What Is Marketing? (+Marketing Plan Template)

Claire Brenner
Claire Brenner  |  June 20, 2018

In the world of marketing, product competition is fierce and consumers' attention spans are shorter than ever.

With every product promising us the sun and the moon, how do we ever make a decision?

Behind the scenes of the glitz and glam that you see on the grocery shelves, professionals are working diligently to make sure that their product is the one you select, from logo design to the final price.

Their job title?

Marketers.

They're the heroes of this story. In order to become one of them yourself, it only makes sense that you understand what marketing really is. 

The definition of marketing

This isn't as straightforward as we wish it was. To prove the complexity of the definition, it's safe to say that no two sources will give you the same answer when you ask for it. 

While the marketing definitions today have gotten significantly more abstract, the basis remains the same: it’s all about getting a product or service from the manufacturer to the hands of the consumer. 

In its purest form, marketing is how companies show consumers that their products or services are better than their competitors’.

Marketing is a form of persuasive communication. It is made up of every process involved in moving a product or service from your business to the ultimate consumer. Marketing includes creating the product or service concept, identifying who is likely to purchase it, promoting it and moving it through the appropriate selling channels. 

In more detail, marketing is anything that may influence the way your consumers think about your brand. That means it’s not just the way you present your product or service. It’s your advertising, your customer service, and even the employees that customers come across.

Today, marketing means knowing your customer from the inside out. What problems are they facing, and how is your offering the best solution to solve those problems?

The purpose of marketing

Even that definition is confusing. If you're still feeling a little lost, below are the main purposes of marketing laid out for you: 

  1. Marketing captures the attention of your target audience
  2. Marketing persuades a consumer to purchase your product or service over that of a competitor
  3. Marketing provides a consumer with an opportunity to make an easy decision
 
 

By doing all three of these things, and doing them well, you'll develop a customer base unparalleled to your competition. 

How do you market?

The world of marketing is vast and nearly limitless. There are no rules to how you can market a product, service, or brand, but there are techniques and channels that have proven to be successful. We'll show you the ropes below. 

Marketing techniques

Every year, it seems there is a new buzzword taking the marketing world by storm.

Typically, these buzzwords revolve around the latest marketing trends. Professionals will argue about the best techniques to achieve this or solve that, but really, the best marketing technique is the one that works for you and your business.

You can read more about different marketing techniques here: 

Word of mouth marketing
Affiliate marketing
Content marketing
Account-based marketing
Inbound marketing
Field marketing
Guerrilla marketing

Marketing channels

With different techniques, tactics, and strategies, marketers use a variety of different channels to best reach their audiences.

From traditional channels like billboards and radio advertisements to digital channels like social media and user reviews, the flexibility that marketers have today is more than ever before.

Build your marketing strategy with 50+ FREE resources.    Explore →

What is the marketing mix?

If you’ve ever been in a Marketing 101 class, you’re probably well-versed on the marketing mix. This mix refers to a group of tactics that a company has strategically chosen to take a product or service to the market. From this point on, these will be the strategies and tactics that you and your team use to promote your brand.

There are several different strategies that one could take when approaching the way they choose to market their product or service. We'll go over them below. 

The 4 Ps of marketing

There are four main elements in this process that marketers look at to make their efforts more organized and overall successful:

Product It doesn't matter what you're selling – it's absolutely necessary that you know that product inside and out, as well as what makes it unique from the competing products. 
Price Price decisions will determine supply, demand, and marketing strategy. Products and brands may have to be positioned differently in the market based on their price point.
Place Marketing is all about putting something in the right place at the right time, making it critical to research and evaluate which locations are ideal for turning leads into prospects into customers. 
Promotion How will you let the world know that what you're selling exists? Elements like advertising, social media marketing, public relations, email marketing, and so on. 

In addition, some marketers add 3 more Ps to this process: 

People This includes both employees and customers in regards to how they work together to create an experience. It is essential to provide excellent customer service skills to ensure all communication surrounding your brand is positive.
Process This phase is the flow in which your product or service is delivered. For example, if you work in retail, this process begins as soon as a customer steps foot in the door. This is heavily focused on the customer experience.
Physical Evidence This phase refers to the environment in which the experience occurs. It's not just where the product or service is distributed, but the place where employees and customers interact. This could be the physical location of a store or the user experience on an e-commerce site.

