a combination of four categories:

  1. Demographic: When segmenting the market, businesses can categorize by age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, occupation, family income, family status and social class. For example, a business can target women ages 50 to 65 who are retired and who have grandchildren.

  2. Geographic: This type of segmentation looks at where the prospects live. In addition to their location, businesses may consider the climate, population density and region size. For example, a business may target people who live in cold-weather climates with high population density.

  3. Behavioral: When segmenting the market behaviorally, businesses look at how the prospects behave toward the product. This is dependent on brand loyalty, familiarity with the brand, awareness of the product, frequency of use, place in the sales funnel and frequency of purchase. For example, a business may target loyal customers who have made purchases at least three times in the last 12 months.

  4. Psychographic: This kind of segmentation looks at the lifestyle of the prospects. It takes into account their opinions, attitudes, hobbies, activities, values and ethics. For example, a business may target people who like to play soccer as a recreational activity.

Developing a Customer Profile

Once the business has identified which market segment it will target, it is in a better position to develop its marketing strategy, which also includes its marketing communication plan. Using the market segment information the business has gathered, it’s critical to develop a customer profile. This is a reference document that employees can use when developing strategies and tactical plans and tweaking campaigns to yield better results.

Taking a Deeper Dive Into Marketing

The goal of marketing is to understand the needs of the business’s target market and work to satisfy those needs better than the competitors. Often considered an afterthought once the product has been developed, marketing is actually deeply connected to a product’s inception. When considering what to sell in a business, company leaders look to understand what their target market needs. They offer products and services that help their target market to solve problems, and they do it in a way that’s unique from any competitive businesses.

The concept of marketing involves four key elements, also called the marketing mix, that form the foundational strategy every business uses to sell its products:

  1. Product
  2. Place
  3. Price
  4. Promotion

Using these four elements, businesses can develop strategies that enable them to meet the needs of their target market. What is important to note is that each of these four elements needs to be carefully aligned. If one element does not work with the rest, then the prospects will receive conflicting messages that can deter them from buying the product. For example, if the business sells clothing made from recycled materials, it isn’t wise to package that clothing in single-use plastics, as that goes against the concept of sustainability that the clothing promotes.

Starting With Product

Marketing strategy begins with the product, which is what the business offers to its consumers. These can be physical products or intangible services. When developing the product, the business needs to consider the answers to these questions:

  • What kinds of problems is the target market facing with which we can help?
  • Are any competitors also trying to help solve that problem?
  • How can we help the target market in a way that’s unique?
  • What can we offer our customers to keep them satisfied?

Through this research, businesses can ascertain what kind of gaps exist in the marketplace and where they may find some opportunities for growth. It’s imperative to consider what competitors are doing because this helps businesses to understand which areas of the market are oversaturated and have stiff competition.

In addition to figuring out what kind of product to offer, businesses also need to consider the kind of packaging they will use to sell their product. For example, a product for babies and toddlers cannot be contained in a package with sharp corners, as that can be dangerous. The packaging of the product needs to work with the overall goals of the product itself.

Establishing the Price

It’s imperative for a business to understand the customers' perceived value of the product. If the business prices the product higher than the perceived value, then it’s unlikely that it will sell. If the business prices the product lower than the perceived value, the customers may change their perception once looking at the low price point. Understanding the customers’ perceived value of the product will help the business to ascertain the right price point.

When considering the price for the product, it’s also important to understand the average market price. Businesses need to research the competitive products on the market and look at those price points. The business can then decide if it wants to price its product the same as the average competitive price or if it wants to go higher or lower.

For example, pricing higher than the competition may send a message of luxury and exclusivity. Pricing lower may showcase a great deal or may send the message of a lower perceived value.

More Pricing Considerations

Other elements businesses need to keep in mind when pricing their products are:

  • Profitability: What are the business’s profitability goals, and how can the price point help them achieve that?

  • Distribution: How will the product get to the consumer? Do freight or shipping expenses need to be added?

  • Markup: Is the business selling directly to the consumer, or is there a middle entity? What will their markup need to be in order to still offer the product at a competitive price?

  • Sales: Will the business be offering discounts and price promotions? How will that factor into the retail price of the product?

Deciding on Place

The place refers to the location where the product will be sold to the consumer. Options may include a retail store, online store, pop-up shop or niche market. When deciding on where to sell the product, it’s important to consider where the target market likes to shop. Looking back to the customer profile, it’s important for businesses to determine the easiest and most convenient way for the customer to purchase the product.

For example, if a business targets seniors age 65 and over who are not computer savvy, then having an online store as the sole point of sale will not be an effective strategy. Instead, the business will want to look at setting up pop-up shops in seniors’ residences or at the seniors’ center.

Exploring Promotion Options

The promotion element is how the business communicates the benefits of the products to the target market. This is where the element of marketing communication comes into play. The goal of marketing communication and promotions is to convince the target market to purchase the products using effective messaging.

In order to capture the attention of consumers, businesses need to create a content strategy for their marketing efforts. This includes developing:

  • Unique value proposition: What makes the product different from competitive products available on the market

  • Key benefits: Three to five unique reasons the product helps the target market solve the problem

When the messaging has been developed, the business then needs to decide which promotional vehicles to use to spread the communications they have developed. It’s important to look back to the customer profile to determine where the target market is located. Does the target market prefer print newspapers over digital ones? Do they attend local events?

Identifying Types of Marketing Communication for Small Businesses

The tactical ways to use marketing communication to share the benefits of the product with the target market include:

  • Advertising: Advertising involves the business paying for a promotional space to spread its message. Advertising often reaches a broad audience with a broad message. If the business wants to target its audience, it needs to consider advertising in niche publications and using a highly targeted message. Advertising options include TV, radio, billboards, print publications, online publications, search engine text ads, remarketing ads, social media ads and more.

  •  Personal selling: In this form of marketing communication, the business deals directly with the customers, either face to face or on the phone, with the goal of convincing them to purchase the product. While it’s an expensive promotional tool, it is useful for building relationships with prospects and establishing a personal connection.

  • Sales promotions: The goal of this marcom tactic is to increase revenue in a short period of time by offering discounts, buy-one-get-one offers and other kinds of sales. It is used to incentivize new prospects and reward loyal customers.

  • Direct marketing: This marcom tactic involves targeting a small subset of the target market over email, text message, post mail or phone and presenting them with a highly tailored message to persuade them to make a purchase.

  • Public relations: The goal of this promotional vehicle is to manage the company’s reputation in the public through press releases, media interviews, sponsorships and community events. It’s about showing the target market that this is a company with which they want to do business.

Making the Case for Integrated Marketing Communication

The difference between marketing communication and integrated marketing communication is that the latter focuses on creating a cohesive campaign that reinforces the same message. With integrated marketing communication, businesses ensure that all their marcom efforts are aligned to present the target market with a cohesive and consistent message at every touchpoint.

There are many benefits of integrated marketing communication, including:

  • Creating a memorable brand image
  • Offering a consistent user experience
  • Establishing expertise in the industry
  • Staying top of mind for consumers

By ensuring that all promotional mediums work together in a unified campaign, the business can ensure that its target market sees reinforced messages that remind them of the benefits of the products. This can help consumers to make the purchasing decision more quickly and can alleviate any confusion about the benefits of the product.