My biggest bugbear about marketing is that too few people really get what it is. You ask anyone what a doctor, lawyer, dentist or builder does and you’ll get a pretty consistent answer. Ask them what a marketer does and I can guarantee no two people will answer the same. It’s insane that, for an industry that prides itself on being expert at communication, we have failed stupendously at establishing what we do in a way that is consistently understood.
I’m on a mission to change that. A great place to start is to debunk some of the myths that surround marketing. Here are four favourites for starters.
Marketing is Advertising
The problem is marketing means too many things to too many people. To some it is sales or public relations, to others it is advertising. To some it’s big bucks promotional campaigns and to others it is brand. The reality is, marketing is all of these things and so much more. Marketers ask: where are you now? Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there? We then look at price, product, promotion, distribution, people and processes and define the very best combination of activity to achieve success for your business. Advertising on the other hand involves buying and filling space or time to relay a message. It falls into the ‘promotion’ bit of the marketing mix. Advertising can be important to a company or irrelevant – it totally depends what your goals are.
PR is free press coverage
No it isn’t. Publicity is free press coverage. PR is public relations; the relationship you have with all your publics. Your staff, investors, the media, customers and potential customers can have a massive impact on your reputation. They all have thoughts and opinions about your company, whether right or wrong, and these perceptions will determine whether they work with you, shop with you and/or support you. Public Relations is the science of working out who your publics are, how you want them to perceive your brand and then working damned hard to engage them in a positive and constructive way so they become advocates, not enemies, of your business. One activity that falls under this umbrella is media relations and trying to secure positive editorial coverage of your message in order to influence opinion and build a positive reputation. In the same way that advertising is one tactic you use to market a business, securing media coverage may be one tactic you use to manage your company’s public relations.
Social Media is only for Consumer Brands
Hogwash! The explosion of social media onto the communications scene has added a whole new dimension, and opportunity, to our sector. It’s incredibly exciting and is relevant to every single business, no matter what sector you are in. Many professional services clients balk at the idea of social media, believing that their service targeting high-net-worths would be irrelevant in the Facebook space. The bottom line is that social media is a critical component of modern professional services marketing. Today’s clients are relying on the power and convenience of the Internet to find and vet professional services firms. Quite simply, if you are in business and you do nothing else, get yourself and your business on LinkedIn. Research has shown it is favoured over all other social media tools by the fastest-growing, most profitable firms. It’s not a platform for selling; it’s a platform for posting informative content that your network will find engaging and valuable, and for joining groups of like-minded professionals. Social media helps you create conversations, tell stories and improve perception of your brand; presenting you and your company as innovative and thought leaders.
10% of your budget should be spent on Marketing
Where was this figure dreamt up? Who established this ‘rule’? There are no one-size-fits-all rules in marketing because every business challenge is unique. Investment in marketing has to be at the heart of your business, not something you turn on and off. Great marketing and inspired marketing is focused simply on one thing: getting results. Sit down and answer the three simple questions I mentioned before – Where are you now? Where do you want to be and how are you going to get there? How much time and effort you invest in doing that will be determined by your business objectives and what success means to you.
Myths aside, what’s my answer when someone asks me what marketing is? It’s simple. Marketing is what you do to shape your business for success. Whatever success means – sales, awareness or influencing opinion. Marketers help define and deliver a roadmap that ensures business goals can be met.
Sam Watts, Director