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What is Marketing?

I’ve been told it’s geeky, but whenever I’m trying to understand a concept, I like to look at the origin of the word.  In the case of “marketing”, the root word is clearly “market”.  In fact, all we did was verb the word market.  So what does it mean “to market”?

When most people think of marketing, they think of advertising.  Maybe some sales. Maybe some PR.  But basically advertising.  Marketing is about promoting your business, right?

In point of fact, marketing is anything that involves the relationship between your business and your market.  And when you think about it, that covers a lot of territory.  “The relationship between your business and your market” includes:

  • Modifying products, or making new products, in response to customer feedback.
  • Designing unique products for your customers’ unique needs.
  • What price you’re charging
  • What price changes (sales, discounts, inflation adjustments) get made, and when.
  • How your product and your customer get together. Do you ship to them? Do they come to you? How long does it take?  Can you do everything online? By phone?
  • Do people know who you are?
  • Do people know what you do?
  • Do people know how your product can benefit them?
  • If they’re interested, can they get more information? Is it easy or hard?
  • How do customers feel about your business? Do they enjoy working with you? Are they frustrated? Do they like you better before or after the purchase?

The best description I ever heard, from an otherwise unremarkable marketing textbook, is that between you and customers, there are assorted “gaps” – reasons they don’t buy from you – and marketing is the process of closing those gaps.  Everyone thinks about the “customers have never heard of me” gap; the solution is to buy ads, and that’s marketing.  Everyone agrees on that.  But there are lots of other reasons customers don’t buy:

  • Maybe your product isn’t quite right for them.  Adding the features they need – that’s marketing.
  • Maybe your prices are too high.  Creating payment plans or partnering with a bank to help customers get loans — that’s marketing.
  • Maybe they can’t get to your store during your business hours.  Adding shipping options?   Turn 9 – 5 into 11 – 7? Offering products that can be digitally downloaded? All marketing.
  • (Maybe they don’t buy because you made Jeff Jarvis so angry that he posted about your horrible customer service.   Doing whatever it takes to fix Jeff’s problem and persuade him that it won’t happen again? Possibly the most important marketing you can do. )

Why aren’t your customers buying? Let’s look at the four big major categories of “gaps” …

To be Continued..

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Bare Minimum Marketing, which will be launched on Indiegogo in September. If you’d like more, sign up for updates to get all the latest information.

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