'There is no unified definition of the subject of marketing; in fact, there is often considerable confusion over the precise meaning of the term among marketing academics and practitioners.' (Geoff Lancaster and Paul Reynolds (2003) Marketing: The One Semester Introduction, p.1)
Introduction to Marketing
What is marketing?
Malcolm McDonald, in his fun but serious Marketing: A complete guide in pictures, puts it this way:
'Sometimes those with the goods search in vain for those with the money and vice versa. Some magic is needed to bring them together. We call this magic MARKETING.'
McDonald's formal definition of marketing is (p.4):
'... a management process for understanding markets, for quantifying the value required by the different customer groups in these markets, for communicating this to everyone in the organization and for measuring the effectiveness of the actual value delivered.'
Marketing is about customers
Lancaster and Reynolds argue that:
'Marketing is based on the premise that the customer is the most important person to the organisation. Most people think of the term customer in the context of a profit-making facility. While it is true that the marketing concept has been more widely adopted and practised in the profit-making sectors of the economy, the fundamental principles of marketing are equally applicable in the not-for-profit sectors; a fact that is often overlooked.'
Comparing the two statements, McDonald's focus is apparently more oriented to the market and market planning whereas Lancaster and Reynold's emphasis is on the customer. However, McDonald (p. 13) is quick to point out that:
'The focal point of all activities in any organization should be the needs of its customers. This is known as a marketing orientation: a matching between the organization's human, financial and physical resources and customer needs.'
This is echoed by Lancaster and Reynold (p.3):
The marketing concept, which puts the emphasis on customers and the identification and satisfaction of customer requirements, results in the customer or consumer becoming the central focus of an organisation's activities.'
In Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation Of Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Lois Kelly (2007: 10) emphasizes the value of 'conversational marketing':
"We need interesting ideas that both provoke conversations and involve people in the conversations. Studies have found that the more customers participate in meaningful conversations and interactions with companies, the more likely they are to purchase a product and recommend it to others. (...) One step is to create conversational marketing approaches such as salonlike meetings, online customer communities, more regular radio talk show-like conversational calls, and more conversational sales meetings. The second step is havinsomething interesting to talk about in those conversations. Some of the most effective conversation starters are points of view based on beliefs, contrarian views or unusual advice."
Barbara Schenck (Small Business Marketing for Dummies, Second Edition, 2005) agrees that marketing is about the importance of creating and keeping customers, emphasising the importance of talking with rather than to customers. Marketing is therefore a two-way process involving a number of actions:
- Getting to know target customers and the business environment
- Tailoring product, pricing, packaging, and distribution strategies to address customer needs, the market environment and the competitive situation in which the business operates.
- Creating and projecting market messages that grab attention, attract customer interest and move them to buying decisions.
- Going for and closing sales - but not stopping at that point
- Starting the customer service phase after gaining the sale with the aim of repeat sales and word of mouth publicity.
- Talking with customers to find ouit their wants and needs in relation to your products and services. A fine-tuning process that also makes use of market research.
Customers and consumers
McDonald (p.42) distinguishes between customers - the people who buy goods and services - and consumers who 'may or may not buy the goods they use and who may rely on the customers to supply them.' So we have to remember the eventual consumers as well as the customers with whom we have direct contact.
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