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What is marketing, anyway?

09.27.2018 | Andrea Pratt

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Marketing is…hard to explain

When I was a freshman in college and trying to decide what to study, I thought I’d look into marketing. I googled, “What is marketing?” and “What do marketers do?” What I found was a lot of different definitions and a lot of different job descriptions. None of them really left me with a clear understanding of the concept. To be honest, I still didn’t really have a grasp on it until I’d worked in the marketing field for a little while.

Here’s how the American Marketing Association, probably a good source on the subject, defines marketing:
“Marketing is 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.”

Still confused? There’s no shame in that. Not only is the concept difficult to understand because of its broad reach and overlap with sales and advertising, but also because there’s a stigma surrounding marketing.

Marketing is not advertising, but advertising is part of marketing

It’s not uncommon for people to think that marketing is about manipulating people to get them to buy things.

One issue with that thinking is that it conveys the wrong definition of marketing. When most people think of marketing, they’re really thinking about promotion (advertising), the messages that they see in magazines, on billboards, or online every day. But marketing is more than promotion, it plays a role in pretty much all elements of business.

This is where the “4 P’s” of marketing, Product, Price, Place, and—yes—Promotion, come in. If you have some familiarity with marketing, you may have also heard them called the “marketing mix.”

Marketing professionals and teams endeavor to put the right product, at the right price, in the right place, at the right time. Promotion comes in because we also need to get the right information out through the right channels to the right audience to get them to pay any attention to the right product, at the right price, in the right place. (I’m sorry you had to read that.)

That’s why I like Hubspot’s definition of marketing:
“Marketing is the process of getting consumers interested in your company’s product or service. This happens through market research, analysis, and a solid understanding of your ideal consumer’s wants and needs. Marketing pertains to all aspects of a business, including product development, distribution methods, sales, and advertising.”

In many cases, the end goal of marketing is to support sales, but it’s integral to the success of any organization, whether for- or not-for-profit. How does the World Wildlife Fund attract donors? How does the Red Cross increase attendance at blood drives? You guessed it.

Marketing is about creating and demonstrating value

Good marketing professionals aim to get factual information about their company, service, or product in front of their target audience so that the audience knows it exists, understand its value, and perhaps want to take advantage of it. No manipulation necessary.

Target audience and value are pretty important words in the marketing world. Everything comes down to knowing our specific customers (our target audience) and putting them first. Thinking of what they want rather than what we want them to want. Good marketing professionals are only interested in sharing our messages with people who actually care about what we have to say. People to whom we can offer value. If we’re talking to people who would not see the value of our offering, we’re wasting our time and money.

I like this quote from Peter Drucker. (Forbes tells me he’s “the father of business consulting.”)

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

Marketing isn’t all rainbows and unicorns

If you’ve read this far, you’re no doubt thinking that this is a pretty rosy view of marketing. I don’t want to skate over the negatives surrounding the profession.

For one, some marketing professionals do not follow best practices. Some think casting a wide net with their promotions will help them reach more people, while the more likely result is that they’ll just annoy more uninterested people. Pretty much everyone can complain about being bombarded with marketing messages that they have no interest in on a daily basis.

There are also bad apples who try to make sales through underhanded promotional tactics. No wonder marketing is associated with manipulation and lying.

Plus, there’s the argument that marketing is really just about “getting people to buy stuff.”

I don’t want to give excuses for these observations, because there are elements of truth to them. But I do want to defend quality, well-intentioned marketing. Done right, marketing is about creating a valuable offering and demonstrating that value to those who might be interested. It’s about presenting people with solutions from which they can benefit.

Marketing should be about relationships

At 2 Fish Co, we’re committed to doing things the right way, even though it takes more time and a lot more thought.

Our focus in on the relationships that we have with our clients. By fostering close partnerships with our clients, we can gain a better understanding of what they offer and who they need to reach. This helps us to determine the best way to showcase the offering’s value and develop effective tactics for sharing about it.

While some may shy away from the work that’s required for following marketing best practices, we’ve seen that putting in the work brings about miraculous results!

We hope you understand marketing a little bit more, but there’s plenty that we didn’t have space to cover in our short blog. Have more questions about marketing that need answering? Send an email to shelly@2fishco.com, and look out for future blogs on the subject of marketing!


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