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What Is Marketing?

Updated: Jun 28

The short version: Marketing answers the questions of Who, What, Where, When and How. The Why is obvious, to make money!



The longer version: Marketing makes you look at the product or service you want to sell for a profit and determines the best way to get it into the consumers' hands. Much easier said than done. This research can take days, weeks, months or even longer. Included in your research should be R&D, manufacturing, branding of your logo and packaging, determining who will be purchasing your product, how will you get your service to the consumer, is there competition and so much more. We’ll provide a Marketing Research packet in an upcoming blog!


One way to accomplish this is to answer the questions of Who, What, Where, When and How.

WHO: You may have already determined the demographics of who the end user of your product may be, but that doesn’t mean that’s who is actually buying your service. For example, are you selling directly to the end user or is the person making the purchase an adult child for their elderly parent? Or maybe it’s a parent who is buying a product for their child about to start college.


In the first scenario, you may only need to key in on the adult child since they may be the final decision maker for their parents. In the second scenario, you may need to market to the parents, but also create a ‘want’ in the student’s mind who will actually be using the service so they’ll ask their parents to buy.


Look at all the demographics that may affect how you plan to advertise and brand your product: ethnicity, religion, age, income, education and even geography.

WHAT: Are you selling a product, a service or both? Think about an inkjet printer. It's not really the product being sold that makes the money. The printer could be sold at cost or even as a loss-leader because it’s only the vessel that will force you to continually purchase the consumables of the [high profit margin] ink cartridges.


Is your product unique or is there competition? If it’s unique, the pros are you’re the only one that has it until someone else comes up with their own version. The cons, well, no one knows it exists. Competition can actually be a good thing — why do you think there’s a Home Depot located across the street from a Lowes. Each brings customers to the area that increases sales for both.

Finally is there enough perceived value to make the sale? Think of a generic box of Mac & Cheese sitting next to the national brand. Some times these "off" brands are manufactured in the same factory as the national product, just on a different day with different branding.

WHERE: This doesn’t just mean where as in a brick & mortar and/or online, but also geographically. You wouldn’t do well selling ice scrapers at a boat marina in Florida or chest freezers at a remote village in the middle of an Alaskan winter.

If you’re selling locally, you can letter your vehicles, put up signs, have a direct mail campaign, advertise in local community Facebook pages, newsletters and bulletins. If you’re online, think about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google ads, Facebook and Youtube advertising, videos and video business cards (VBC).

There’s also printed media like brochures, rack cards, magazines and trade publications. And don’t forget cable tv as an option.

WHEN: Is your product time sensitive to the different seasons of the year or the time of day or week you may want to advertise? If your product sells best in the spring, should you start your advertising in the fall or winter? If you’re on cable, is your customer the kind that stays up late at night watching the Discovery channel or someone that watches cable news with their morning cup of coffee? Do you know the best time and day to send our you next email blast? (That really depends on your specific industry, but for most, early Monday morning). Timing can make or break a campaign.

HOW: Putting it all together is the how. How will you get your message out? Print, social media, internet, word of mouth, direct mail, cable, etc. That list goes on and on and on. But putting together a good marketing plan with a realistic budget will help you make the right decisions when you start your advertising campaign.

Marketing is not advertising, but you can’t do the latter without your research. When developed professionally it becomes your playbook. Do what you do best and let others do what they are experienced in. Many businesses with a great product have failed due to the owner not getting out of their own way, trying to do everything themselves either due to ego or trying to save money. Remember, jack of all trades, master of none.

Last word of advice. Asking your friends and family if they’d purchase your service only lets you know who your friends and family are. The real test is when they actually reach into their wallet!

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