What is Marketing?
Every once in awhile I meet someone who asks me “What is marketing?” I love this question because it challenges me to ask—Just what the heck is marketing? Well, here’s how I would sum it up in a short elevator ride: Marketing is everything a business does to communicate:
- Their product or service.
- The key differentiators of their product or service.
- The integrity of their overall business.
One and two are fairly obvious, but three is where a lot of businesses miss the mark on marketing. But, before I go on about brand integrity, I want to talk about the opportunities for marketing your product or service and its key differentiators. I’ll use tomatoes as an example.
I just met someone who grows tomatoes here in Denver and sells them to restaurants around town. I’ve also worked alongside the team that marketed Muir Glen tomatoes—a big national brand with the same marketing goals as the local tomato guy. So how would I market my tomatoes if I were one of these businesses? Here’s how:
Whether I’m growing tomatoes by the ½ acre or hundreds of acres, I need to make sure that my branding is in place and reflects the quality and personality of my products. That means everything from my logo to my website to my social channels to my invoices should convey one unified brand.
If I’m the tomato guy, I would visit local restaurants, introduce myself to the chef, and give him/her my tomatoes along with information on what makes them so special. If I’m the big tomato company, I’d have an informed demo person sample my tomatoes at a grocery store or culinary event (maybe even as part of a recipe) and then offer the potential customer the recipe and/or a coupon to buy a can of my tomatoes.
3. Paid Media
This is everything from radio to TV to print to search engine marketing (SEM). I think of it as the “brand awareness” bucket. If I’m either the local tomato guy or the big tomato company, I should look at this as a faucet that can be turned up or down. Since I’m in the tomato business, which is seasonal, I’m going to put more money into paid media in the spring and summer months when people really want my product.
Public relations can be thought of as “unpaid media.” (Although hiring an external PR agency isn’t exactly unpaid.) This is marketing based on what is newsworthy about a business. If I’m the local tomato guy, it could be that a reporter for a local media outlet—such as Colorado Public Radio—hears about me and asks to do a story on my urban farming techniques. Or, if I’m the big tomato company, it could be that my PR agency secured an inclusion in a “Summer Sauces” article for Cook’s Illustrated. Bloggers also fall under PR. These “influencers” can have significant reach and are easy to engage with no matter what size of business you run.
5. Customer Service
So now I’ve made the sale, but there is a problem with my product. Either my tomatoes didn’t meet expectations, or maybe people can’t find my delicious tomatoes anywhere. Customer service is key to making the wronged feel right about my business. BUT, I need to remember that customer service is not simply the person at the other end of my 1-800 number; those days are long gone. People can now complain via Twitter and expect a response within 24 hours. So, it’s important that I equip my marketing people, and frankly, everyone on my team, with answers and incentives to make things right.
Marketing Brand Integrity
With news and information only a finger swipe away, brands need to communicate why consumers should care to keep their business in business. Such positive marketing talking points come naturally when a brand operates with integrity. These messages should be shared (humbly) with existing and potential customers.
So what does an integral business look like? It looks a lot like a place where employees are empowered and valued for their work. It’s a place where the people in the supply chain are treated fairly, and business practices are environmentally sustainable. It’s a place that is involved in and gives back to its local community (Jack Johnson is a great example). It’s a place where “We’re really sorry about that. Let us make it right.” is the first reply to a complaint. In short, it’s a place that has more loyal customers than the other guys.
If you are interested to learn more, feel free to contact us. We’d love to help you grow your business.