Jun 282010

McDonalds Sign Most companies and organizations know that marketing is important to their success, but they sometimes struggle to understand what kind of marketing they need.  Indeed, the difficulty understanding what marketing they need is often due to differences in what the word “marketing” means to different people.

For some, “marketing” means advertising; to others, it means sales/selling, deals and price promotions, and to still others, it means the company’s Web presence.  Although marketing can mean all these things, the fact is, advertising, sales, price deals, and Web-based strategies are not the essence of marketing.  In fact, if a company equates marketing with these more tactical level decisions, it runs the risk of wasting its marketing expenditures.  This creates a vicious cycle in which businesses hold back from marketing because they think it doesn’t work.

Prior to implementing marketing tactics such as advertising and sales strategies, the strategic marketing decisions must first be made–to establish the focus for marketing efforts, and to ensure that they are more likely to deliver the intended results.  What strategic marketing decisions provide the foundation for marketing tactics such as advertising?

First and foremost, a company must be crystal clear about its “sweet spot” in its marketplace.  The sweet spot is the intersection of the company’s choice of which customers, its value proposition, and its ability to execute (deliver) value to those customers.

1.  Specific target market.  Too many companies take a “spray and pray” approach with their marketing, thinking that broad coverage of the market will maximize their chance of sales revenue from any and all interested customers.  However, this is a recipe for disaster.  Companies that get the most for their marketing efforts have a precise definition of their target customer.  Witness Apple.  Apple’s products are expensive, targeted to the high-end of the market.  Apple executives are as proud of what the company chooses NOT to do as what it chooses to do.  The focus on a specific target market facilitates its success in the market.

2.  Clearly articulate value proposition.  Second, a company must have a clearly articulated value proposition, a statement that encapsulates the key benefits a customer will gain when buying and using the company’s products.  Customers always have choices in the market—they can choose to buy or not to buy; they can choose competitor A’s products or competitor B’s products; they can choose to spend their discretionary dollars in another product category entirely (say, by taking a trip rather than by buying a new consumer electronics gadget).  Companies that clearly understand the specific reasons why (i.e., customer benefits) customers should purchase from them (over a broadly defined group of competitive options) have a clear focus that facilitates success.

3.  Execution.  Once companies have clearly defined their target market and articulated their specific value proposition (vis a vis competitors), then it can focus its tactical marketing efforts.  Specific media can be utilized, and a specific message can be crafted.  When the right customers hear a compelling message, the magic of marketing can happen.  At this point, each and every interaction with a customer—from the first time they hit a company’s Website, to the time they set foot in a store, to a question about pricing or billing—becomes a compelling moment of truth:  The company either works to build and establish a relationship with the customer, or the interaction somehow undermines or damages the customer experience.  Careful attention to customer interactions and details is what differentiates those who reap the benefits from their marketing and those who say their marketing doesn’t deliver.

Certainly, defining the sweet spot takes a bit of luck and serendipity, but making the hard, strategic decisions provides the necessary focus and discipline to maximize marketing success.

About the Author:
Jakki Mohr has a Ph.D. in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin. Her popular book, Marketing of High-Technology Products and Innovations written with co-authors Drs. Sanjit Sengupta and Stanley Slater, is currently in its third edition.

  10 Responses to “What does “Marketing” Really Mean?”

  1. Awesome, and very well said breakdown of what marketing really is. I think it’s out natural inclination to either skip steps 1 and 2, and just try to execute the crap out of something, or where my fault lies…linger in steps 1 and 2, never really targeting and never executing. Great stuff. PS. Just a heads up from an IT stand point, the CAPTCHA makes it really hard to want to leave a comment here, if you’d like to encourage conversation you might possibly consider removing it.

    • Hi Rob, Thanks for your feedback on the reCAPTCHA. We’ll look into it. We tightened security some after a bad spam bot experience. Perhaps we over-did it a bit.

      • Heh, well that makes sense, I don’t blame you! I just don’t want to see it hurt you either! Check out disqus, despite people not giving it the best reviews here and there, I’ve been working with them for over a year and they really do have a great system, solid integration and good protection. Glad to help out if I can.

  2. Great, Many people who I work with have it just to get as many hits on their website as possible and when they do not succeed, well ….who will they blame :)


  3. It simply amazes me how difficult it is for students and business owners/creators to clearly define their target market. Failure is inevitable if management is not able to pinpoint its customer(s) using demographic and psychographic categories. I often see advertising dollars wasted over too broad a definition of the market; this is where management has not yet made it to the value proposition because they’re stuck back on step #1. The definition of the target market should be as specific as humanly possible; this will also make Step #2 easier to handle. Great advice!

  4. Jakki ~ Love your “sweet spot” analogy…. In fact, I just purchased a set of Mizzuno MP-32 golf clubs that have a strong muscle back and are more forgiving than my previous set… I probably paid way more than I should have…. Nonetheless, I can relate to your article…, it’s all about where execution intersects with the value it brings to me in terms of performance the number of “birdies” – the sweet spot!

  5. The sweet spot to clarify is the group of consumers that a business wants to reach? I think that the company’s that have the hardest time trying to figure how to market are newer groups.

  6. As a journalist, I can only perceive one function of marketing: Convince people they need something they really don’t need. And, targeting the market: Who’s got the money?

  7. Good post Jakki Mohr!

    I would like to ad my fifty cents; I am going give some practical tips on how to identify target market, unique selling proposition and how to do “Marketing” or execution in the end.

    Step One: Identify Target Market
    Step Two: Identify Unique Selling Proposition
    Step Three: Execute Marketing

    Step One Identify Target Market
    Companies, businesses can identify their target markets for their product /service by conducting market research that is by doing qualitative and quantitative research. Both of these techniques have been proven to provide insights on market, market structures, trends, customers, their behaviors and attitudes so on and so forth. (1)

    Make sure that you use each research (qualitative and quantitative) techniques/tools/approaches in such a way that the weaknesses or shortcomings of one approach are covered by strengths of other and vice versa (2).

    And to get even better pictures, especially where traditional research (qualitative and quantitative) isn’t able to provide clear picture, needed insights on target market, go for the internet, web research as these techniques have been proven to help in such situation (3).

    Step Two Identify Unique Selling Proposition
    You can use the above whole process for identification of unique selling proposition or USP (4). Now USP in simple terms would mean “What your target market prefers, buy, love when it comes to your product/service or similar products/services”.

    Once you identify that, time to take the next step.

    Step Three Execute Marketing
    Now you have to associate your product/service with that USP and promote it through all customer touch points, that is where advertising, selling, branding, PR, content marketing, internet marketing, relationship marketing etc comes.

    That’s it, my fifty cent’s, now it’s up to the admin to publish it as a guest post or comment.

    For more on what is marketing, check this article What Marketing Really is ?


    Arshad Amin

    1. Proctor, T. (2000), Essentials of Marketing Research, Pearson Education Limited, Essex.
    2. Deshpande, R. (1983) ‘Paradigms lost’: on theory and method in research in marketing. Journal of Marketing, 47, 101–110.
    3. Mahr, D. (2011), “Customer co-creation of knowledge during the innovation process”, European Marketing Academy Conference (EMAC 2011), Ljubljana, May 24-27, 2011.
    4. Reeves, Rosser (1961). Reality in Advertising. Macgibbon and Kee. pp. 46–48.
    5. Frazer, C.F. (1983), “Creative strategy: a management perspective”, Journal of Advertising, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 36-42.

  8. USP has two references (4), (5). sorry i missed it :)

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