What is Marketing?

by Scott Schenker

Marketing is… one half of an unfinished symphony.

Whether marketing communications, product/solution marketing, experience marketing, brand, advertising, demand generations, social media, or anything else, the balance of the melody is “sales.”

“Sales” is in quotes because this word is also incomplete when it stands on its own.

“Sales and marketing” is a “complete sentence” containing an objective and a verb (you decide which is which–it works either way). The complete story requires a need (organic and/or generated), a solution (functional and/or emotional and/or aspirational), and a method of connecting these two.

Are the Apple stores (drop a dollar in the “Apple is overused as a case study” jar) “sales” or “marketing?” Yes, they are. When you attend a tradeshow, are you being sold to or marketed to? Is the special offer via an email sales or marketing?

The classic sales continuum starts with “awareness” and journeys to “advocacy.” Each is touched by marketing and sales activities. Some of the steps have been considered more “marketing” (awareness, interest, consideration, loyalty, advocacy) and others more sales (preference, purchase). But this may not hold as true today as in the past (if it ever really did).

The distinction may best be considered as in the mind of the person being “marketed” or “sold” to. Some look to avoid the sales process, investing time researching and learning on their own, while some jump happily into the sales experience as soon as they decide (on their own or via external influence) they indeed have a need to fill.

The stereotype is that the car buying experience is to be avoided; yet many flock to the Apple store (another dollar) for training and workshops and “just looking around” that often result in the purchase of new software or accessories.

Some are more motivated by the functional differences of the product or the price; some want an account exec or sales associate to work with them through the process. They want to be “sold” to.

Others are more attracted to the story, the message, the meaning, they may be quick to advocate and/or associate themselves with the solution (“I’m a Cadillac guy”).

So if the distinction is in the eye of the recipient, so is the definition.

At best, sales or marketing is the emotional, functional, and aspirational experience that offers solution to “my need where, when, and how I want it.”

At worst, it is an interruptive manipulation that upsets and annoys.

When are sales/marketing successful? When they are:

  • Targeted. Who are you trying to reach and with what message, call to action? What are you trying to do? This should include a targeted Audience and Objective.
  • Relevant. How are you being relevant to their needs, wants, desires. Is your Message and Medium appropriate and compelling?
  • Innovative. Are you standing out from the noise and offering something new and exciting?
  • Differentiating. How are you different from other solutions, alternatives?
  • Orchestrated. Are all the marketing, sales, and execution touch points aligned?
  • Measured  How do you know you are reaching your objective?

Just like music, a limited number of notes (eight in music, a few more in sales and marketing) can be combined into endless songs, both good and bad.

Scott Schenker is Vice President, Strategic Events for ServiceNow. Opinions are his own. He can be reached at mail@scottschenker.com.

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