The 4 Cs of marketing

Robert F. Lauterborn comprised this approach to the marketing mix as a customer-focused alternative to the 4 Ps of marketing.

He insisted that, since marketing is about the customer, the marketing mix shouldn’t focus on the brand, but rather the consumers. 

Consumer wants and needs Extensive research should be done to ensure that the product or service being marketed will address consumer demand. If the product or service doesn’t meet those wants or needs, they should continue to adapt it until it does.
Costs Cost was a word that replaced "price" because Lauterborn believed that dollar amount isn’t the only cost a consumer incurs when making a purchase. For example, if you’re shopping for a toaster, you may have opted for the slightly cheaper option, but the amount of time that toaster lasts could shrink significantly because of that, otherwise known as opportunity cost.
Convenience Convenience replaced the word "place" to emphasize the importance of the product being readily available and accessible to the consumer. In other words, marketers should strategically place products so that there are several points of visibility. The effort required by the consumer should be minimized to best serve them.
Communication Lauterborn encouraged an open dialogue between brand and consumer, as opposed to traditional marketing efforts that highlighted only a product’s best qualities. This open dialogue encouraged consumer questions, feedback, and user reviews.

Whichever method you choose to develop your marketing mix – the 4 Ps, the 7 Ps, the 4 Cs, or one of the various others – it’s a critical starting point when bringing your offering to market.

TIP: Create your FREE G2 profile to use reviews to understand your customer's wants and needs to market to them better.

Grow Your Business With Reviews →

Common marketing objectives

No matter what aspect of life it regards, the importance of setting goals has been hammered into our heads since we were young. 

For businesses, goal setting is especially important. Clear objectives can influence the way a business spends money, hires employees, and, operates. When setting your marketing objectives, they need to be done intelligently.  Some would say you need to be SMART about them. 

S - specific
M - measurable
A - achievable
R - relevant
T - time-bound

Did you just have a flashback to the sixth grade? You bet. 

Having SMART goals is great. But, like too much of a chocolate milkshake, too many goals can give marketers an upset stomach.

That’s why being selective when formulating goals is critical. The more goals you set for your marketing team, the less likely it is you'll complete them in an adequate way. Instead, focus on quality over quantity. Select between three to five goals in which you'll devote your efforts. 

When it comes to choosing those goals, consider the stage of your brand. Are you a new company bringing a product to market? Or are you an existing organization looking to expand your audience? A comprehensive understanding of your organization’s current positioning will offer you the insights you need to establish your objectives.

To give you a head start, we’ll cover some common marketing objectives and what they mean for a business. 

Profitability

Increasing sales is a very common marketing objective.  For marketers to prove that their efforts have paid off, they need to see a good return on investment (ROI). To do this, they’ll need to ensure that revenue from sales significantly exceeds any of their marketing costs. However, it’s not enough to just say the goal is to “increase sales.”

When it comes to profitability objectives, the more specific you can get, the better. An example of a “SMART” profitability objective would be to increase sales among women over 40 by 15 percent. 

Promotional

marketing-example

Promotional objectives are all about increasing brand awareness. Often, these objectives are implemented by organizations that offer a product that’s been on the market for a while.

These tactics can take a relatively “boring” offering and create excitement. A very most well-known example of this is famous “Got Milk?” campaign. Advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners was able to take an everyday good and invigorate interest through celebrity endorsements a memorable slogan. 

Market share

For companies looking to establish themselves within their industries, a market share objective could be an excellent choice. These objectives aim to acquire market share – something especially difficult for emerging companies in popular industries. One of the most successful instances of a company looking to acquire market share would be Dollar Shave Club’s viral video. The video enabled the company to cut through the noise of an already-cluttered industry. Today, the monthly-razor club boasts more than 2 million subscribers.

