What is Marketing?

It may be useful to step back and look at a definition of marketing here. According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), “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.” This definition is quite general, but it has a few critical elements that should be highlighted:

  1. Marketing is a set of activities, institutions and processes.
  2. These activities and processes are concerned with creation, communication, delivery and exchange of offerings.
  3. Offerings: there is always a product or service to be marketed.
  4. Value: the offering must have some perceived value for the intended audience.
  5. Target audience: there are always customers, partners, or even a society.

Dilbert – http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2010-10-01

Marketing is a Key Differentiator

Regardless of the market you’re in — high-tech, low-tech, B2B or a B2C — marketing is a key discipline and an important differentiator that can significantly influence the success or failure of your business as a whole. There are plenty of case studies where among the competitors in a market, the winner was not the best technology and product, but the one who did better marketing. So to succeed in business, you need to do effective marketing.

Any business needs to understand the science of marketing and apply it to its business. Naturally not all areas and elements of marketing are applicable and relevant, or affordable for every business, so one needs to adjust and customize it to its business’ needs and budget. But even with limited marketing budget and resources there is a lot that can be done.

Marketing is Evolving

Marketing as a discipline is evolving and has changed considerably over the last decade. Though the 4 Ps of marketing (product, price, promotion and placement) still matter, marketing is no longer defined based on them alone. Because of drastic changes in technology in areas such as web analytics, search engine optimization (SEO), marketing automation, and digital advertising, as well as the advent and wide adoption of social media, there is a whole new science and language of marketing. This has given rise to marketing areas new areas such as inbound marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, and marketing analytics. I will discuss these topics in another piece.

Marketing Functions

Here I briefly go over various marketing functions — from strategic marketing to  product marketing, and down the line to lead generation and field marketing, among others. In large marketing organizations typically there are resources (often teams) dedicated to each of these functions. While in smaller marketing teams that may not be the case, the need for these marketing functions does not go away. Fewer people may have to wear different hats to get the work done.

Strategic Marketing

Strategic marketing is concerned with defining a sound marketing strategy based on the markets, products, internal resources, and external conditions for a given business. This requires a good deal of research and analysis as well as a vision and mission of what the business wants to accomplish. Marketing strategy is typically detailed in a marketing plan that also includes how the marketing organization is going to execute to achieve the strategic objectives. This marketing plan naturally must also align and tie in to the overall business strategy and plan. This marketing plan that is a living document should be the foundation for all marketing activities to be executed and measured. Head of marketing typically owns the strategic marketing function possibly in conjunction with head of strategy, if such role exist.

Marketing Research

One of the key components in marketing is marketing research. Data is needed to define the right strategy, plan the right activities, monitor the execution against a marketing plan and measure the effectiveness of marketing programs. Marketing research collects data from various sources, processes and analyzes it, and communicates it to the stakeholders. The data may be about the markets, industries, competitors, customers, engagements, web traffic, performance data from marketing programs and activities, number of leads generated, etc. Marketing research may use different research and analysis methods to collect and analyze the data.

Competitive Intelligence

Competitive intelligence is concerned with the competition (both current as well as future and potential competitors). Competitors are monitored and researched, data on them is collected, analyzed and communicated to sales, product groups, strategy and management. The analysis can be used for better competitive strategy and positioning. But typically the primary goal of CI is to help sales compete better and win more deals against the competition. CI has similarities to marketing research in the sense that it requires data collection and analysis, but there are differences in the type of data and analysis that each deals with.

Product Marketing and Product Management

Product management and product marketing roles deal with managing the whole product from concept and plan to development and delivery to the market via sales. Product marketing typically deals with defining marketing requirements, market segmentation, positioning and messaging (for each target segment), competitive intelligence, product launch, and sales and channel enablement. Product marketing should also be involved in driving the marketing strategy.

A related role to product marketing is product management which works with R&D to plan and build the product that is defined hopefully jointly with product marketing. Product management is inbound and more technical than product marketing. While product marketing defines and owns market requirements, product management owns and drives product requirements and specifications. Product management is typically not a part of marketing organization and may sit under products, engineering or R&D groups. But it deserves a mention here as it ties to strategic and product marketing.

Solution or Industry Marketing

In some B2B companies you may see solution marketing, in addition to product marketing. Solution marketing is similar to product marketing but it may focus on an end-to-end solution to a specific problem that involves more than one product along with some services. It may be horizontal (cross-industry) or vertical (industry-specific). Industry marketing is concerned with products, solutions or services for a specific industry. For example a company may have products or solutions that serve the banking, retail, or life sciences industries. Then it may need to do industry-specific marketing for each of its verticals; e.g. craft messaging, produce content, design campaigns and attend events that are specific to each of its target industries.

Demand and Lead Generation

Ultimately one of the most important objectives of marketing is generating qualified leads for sales. Beyond strategic and product marketing, demand generation is concerned with the activities that help create awareness about the business and its industry, brand, and product. Examples of demand generation activity may be a blog post, a white paper, a video, or a webinar. Lead generation is part of demand generation but it is concerned with generating and collecting leads (names, titles and contact information) through various means (e.g. web registration forms and visitors to a company booth in an event). Typically people in charge of demand generation design campaigns or programs to target specific segments of the target market based on industry, role/function, or geography.

Demand generation works closely with product marketing as the content used for demand generation programs and campaigns either directly or indirectly comes from product marketing. That is, a white paper or the presentation for a webinar most likely is created by product marketing, or by someone in charge of content marketing that sits in between product marketing and demand generation.

Field Marketing

Field marketing is the marketing function that is performed in the field; i.e. in a region face to face with the regional prospects and customers. Field marketing manages and implements local marketing activities in coordination with the core marketing functions that may be centralized in the main office. Field marketing was traditionally used for consumer products but now it is also used for marketing B2B offerings.

Event Marketing

One of the common forms of marketing activity is event marketing — planning and managing participation in industry, analyst or large vendor events or conferences, or in turn organizing events for the business itself such as roadshows and customer and partner conferences. Examples of these are Gartner ITxpo, Saleforce.com DreamForce, and Consumer Electronics Show (CES). A business based on its marketing plan, may allocate budget and resources for attending and exhibiting in the relevant industry and trade events. The goal may be to raise awareness, do brand marketing, and more importantly generate leads.

Partner/Channel Marketing

The goal of partner or channel marketing is to co-market with partners who have complementary products or services and jointly offer a whole solution. The rationale here is that the two companies offer a solution where the combined value is larger than the sum of the parts. This can also help create cross-sell and up-sell opportunities for the company and its partners. If the partner is only a reseller, it becomes an extension of the sales force and can benefit from marketing support.

Corporate Communication, Public Relations, Analyst Relations

There are a number of related functions within marketing that are concerned with communicating messages for a company, its image, brand, product and services to the outside world — the media, analysts, investors, and the public. There are variations and differences among them. Corporate communication or marketing is concerned with all communication (both internal and external) aimed at creating a positive image for the company among the stakeholders. Public relations (PR) typically deals with public communication on behalf of the company. A business may work with a PR agency to achieve this. Analyst relations deals with managing the relations and communication with the relevant industry analysts, so that the analysts give favorable and positive coverage to the company and its products. In a public company where its stocks is traded in an exchange, there is also investor relations which is concerned with communicating the required financial filings and quarterly earnings reports to the investors and financial analysts.

Wrap up

I briefly defined marketing and looked at different marketing functions that are required for end to end marketing, from strategy to lead generation and sales support. As you can see, marketing is quite broad and encompasses a wide range of activities and processes. In follow up posts on marketing I will explore specific areas such as product marketing and competitive intelligence in more detail.