What Do We Mean When We Say Marketing?

12 Marketing Elements

To help us understand what marketing means in today’s evolving media environment, where increasingly connected prospects, customers and the public interact with a broad range of businesses, seventy-two senior marketing executives were asked to define their profession. Of course any large collection of marketing definitions is sure to yield a diverse set of responses. It’s like the group of blind men describing an elephant where each speaks of just that part of the elephant they’re touching at the moment.

Simply put, Dr. Phillip Kotler defined marketing as “the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.”

12 Marketing elements

Here are twelve consistent marketing elements that ran across these seventy-two seemingly divergent marketing definitions. (Here’s the original marketing definitions post.)

  1. Know your customer. Segment your target market to identify their pain points according to Joe Pulizzi. For Humphrey Rolleston, marketing is about developing deep insights into customer behavior and overall market conditions. This helps you to create marketing personas.
  2. Develop the right product. David Meerman Scott says to create valuable products especially for your customers that solve their problems.  For Jeanniey Mullen, if you’ve targeted your audience properly, they’ll become addicted to your products and services.  As Ken Rosen puts it: offer stuff your customers crave.
  3. Meet customers’ needs. The challenge is that consumers may not always be sure of what they need and where they’re willing to make their tradeoffs. In Doreen Moran’s words, marketing helps customers understand how much they need something they never knew they needed.  Marketing delivers products that prospects want more efficiently and effectively than the competition, according to Paul Kulavis. (Note: This was the only mention of competition.)
  4. Develop and distribute messages and/or communications. Marketing creates compelling messages to connect and engage with their target audience over time to help foster customer relationships. The goal is to get the right message to the right prospect and/or customer. (In today’s fragmented media marketplace, communications can occur in multiple directions.)
  5. Expand your brand. Peter Shankman recommends creating experiences around your brand while Margie Clayman suggests building your brand by convincing your audience of its value.
  6. 6. Tell your company’s story. According to Ann Handley, marketing is anything you create or share that tells your story. For Gerry Lantzm, marketing finds the right story to engage consumers in authentic conversations.
  7. Have conversations and engage to build lasting relationships. This point goes to the heart of social media. For Trey Pennington, marketing is an on-going process of engagement. Sally Falkow stated it well, “If you build a better mousetrap, people will beat a path to your door” doesn’t hold true without marketing. You might indeed have a better mousetrap, but if people don’t know you have it, and they don’t know where your door is, there will be no path beating and no conversation going on. Rebecca Lieb refers to marketing as a feedback loop that helps the company to inform and shape its business going forward. In Chris Garret’s words, marketing is the process of building relationships with prospects and customers. Marketing helps firms connect with real people and create a desire to share.
  8. Make customers fall in love with your products and companies. Delight your customers. In Saul Colt’s words, create irresistible experiences. Marketing is when your target consumer feels so strongly about your product, brand or company that they integrate it into their daily routines and lifestyles, in Jeanniey Mullen’s view.
  9. Develop customer trust. This is especially important for marketers who aim to build a community and was mentioned most frequently by marketers heavily involved in social media marketing. (Unfortunately, from the customer’s perspective, the trust is gone.) Max Kalehoff recommended that marketing should embrace the highest ethical standards, respect the environment, and strive to make the world a better place.  Jim Siegel suggests earning trust with every contact and transaction.
  10. Help sell stuff. While marketing doesn’t actually sell, as Jason Falls said, marketing helps people buy your product and/or service. Marketing is business’ play-maker according to Sam Fiorella. In Mary Ellen Bianco’s words, marketing prepares an audience to receive a direct sales pitch. For Jeffrey Harmon, marketing is about educating prospects about good products to create a desire. As Steve Dawson said, marketing is products that don’t come back.
  11. Everything a company does. For several, marketing was the sum of a variety of functions: branding, naming, pricing, research, branding, PR, advertising, direct response, promotions, loyalty, demand generation and the bridge between paid and earned media. Marketing is an extended process involved in creating strategies and tactics to achieve specific company goals to attract and connect prospects and customers with your products.
  12. Drive profits. Marketing should deliver measurable results and increase company value. Interestingly, marketing definitions focused on profits, the money that remains from sales after covering the costs to build and distribute the product and other on-going expenses.

While my definition of marketing didn’t include all of these twelve marketing elements, each one of them is an important aspect of marketing and rings true.

What do you think of these twelve elements and why? Please contribute your thoughts to the conversation via the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Big tip of my hat to the contributors for their help with the list of marketing definitions.

Please note that I paraphrased the contributors’ input in this column. Any error in interpretation or editing is mine.

Photo credit: Mrs. Pugliano via Flickr

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  • http://www.gdotmoda.com Geoffrey Edwards (g.moda inc.)

    Great post, although to meet all twelve criteria and do it well is a real and ongoing challenge!

  • http://JimJosephExp.com Jim Joseph

    I always say that a marketer’s job is never done. And this list proves the point. We should all strive towards perfection – which means nailing all twelve of these consistently. A constant and never ending goal. Great post! Jim

  • http://auto-tune-up-and-repair-options.com george christ

    Substitute the word marketing for one, two, or three concise proofs on why [1-] you or your offering is the best around – [2-] illustrate how competitor offering is inferior, [3-] entice me to buy from you now – and I think I’ll stop for a moment and consider if the glass slipper fits.

    If I don’t get those 3 points – and I need something like what you’re offering. You have not begun to market, and I’ll never know if you have the glass slipper ! Agree! Or disagree. What say ye? Look at the 3 proofs given to prove this product is the best to quiet noisy engine taps, for example: http://www.auto-tune-up-and-repair-options.com/valves.html

  • John

    I have been poking around the internet all day and this is the first article that is now pablum. Bood Stuff.

  • Chuck Norris

    HI MY NAME IS CHUCK NORRIS AND I HATE YOUR SITE.
    YOURS HATEFULLY CHUCK NORRIS.