We learn the jargon of the business world in the same way as a child learns his or her mother tongue. For example, when was the last time you looked up the definition of marketing? Did you ever look it up? If you have, did your understanding match the definition in the dictionary?
When asked about marketing plans, businesses often refer to the many Ps of marketing – ie. product, price, placement, and promotion. The focus of the answer is often one directional and tends to address how the product or service is going to be pushed out to the market. So intense is the outward focus that it’s not uncommon for the question, “what’s your marketing plan?” to be answered with, “I’m going to put some ads in the local paper, and do some online advertising.” But marketing is so much more than that.
Marketing is the captain that should be guiding your ship. A good captain knows the waters and understands the environment in which he or she is going to be sailing. This knowledge is used to guide the ship and its crew safely through the waters to a pre-decided destination.
During the journey the captain is constantly checking to ensure that the ship is on course. Lookouts are always in place to spot threats such as storms or ice bergs and when a threat is spotted the captain must decide what action to take.
In the same way, it is marketing’s job to, well, know the market and understand it. This knowledge is used to guide the product or service that the business provides to the correct people, in the right place, at the right time, using the right packaging and promotions. The goal is to achieve earnings targets or increases in market share. The marketing team is constantly monitoring the market to identify any threats or opportunities that could have an impact on the business. If either is found then the marketing team must decide how to minimise damage and maximise profits. Why the marketing team? Because it knows the market.
Marketing is not just an outward communication function. A good marketing plan is based on solid market information. Built into it are methods and mechanisms that monitor the market, and collect and collate data. It constantly provides feedback to the marketing team which feeds this information back to the business. Marketing information is used to provide insight into what is needed for the product designers to create designs that customers want; it informs logistics of the kinds of numbers they should be prepared to transport; it tells the public relations team about what customers and the market are thinking. Marketing teams provide senior management with the information they need to understand the waters in which business is sailing. Market information is the CEO’s best friend.
The American Marketing Association defines marketing 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.” But I prefer a far simpler one, that marketing is the captain of the ship.