• Nat Sharp

What is marketing?

Updated: Feb 10




What are the foundations of marketing?


As many of you that know and have worked with me, I’ve always had a passion and desire to learn about and work in marketing. And here I am over 25 years later, continuing to love and soak up any new theories or studies on marketing. Relishing the prospect of learning and working with new businesses in new markets. Always expanding my knowledge. Sure, marketing has changed since I started my career, but the concept is still the same.


To celebrate national marketing day, I thought it would be interesting to cover some of the most frequently asked questions amongst small businesses so here they are.


When was marketing first invented?


Believe it or not, the concept of marketing is over 100 years old. The term first appeared in dictionaries in 1897.


Where did it stem from?


The term, marketing, is a derivation of the Latin word, mercatus which means marketplace.


What is the definition of marketing?


Marketing definitions have evolved through the decades particularly with the emergence of digital marketing. However, more classic definitions are timeless and I always go back to one of the greatest marketers of all time, Dr Philip Kotler. I still have his marketing management book from university. Most recently he defines marketing as:


“Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.”

Whilst here is a shorter and commonly used definition by the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK:


“Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

How has marketing evolved?


Marketing has seen phenomenal change since the pandemic. In fact when the pandemic first arrived, we vaulted 5 years in just 6 months in our customer behaviour moving to online shopping, changing marketing forever.


But let's not forget how the internet revolutionised marketing in the 1990s. I even remember sending my first email and doing my first Google search at British Airways whilst working on some market research. How this made everything so much easier. Instant access to information that previously would have taken weeks or months to gather.


I love this infographic from Hub Spot which looks at marketing going back to the very beginning with the birth of print advertising and later followed by outdoor and then radio and TV advertising. And let's not forget how the telephone allowed instant market research in the form of telemarketing and direct selling.


What are the common misconceptions of marketing?


Often people and businesses perceive marketing as just the advertising or selling part. But marketing is so much more than this. Marketing is a strategic business function that ensures producers of goods and services can interpret consumer desires and match, or exceed them.


Kotler also confirms this adding that marketing is often confused with selling. He goes on to state that what is unseen is the extensive market investigation, the research, and development of appropriate products and services, the challenge of pricing them right, of opening up distribution, and of letting the market know about the product.


Marketing isn’t the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make, but the art of creating genuine customer value so your customers are better off.


When should you start marketing a business?


Marketing should start at the very beginning of the process, before there is a product.

As Kotler confirms, marketing is the homework the company does to understand what people need and what the business should produce or offer. Marketing determines how to launch, price, distribute and promote the product/service offering. But, the role doesn't end there. Marketing should monitor the results and improve the offering over time.


Is it too late to start marketing your business?


It is never too late and all businesses regardless of size, sector or age, will benefit from marketing. And remember successful businesses, should never stop marketing. Marketing is an ongoing process.


Do you need a big budget?


You can always undertake marketing even if you have a small budget. Digital marketing has opened up new opportunities for small businesses allowing them to compete with major players thanks to social media, Google and email marketing.


If I have a small budget and limited resources what should I invest the time and money in?


Thanks to technology advancements, marketing offers so many choices. However, if resources are limited, the following elements are essential for any business: -


  • business plan/strategic plan/marketing strategy and plan

  • branding

  • engaging website

  • ongoing social media presence

  • SEO

  • regular email marketing and automation


What does marketing encompass?


You are probably familiar with the 4 P’s or as it is now known, the 7 P’s. I find this a useful way to talk through the key elements of marketing with clients. This is:


  • Product – all businesses need to have a winning product or service with a clearly defined USP (unique selling point). Successful businesses find out what customers want first, then develop products and services based on this, not the other way round. You do this by investing in market research.


  • Price – as a business, you need to be competitive in the market and make a reasonable margin. Price positions you in the marketplace so it is absolutely key that you’ve got this right when you launch a product or service.


  • Place – this is how you distribute your product or service, whether that be online or in-store and ensuring your product is represented in the best way in that channel that is in keeping with your brand.


  • Promotion – this is how you communicate from your branding, your website, advertising, events, your social media, and all the channels you may use.


  • People – consider all the people that play a role and come into contact with your business, from your staff, influencers, and customers that could be brand advocates.


  • Process – you need to look at the whole customer journey and have adequate systems and communication in place to provide an engaging and seamless experience that represents your brand in the best light. The most admired brands in the world exceed customer expectations and invest significantly in customer experience.


  • Physical evidence – these could be proof points and assets you develop to reassure the customer what they are buying into and overcome any barriers. Customer reviews for example can really help. Or providing a more tangible experience in the form of a virtual tour or photographs to show your premises, factory, or office.


I hope you've found this article interesting and have learned some new things.


To learn more about marketing strategy then view why every business needs a marketing strategy and how to create a marketing strategy for your small business.


Or if you think your business would benefit from external marketing planning expertise, then please get in contact.


Painting credit - Tunbridge Wells based business Iaysha Contemporary Fine Art


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