Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What is marketing?

I'd like to devote this post to the subject of marketing. Among other roles I've held over the years, I've done a lot of marketing work, in both paid and volunteer capacities, including having my own clients. I really enjoy it, and I like sharing stories and advice about the subject. Additionally, one of the students I work with occasionally is currently taking a marketing class, so this post is dedicated to him. I hope he, along with all of you, find this post to be of some value. There are a lot of neat skills and cool opportunities that marketing can open up. Let's explore further.

Defining marketing

I like this definition of marketing that I recently came across on a blog called The Balance Small Business. In a post entitled, "An Explanation of Marketing in Business," Susan Ward opens by noting:
Marketing is the process of interesting potential customers and clients in your products and/or services. The key word in this marketing definition is "process"; marketing involves researching, promoting, selling, and distributing your products or services.

It's a huge topic, which is why there are tomes written on marketing, and why you can take a four-year marketing degree. But essentially marketing involves everything you do to get your potential customers and your product or service together.
Marketing vs. advertising

Often, many confuse marketing with advertising, and vice-versa. The two can certainly go hand-in-hand. Advertising can be a part of a robust, well-rounded marketing campaign, but it's just that - one part. Marketing itself encompasses a lot, lot more than just advertising. Caroline Forsey explains it well in her post, "What Is Marketing? [FAQ]," on the HubSpot blog:
If marketing is a wheel, advertising is one spoke of that wheel.

Marketing entails product development, market research, product distribution, sales strategy, public relations, and customer support. Marketing is necessary in all stages of a business's selling journey, and it can use numerous platforms, social media channels, and teams within their organization to identify their audience, communicate to it, amplify its voice, and build brand loyalty over time.

On the other hand, advertising is just one component of marketing. It's a strategic effort, usually paid for, to spread awareness of a product or service as a part of the more holistic goals outlined above. Put simply, it's not the only method used by marketers to sell a product.
Different types of marketing

One broad type of marketing, which is my particular specialty, is online marketing, or Internet marketing. With so many people having mobile devices, social media accounts, shopping online, and using the Internet to seek out information of all kinds and to look for fun things to do in their area, it makes perfect sense for businesses, organizations, and charities to harness the power of the Web. It's a gold mine for reaching new customers, donors, fans, and so on. Strategies that are typically utilized in online marketing include company Web sites, social media pages, search engine optimization (SEO), blogs, articles, slide presentations, press releases, news and opinion sites, and video and photography.

Here's a sample press release I recently wrote and distributed about ACA Music and Entertainment in Waukesha under new ownership.

Another general strand of marketing is what I'll just refer to as traditional print. This type of marketing encapsulates anything and everything in printed form, from brochures and simple fliers on up to newspaper ads, signage and banners, and pieces delivered by mail, with a lot more in between.

Finally, there are, of course, other tools and strategies for marketing, including television and radio. Commercials, infomercials, talk shows, sponsorships, celebrity product endorsements, and partnerships are just a few examples for reaching potential customers, donors, and fans.

Some examples of my own work in marketing

A lot of my marketing expertise, as I said, is in the realm of online marketing, although I've certainly done work with print. In both cases, the end goal is the same - to reach new audiences with whatever the product, service, idea, or event is.

In the case of my online marketing work, I've helped businesses and organizations show up more in searches (a strategy called search engine optimization, or SEO); stay in front of customers and prospects through engaging social media posts, articles, and blog posts; create slogans and taglines; and gain local news attention through the creation and distribution of press releases and the pitching of story ideas to media contacts.

My interest in marketing began with a curiosity over search engines and how search results work. It was around 2005. I was in college at the time, majoring in political science and minoring in sociology and philosophy. A friend of mine, who was majoring in writing and absolutely loved political and social commentary and debate, had just launched a blog and discussion forums for that very purpose - political and social commentary and debate. He enlisted my help with promoting the site and writing for it from time to time. I joke that while I probably should have been focusing more on homework, or at least something school-related, I instead spent countless hours in our computer labs on campus learning all I could about search engines - but what an education! Why were certain Web sites coming up in search results and others were not? How can you improve a site's chances at coming up for certain search terms? These were just a couple of the many questions I was asking and researching as I was looking for ways to drive traffic to my friend's site. He ended the site a long time ago, but what a great experience.

Prior to starting my work as an instructional aide at a public high school here in the metro-Milwaukee area, I worked for a Milwaukee remodeling contractor called Don Reidy's Estate Services. I served as the company's office manager. Among many other duties that came with the role, I handled the marketing, which included an extensive variety of online work. I redesigned the firm's Web site, replacing the version that was there before my arrival, with the help of a GoDaddy design team; implemented all the behind-the-scenes SEO strategies myself; rebooted the company Facebook page after it had sat idle for quite a while before my arrival; and utilized sites like NextDoor.com, LinkedIn, and Twitter, along with other groups and pages on Facebook, to get the word out about our business. Certainly, photography and video slideshows made up a lot of what I did, as well. I also did some print work, including teaming up with graphic designers and printers to produce a brochure and a couple of large banners for trade show booths.

My latest major project, which I'm really excited about, is promoting a weekend-long festival held every summer in my hometown of Muskego called Muskego Fest.

I recently joined the committee that runs the festival, also known as the Muskego Community Festival, and I'll not only be heading up the festival's marketing efforts, but I'll also have a role in booking live music and other entertainment, as well. If you've been following my "Exploring the world of music" series here, you know how much I love music, so I'm really excited about this endeavor. And combine it with marketing, and I'm in Heaven!

Promoting the festival will be a unique and rewarding challenge for me. It will require me to draw from all of my knowledge and experiences in marketing up to this point, while learning new strategies and gaining new insights, as well. There will certainly be a lot of online marketing involved, particularly social media. And there will have to be some print, too.

Some key skills needed for marketing

Now that we've defined marketing and discussed a few examples of marketing work in action, what are some of the skills needed for this type of work?

Writing - The ability to write clearly and effectively is essential. You're trying to share an engaging story, and get others to buy into that story. You're making a case to give you and whatever it is you're offering a chance. What are you offering? Why should we spend our hard-earned money on your product, service, or event? How is it better than xyz's brand? How will it make life easier or more fun? How will it save time or money? 

Verbal communication - Goes hand-in-hand with writing skills. You may need to get in front of others and give a convincing presentation of some sort from time to time.  

Creativity - The ability to think outside the box, think inside the box, and just plain think, period. Absolutely critical. A big part of marketing is using your imagination to see around the corners, spot all the angles, and identify new opportunities.

Networking - The art of building and maintaining relationships with a variety of business professionals who can help you achieve your goals. Knowing printers, graphic and Web designers, photographers, videographers, people in radio, other writers and editors, journalists, etc. will play a big role in your success. Always remember that networking is a two-way street.


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