What is marketing? A simple and useful definition

Marketing is the art of persuading people to get and use your offering.

The direct implications to this definition

  • As an art, marketing requires creativity.

  • Persuading implies and requires information.

  • Information is important. You can persuade people to do something only by giving them information, or to be more accurate, by communicating.

  • Information is omnipresent. It can be of different forms, but everything provides or reprensents information (texts, images, videos). While receiving information, people judge it. Either they don't act on it, either they do act on it based on their objective and/or subjective perceptions.

  • Context matters. The way people receive information (how ? when ? where ?) is as important as the information itself. Persuading is communicating the right information to the right people at the right time, and it all depends on the context.

  • Communication is a looping process. You should constantly adapt your communication by gathering feedback from the receivers of your messages.

  • The term people is misleading, because marketing is clearly not about persuading everybody. You need to target audiences. You must select who you want to give information to.

  • Your offering is what you have to offer: your product(s), your service(s) or combination(s) of both.

  • "To get and use your offering" isn't necessarily a 1-step process. Ideally, you want to persuade your target audience to get and use your offering straight away, but you might have to persuade them to do other things first: leave an e-mail address, register for a demo, call you or visit your store. The easiest and, sometimes, the only way to persuade people is by proving your value incrementally, one step at a time. Especially if the price of your offering is high.

2 other similar definitions

  • Based on what I've said above, it is also possible to define marketing as:
    1. the art of communicating the right information about your offering to the right people at the right time.
    2. the art of creating or choosing favorable contexts for presenting and delivering your offering.

The differences between marketing, communication, sales and customer service

  • Communication, sales and customer service are all part of marketing.

  • As seen above, communication is an important subtask of marketing. You can view it as the main task to perform along with 2 other tasks that come before and after the act of communicating in itself. Before, you must choose who you want to communicate to, and after you must measure how your communication performs. You can read more about this in my article The basic 3-step marketing framework.

  • Sales is a very specific subtype of marketing. Sales people do direct marketing. As any marketer, their mission is to talk people into getting and using the offering.

  • Customer service can also be seen as a subtype of marketing. The customer service is here to provide information to the customers about the use of the offering and to get their feedback.

  • For me, when it comes to creating and delivering information about an offering, it is all done by the marketing team.

How others define marketing

  • Seth Godin (2019-01-02) What is marketing?. I was quite pleased to see Seth Godin using the same term "persuade" that I did (I wrote this article before his). His definition is crystal clear and it's the best possible definition there can be: "marketing is persuading people to take action".

  • Brian Sullivan (2016-11-22). The Fundamentals of Marketing Are Still the Same. Forbes. Brian Sullivan reminds us that marketing is still about getting the right message to the right people at the right time. It's still about setting the right context. This totally aligns with what I've said above.

  • Heidi Cohen (2011-03-29). 72 Marketing Definitions. Heidi Cohen's article is just a great complementary article to mine. You get to see all of the complicated definitions of marketing there are, given by directors, senior executives, CEOs, authors and scholars. Do the test yourself. Among the 72 definitions presented there, how many do make sense and are applicable to any business? In fact, how many were you able to read entirely? This article just shows that marketing is still very vague for many people, including for some of those who do it.

  • Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong (2018). Principles of Marketing (17th Edition), Pearson. I have to mention a good definition of marketing as it appears on page 26 of the book, even if I find it too general: "Simply put, marketing is engaging customers and managing profitable customer relationships."

  • Allan Rib. The Definition Of Marketing. Allan Rib doesn't give an exact definition, but he uses a very nice image to describe some of the activities that are part of marketing.

    Initial publication date: 2018-06-20
    Last updated: 2019-07-05

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