This seemingly simple question usually elicits responses like, “To generate leads,” “To attract customers,” or “To create demand for our products and services.” While these are a part of what marketing does, they fall short of describing the core function of marketing.
For us, the core function of marketing is best defined as “Creating and delivering value such that prospects become customers and customers stay customers over time.” And, while many management types argue that marketing is a cost center, the reality is that marketing is actually one of the most important functions of an enterprise for, without customers, there is no enterprise, as Peter Drucker so famously stated.
This high-level definition of marketing includes a variety of activities that cover customer insights, communications and product/service delivery. Below are the most critical:
1. Understanding prospects and customers
Good marketing begins with identifying the segment(s) of the market most appropriate for targeting by the brand. It further includes acquiring and maintaining a deep understanding of the needs, preferences and behaviors of these targets. Market research, data analysis and information feedback mechanisms are all used here to gain insights into who we are targeting and how they make purchase decisions.
2. Brand building and management
Another critical set of marketing activities revolves around brand-building. Brands are the assets marketing builds and manages. Brands are vessels for imbuing products, services and organizations with perceptions, emotions, beliefs and attitudes that transcend functional attributes of those products and services to create market appeal over similar offerings and economic value. Much of the premium paid in mergers and acquisitions is driven by the accumulated goodwill in the acquired brand(s).
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3. Communication and promotion
This is the tactical side of marketing that most people think of when they hear “marketing”. It’s the “meat and potatoes” of marketing. Starting with a value proposition and competitive positioning, marketing activities here include advertising, public relations, content marketing, events marketing and all promotional activities that are designed to create brand awareness, interest and appeal. Along the way, this involves decisions on individual outreach campaigns, media channel selection, pricing strategy, distribution decisions and even supply chain management.
4. Customer relationship management
The fourth major category of marketing activities includes post-purchase communication, customer support and loyalty programs to maintain strong and positive customer relationships and, ultimately, loyalty and advocacy.
All four of these activities involve continual measurement and analysis of performance on key performance indicators to ensure success of all marketing activities.
When marketing in an organization internalizes and acts on the high-level function of marketing, the gains in customer acquisition, retention and advocacy result in business growth and profit.