Marketing can be a confusing concept. So confusing that if you were to ask 10 people to offer up a good, straightforward definition of marketing, you would get 17 different answers (and that includes asking the experts). That's not much help. Allow me to explain why I think this exercise in definition is worth your trouble.
In today's speed economy, we are all faced with many choices—sometimes too many. As consumers of business services, our choices reflect the perceptions that have been formed in our minds through the marketing efforts of other (often bigger) firms. You know most of the players who run hard after your business dollar; United Parcel Service, Dell, Federal Express, Office Depot, American Express, etc. You may have chosen to align your company with some of these big name corporations or perhaps you've gone a different way, but either way you have been swayed positively or otherwise. Those influences, along with the recommendations and war stories of your colleagues, have resulted in your choices.
Choice Is Good, Right?
Insightful marketers say that we now all labor under "the tyranny of choice." What do they mean? Isn't choice a wonderful thing? The answer is a qualified "yes." Consumers, for the most part, love choice (unless you have difficulty making quick, confident choices-–then you'll be one of many staring at 10 different varieties of Cap'n Crunch in the cereal aisle).
Marketing strategies and promotional activities help clear a purchasing path for us all. A brand is built . . . trust is built. Imagine how commerce itself would grind to a halt if each of us was not influenced into action by various marketing efforts and the qualified opinion of those we trust? We would all still be stuck in the cereal aisle at the supermarket, laboring over this tyranny of choice, going over and over the more than 350 brands that claim to be the best for us.
Here are just a few examples of why being outstanding is often no longer enough, while standing out can really get the job done. The last 25 years have resulted in an amazing proliferation of product and service choices in just about every category. An average supermarket has 40,000 products and yet American families fill 80 to 85 percent of its needs from just 150 of them. That means there's a good chance they will ignore 39,850 items in that store. Translation . . . there are many disappointed business owners who just never had a shot with you. Choice can be cruel. Work to improve your odds of being considered and chosen.
The good news is that as a business owner, you have those very same powers to influence perceptions and, ultimately, purchases. You certainly don't have the resources or the scope of the giants of this world, but what percentage of power you do have must be put to good use. Simply put, successful marketing concepts do not discriminate. In a relevant sense, they can be as powerful when leveraged by you as when they are leveraged by some of the larger fabricating firms across this country.
Marketing As King
Marketing has grown in importance; often replacing production, engineering and in some extreme cases it has even made the pricing function subordinate! Most attribute this shift to the expanding buyer's market and the need for many industries to develop a strong consumer orientation. Think of the surfacing manufacturers that you currently support. Would you categorize them as consumer-oriented? Does there currently exist a buyer's market when it comes to choices in surfaces? I'm certain you will agree that both answers are an emphatic yes! These conditions don't leave you much room for interpretation. As critical links in the value/supply chain, your orientation must line up or you'll simply drop from the chain.
What Marketing Isn't
Defining marketing is a tough job–-much like shoveling out after a great blizzard. Even when you think you're finished, there's always another area to go over. But don't be afraid, you don't have to have a marketing degree to do a fine job of marketing your company. I agree that the marketing concept is often difficult to get your arms around–-particularly if you're simply trying to decipher the latest buzzwords (one-to-one marketing, viral marketing, guerrilla marketing, permission marketing, etc.). Let's steer clear of that and stick to the proven basics.
First, it is often much easier to define marketing by what it isn't, rather than by what it is. Some folks believe that "marketing" is simply a fancier term for "selling." Well, that's not it. Others believe that marketing is sort of the "big brother" to selling. While there is some of the same family blood between them, it is more horizontal (cousin to cousin) as opposed to vertical (big brother to little brother). For most of us who are in transitional stages of our businesses, where we have aspirations to grow and achieve, we see and feel the inspiration of our larger fabricator brethren who have made marketing an integral part of their business activities.