Marketing Road Map
‘Mummy, what DO you do?’
This was the million dollar question, presented to me by my younger son a few years ago, that I really struggled to answer in one sentence. Not because I don’t know what I do. I do. But trying to sum it up in simple words that a six year old could understand proved more challenging.
Had I said doctor, he would have known without explanation. The same goes for pilot, lawyer, shopkeeper and vet. Even, at a stretch, accountant!
‘I do marketing sweetheart’.
‘What’s marketing mummy?’
At this point my eldest son chipped in ‘she helps do those ads on the telly’.
Well, yes, I do. Sometimes. But that’s just a tiny part of my job. How do you sum up marketing? How do you get a six year old to understand about brands, competitors, pricing strategies, financial forecasting, promotional campaigns, product development, cash cows, BCGs, distribution plans, public relations, advertising, online strategies, above-the-line, below-the-line, video, sponsorship, events, collateral, outdoor media, social media…. blah, blah, blah.
The reality is, you don’t. What you have to do is explain the difference you make. Doctors try to help make people better. Pilots fly people from A to B. Lawyers help to keep society on an even keel (and tend to have great car collections by the age of 50). Shopkeepers sell you things. Vets mend your dog’s leg when he has been stupid enough to jump out of a car awkwardly, aged nine months, and broken his knee.
So what do we do? What is marketing and how do we make a difference?
Google the meaning of marketing and you’ll get hundreds, if not thousands, of different answers.
Wikipedia says it is a noun: ‘The action or business of promoting and selling products or services.’
The American Marketing Association says: Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large.
Eh? No offence AMA but I need a Plain English definition of what I do. This is for my six year old to understand.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing says: Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.
That’s all well and good, but what about not for profit organisations that still need marketing but whose success criteria isn’t necessarily profitability?
The Oxford English Dictionary says marketing is: the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.
A random selection of two elements of marketing there (market research and advertising)! A bit like saying a doctor is in the business of defining and healing illnesses, including inoculation and flu. Shame there isn’t a full stop after services because this is the neatest definition so far on my quest for the Holy Grail of descriptions.
But even then, none of these answer the ‘so what’ question. What difference do we make? Why do we get out of bed in the morning?
For an industry founded on the principle of clear communication in order to achieve business success, I don’t think we have done ourselves any favours to date. I really believe we need to seriously, collectively, start defining and communicating the science behind, and the power within, marketing. In a simple, edible way that defines our overall reason-for-being. A way that, when you say marketer, the recipient immediately understands in the same way they get doctor, dentist and lawyer. I am a marketer…. I do…
Currently marketing means too many things to too many people. To some it is sales or public relations, to others (including my son) it is advertising. To some it’s big bucks promotional campaigns and to others it is the brand. And so it goes on.
The reality is, marketing is all of these things and so much more. In its simplest form, marketing is the thing you do to answer, as a business, these three fundamental questions:
1. Where are you now?
2. Where do you want to be?
3. How are you going to get there?
I guess we are like business doctors. Assessing the situation. Defining the desired outcome. And then working out the best way to get there.
To answer these questions, we consider many things including:
- What is your business
- What about your brand?
- What makes you different from the competition?
- What are you selling and who are you selling to?
- What does success look like?
- What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Which communications tactics are you going to use to get your message across (this is where advertising, online, events, PR, direct marketing, video, outdoor promotions, sales promotions and so on come in)?
- How are you going to measure your success, or failure?
Think price, product, promotion and place. Add in people and process - there were only the first four when I studied marketing way back when! The reality is, marketing for many is the promotional bit only. But if you take one thing from this post, please know that IT’S NOT. It is so much more.
Marketing is the roadmap that you create to ensure your business succeeds. That roadmap gives you a direction to go in and a means of getting back on track if things don’t happen as you planned.
For those marketing experts out there, I’m teaching grandma to suck eggs and, for that, apologies. But for those marketing virgins who are quietly wondering the same as my youngest son, and are possibly thinking ‘it’s all a bit fluffy and couldn’t I just do it myself?’ I hope I’ve provided food for thought.
So, back to my little man. Fast forward three years to school sports day last week and I realised I had never answered his question. As I secretly willed him to win his race (yes, I am a competitive mother) it dawned on me that marketing is like sports day. We work with businesses to find out their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. We help them enter, and succeed in, the most suitable race for them.
So this is the answer I settled upon when asked 'what DO I do?' by my son:
‘I come up with ideas and creative ways to help companies be the very best they can be.’
And that is what we do - we help businesses succeed. Whatever success means to that business – it could be sales, awareness, changing opinion or something else – I, and my ORCHID colleagues, help to define and deliver a brilliant roadmap to ensure our clients achieve their business goals.