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". In layman’s terms, marketing is a powerful tool that every business uses in some capacity to generate revenue, attract customers, and grow.
Marketing isn’t just something that businesses target and work to optimize. If you’re providing something to another person, it’s almost unavoidable that marketing will play a role in some capacity. When you tell people about what you’re doing, that’s marketing. When you make it visible, whether that’s through a website that can be found on Google or putting up a sign in your lawn, that’s marketing. When someone likes what you’ve done and tells their friends about it, that’s marketing.
Marketing is intrinsically built into the process of providing value to other people.
Realizing this helps to remove some of the (understandable, but misguided) stereotypes that business owners occasionally associate with the idea of marketing. Imagining a “marketer” or “salesman” conjures up images of sleazy haircuts, shifty looks, and quick speak designed to confuse and mislead. Instead, we urge business owners to understand marketing at its base level, recognizing the different types of marketing, and then adapting and optimizing the variations on marketing that can best benefit their business and their customers.
The Purpose of Marketing
Catherine Howard, UK and Ireland marketing director at Atos, has three rules for defining the purpose of marketing. These rules provide an excellent framework to begin diving into how marketing is beneficial.
Rule 1 - Understanding your customers, business, and wider market
Using marketing can provide business owners with a greater understanding of what their customers want. What are customers responding to? What are other competitors offering? Is your product a completely new one to them, or is it just that your price point is much more manageable for them? Have you managed to turn a mundane offering into a premium one?
This sort of insight is only achieved by using marketing to test how your audience reacts to your products or services. Experiment with your prices, messaging, and branding to see what speaks to the minds of your customers.
Rule 2 - Delivering business growth and value
Marketing can secure your revenue and growth through a myriad of ways – from boosting brand awareness to increasing engagement with existing customers and locking in recurring ones. Determining your ROI and working to optimize it is another part of marketing, only achieved through continuous testing and measuring of results.
Rule 3 - Providing differentiation, relevance, and creative flair
How do you measure up to your competitors? Are you another cog in the wheel, or do you stand out?
This isn’t a painful step it’s more about letting your creativity run free. Don’t just try to match the competition, add your own unique and personalized spin and see how your audience reacts. Every industry has innovators, after all.
The Types of Marketing
Now that we have an understanding of what marketing is and its purpose, it’s time to delve into a few types of marketing. Note, there are dozens of types of marketing out there. We’re going to cover some of the most common ones, but there’s always other methods (and new methods) out there.
Direct marketing is any form of marketing that involves direct communication between parties. Think mail, email, phone calls, and texting. This is a personalized type of marketing and can be effective for establishing and growing a relationship between a business and its customers.
Direct marketing very often makes use of calls to action (though not in every communication) and trends towards shorter lengths to quickly grab attention, demonstrate value, and leave customers wanting more.
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing is the use of social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more to promote your brand, connect with your audience, and drive engagement. A big part of social media marketing involves understanding your audience – if you do, you’ll see immediate results as your engagement numbers grow. If you’re off the mark, it’ll be equally visible with few interactions on your content.
Social media marketing benefits from continuous content and is best paired with a long-term content strategy to ensure you’re maximizing engagement (as most social media platforms reward for engagement, creating a positive feedback loop that speeds up growth).
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing involves any activities and efforts to get your business to appear in popular search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. There are two popular approaches to succeeding in Search Engine Marketing – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC).
SEO involves the process of creating content and scoring backlinks (links from other websites back to yours) to rank high in Google for certain search results related to your business. The result is prospective customers seeking out the type of product or service you provide get directly routed to your website. This is incredibly powerful, and thus, rife with competition.
On the other hand, PPC involves paying for advertisements in those search engines under similar circumstances, where your website will appear based on what customers search. Here, it’s your ad copy and ad bid (an amount you’re paying compared to your competitors to determine how often and in what position your website appears) that determine your success.
Content Marketing refers to marketing formulated around delivering high value, typically free, content. This content then usually comes with calls-to-action to convert readers into customers. Content Marketing is an extremely versatile form of marketing and is heavily geared towards providing consistent and undeniable value to an audience. For the most part, you can’t go wrong engaging in content marketing strategizing – it will increase word-of-mouth between your readers and their peers, drive engagement which will reward you in both Search Engine Marketing and Social Media Marketing, and increase in value over time as content ages and continues drawing readers.
With Content Marketing, the hardest question to answer is how well you can continuously provide value – because like social media marketing, it works best when it’s consistent.
With just a few of the most common types of marketing covered, you can begin to see just how powerful and effective marketing is for business owners. It’s all about providing value and maximizing your reach, which ultimately creates a positive feedback loop between business owners and customers. That’s the key to explosive growth, and it is why marketers often find themselves revisiting the definition of Marketing to make sure they’re working to achieve it.
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