It might interest you to know the following points, neither of which are very flattering to our current masses of “marketing gurus…”
One: they may believe what they do is marketing, but there’s a good chance it’s marketing communications, which is only part of the story.
Two: if they know that what they do is marketing communications but they tell people they do marketing, they’re telling a porkie**.
But in fairness, it’s not that simple.
What does “marketing” really mean?
So that you don’t have to take it from measly old moi, here are some very respectable definitions:
The management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer. It includes the coordination of four elements called the 4 P’s of marketing:
(1) identification, selection and development of a product,
(2) determination of its price,
(3) selection of a distribution channel to reach the customer’s place, and
(4) development and implementation of a promotional strategy.
For example, new Apple products are developed to include improved applications and systems, are set at different prices depending on how much capability the customer desires, and are sold in places where other Apple products are sold.
(1) Identifying something that people or businesses want and are prepared to pay for, or a problem that they would like solved (it could be an easy way to make a cup of tea, it could be getting the latest music).
(2) Developing a product or service (anything from teabags to iTunes) that meets that need and then promoting it so that the audience is aware of its existence.
(3) Working out the details and making sure you’re charging the right price for the product or service. If the price is too low, you won’t make any money, if it’s too high, people won’t buy it.
Marketing is everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them. Even the small tasks like writing thank-you letters, playing golf with a prospective client, returning calls promptly and meeting with a past client for coffee can be thought of as marketing. The ultimate goal of marketing is to match a company’s products and services to the people who need and want them, thereby ensuring profitability.
The four Ps of marketing are product, place, price and promotion.
(1) Product refers to an item or items a business intends to sell. When examining a product, questions should be asked such as, what product is being sold? What differentiates the product from its competitors? Can the product be marketed with a secondary product? And are there substitute products in the market?
(2) Price refers to how much the product is likely to cost. When establishing price, consideration needs to be given to cost the unit price, marketing costs and distribution expenses.
(3) Place refers to distribution of the product. Key considerations include whether the product is going to be sold through a physical store front, online or made available through both distribution channels?
Finally, (4) promotion refers to the integrated marketing communications campaign. Promotional activities may include advertising, personal selling, sales promotions, public relations, direct marketing, sponsorship and guerrilla marketing. Promotions are likely to vary being dependent on what stage of product life cycle the product is currently in. Marketers must be aware that consumers associate a product’s price and distribution with its quality, and would be prudent to take this into account when devising the overall marketing strategy.
Marketing, like charity, begins at home
Given the definitions above you can begin to see that the marketing function does not start when you hire a “marketing consultant” to develop an SEO / email / general / whatever / marketing campaign to implement part or even all of your marketing strategy.
Even if you run a small business, your marketing activity starts right where your business starts: in your own boardroom, or if you’re a solo-preneur, in your head.
Have another look here at the “four Ps of marketing,” as described by Investopedia above:
(1) Product refers to an item or items a business intends to sell. When examining a product, questions should be asked such as, what product is being sold? What differentiates the product from its competitors? Can the product be marketed with a secondary product? And are there substitute products in the market? If you and your colleagues can’t work these issues out for yourselves, why the hell are you in business? Is your product or service just a solution looking for a problem? And if so, do you honestly believe an external “marketing consultant” can wave a magic wand and make it all turn out right?
(2) Price refers to how much the product is likely to cost. When establishing price, consideration needs to be given to cost the unit price, marketing costs and distribution expenses. Once again, a typical “marketing consultant” will be able to tell you how much a promotional campaign will cost, but sure as hell won’t know how to price up everything else and come up with a round-up figure. That’s your job, as the business owner.
(3) Place refers to distribution of the product. Key considerations include whether the product is going to be sold through a physical store front, online or made available through both distribution channels? A “marketing consultant” may be able to advise you on distribution, but surely that’s something you need to get right before you throw your product/service out into its marketplace?
How many “marketing consultants” do you know who do all of the above?
Unsurprisingly, many marketing experts / gurus / consultants actually do the following from the main lists above:
… and then promoting it so that the audience is aware of its existence.
It includes advertising, selling and delivering products to people. People who work in marketing departments of companies try to get the attention of target audiences by using slogans, packaging design, celebrity endorsements and general media exposure.
Finally, (4) promotion refers to the integrated marketing communications campaign. Promotional activities may include advertising, personal selling, sales promotions, public relations, direct marketing, sponsorship and guerrilla marketing.
In other words, marketing communications.
I don’t like to be a party-pooper, but it strikes me that now, especially with the proliferation of online “marketing,” we are getting our marketing jargon in a painful twist (UK) or knot (USA).
It’s only when we look at these relatively new terms in the light of what you’ve seen above, that you can begin to get my point about “marketing consultants” not being marketing gurus, but being practitioners (and OK, gurus) of marketing communications.
Or “marcoms,” which isn’t such a mouthful.
Just because I am jumping up and down in the long grass about this discrepancy in terms, I doubt very much that you’ll change the way you refer to the subdivisions of marcoms in the future.
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But you might find it helpful to at least think about the services marcoms practitioners offer and view them in a more appropriate light, so if nothing else your expectations are based on the reality of what they do (and possibly the restrictions of what they can do, too.)
There’s nothing wrong with the fact that so-called “marketing consultants” are actually “marcoms consultants.” After all, marcoms in itself, as a discipline, is complex, challenging and requires a great deal of expertise to get right.
What IS wrong is when businesses expect marcoms consultants to take responsibility for their (the client’s) entire marketing function. And equally, when marcoms consultants try to paper over the cracks of a client’s overall marketing strategy that doesn’t work. Do you see the difference? And can you respect it?
So just what do marcoms actually contribute to a business?
We have had a clear view of what is and isn’t possible with the traditional forms of marcoms for many years now. These include:
- Public Relations
- Sales Promotion
- Point-of-sale (POS) promotion
- Direct Mail
- Direct Marketing
In today’s climate it’s important to see more recent forms of marcoms in the same light as those of the traditional ilk, especially as nearly all of them have the word “marketing” tacked on the end. Here are a few examples of what they really should be:
- Inbound marcoms (not “inbound marketing”)
- Online marcoms (ditto)
- Search Engine marcoms (ditto)
- Mobile marcoms (ditto)
- Digital marcoms (ditto)
- Content marcoms (ditto)
- Social Media marcoms (ditto)
- Email marcoms (ditto)
I feel that business owners should take responsibility for the overall and intrinsic marketing function themselves, only outsourcing to “marketing consultants” once they have worked out the basics and have at least some idea of in which direction the next steps should be taken.
Those of us who work as “marcoms consultants” can then get on with communicating a business’s marketing messages in the most effective ways possible.
Do you think small businesses, in particular, expect Marcoms consultants to do ALL their marketing?
And if so, why can’t they do their own, at least in terms of production, positioning, pricing and distribution?
Please share your views!