Brand management

Brand management objectives are often utilized by well-established brands looking to maintain their images and reiterate key messages to the public. Often, these companies will opt for ads that promote their brands themselves, as opposed to a particular product or service they offer. For example, consider the following Nike advertisement. While Nike offers a variety of products, from shoes to clothing to sports equipment, the commercial doesn’t focus on any one product in particular. Instead, it reinforces what Nike is genuinely about: athletes going after their dreams.

Digital presence

If your brand has yet to establish its online footprint, an excellent objective could be to grow your digital market. If you’d like to increase visibility in search engine rankings on Google, consider bringing on an SEO specialist. Similarly, a social media expert can help you grow your audience and connect with customers over various platforms. An example of an objective here would be to grow Twitter followers by 20 percent before the end of the half through social media marketing. 

Build industry authority

We’d all like to be considered an expert in our respective niches. Objectives that revolve around building industry authority can do just that. These goals focus on establishing your brand as an authority through valuable content, keynote speaker spots, and more. An example of an objective that builds industry authority would be to secure five keynote speaker spots for executives in 2018.

Customer reviews and ratings

As user reviews become an invaluable part of a business strategy, marketers have realized the need to continually receive feedback on their offering. Today, objectives surrounding customer reviews and ratings are commonplace, as they allow marketers to connect with their customers, make changes based on their feedback, and discover brand advocates. An example of a customer review objective would be to increase buyer net promoter score (NPS) by two points before the start of 2019.

TIP: Create your FREE G2 profile to use reviews to understand your customer's wants and needs to market to them better.

Grow Your Business With Reviews →

What is a marketing strategy?

A marketing strategy is a company’s overall game plan for reaching its target audience and turning those people into customers. It likely contains the company’s value proposition, its key marketing messages, a comprehensive overview of its audience, and other high-level elements. This strategy usually lives within a document that lists the value proposition and key messages, which should not change over the time of a campaign.

With a marketing strategy, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of why your company exists. You’ll learn the values on which your organization was founded, the way your employees are expected to uphold them, and more. The why represents the motivation behind your brand, and the reasons it lives by the values that it does.

The what is all about your marketing mix (or in most cases, your 4 Ps of marketing). This section of your marketing strategy is all about what you’re offering. It will clearly describe your product or service, including everything from its function to its look to its price. It’ll also be how you intend to distribute your product or deliver your service, as well as the messaging that comes along with it.

To build a marketing strategy, it's essential that you know your competitors and customer profile as well as you know yourself.

What is a marketing plan? [+ FREE template]

Be careful not to get the term marketing strategy confused with marketing plan. While they contain similar components, they are not interchangeable terms. 

The marketing plan describes how you and your team plan to achieve the goals set by the company within the marketing strategy. In other words, the plan is the execution of the strategy.  

Your marketing plan is all about your tactics. That means it should give  a comprehensive understanding of related details, such as specific goals, costs associated, and actionable steps. This written document should be your source of truth for all of your marketing and advertising efforts for a given amount of time.

Unlike the marketing strategy, which is more evergreen, the marketing plan focuses on a specific timeframe. Whether your plan covers one year, one half, or even just one quarter, you’ll want to refer to it regularly to ensure the campaigns and initiatives you’re running are in line with your original intentions. Your marketing plan is also flexible; if you’ve had a last-minute change in budget, had a team member resign, or simply realized a tactic won’t lead to the desired result, the plan should be updated to reflect that. 

Similar to the marketing strategy, a marketing plan is absolutely necessary, as it acts as a roadmap for your campaign.

TIP: Learn more about how to create your own marketing plan.

 G2 Crowd – FREE marketing plan template

Marketing is everywhere

We told you marketing was a big subject, didn't we? It's a tricky area and there's a lot to learn - this guide by no means covers all of it. But it's a pretty good start.

Want to keep learning? Check out our 50+ resources on marketing. 

Claire Brenner
Author

Claire Brenner

Claire is the content marketing team lead, coming to G2 after graduating from the University of Dayton. Born and raised in the Chicago area, her brief stint in Ohio gave her a new appreciation for deep-dish pizza, but left her well-versed in Cincinnati-style chili and "cities" with a population fewer than 400,000. While not writing, Claire can be found practicing calligraphy, seeking out the best dive bars in Chicago, and planning her next trip.