The word “marketing” means many different things to different people. It can mean “selling”, or “advertising”, or “publicity”, or “market research”, or “customer service”, or “PR”. A common negative perception of marketing is that it’s just “a sleazy technique of manipulating people to make them buy things they don’t need and can’t afford”.

In fact, marketing includes selling and advertising and publicity and market research and customer service and PR and much more. It’s about developing a marketing mindset that informs every management decision you make about your business. And I believe it is possible to do marketing with integrity.

First, let’s look at how various reputable organisations and theorists have defined marketing:

The American Marketing Association says: “Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.”

The Theatrical Management Association, UK, says: “Marketing is a co-ordinated process which makes the best use of available resources to present a product proposition to a target market in order to achieve objectives – and then evaluating how successfully this has been done.”

Stan Rapp and Thomas L. Collins wrote in their book Send ‘Em One White Sock…: “Marketing is everything that you as a seller do to make customers seek your product or service and buy from you again and again.”

Richard Maddock and Richard L. Fulton, in their book Marketing to the Mind – Right Brain Strategies for Advertising and Marketing, suggested: “The job of marketing is to motivate the consumer.”

And finally, Al Ries and Jack Trout, in their seminal book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, said: “Many people think marketing is a battle of products … It’s an illusion. There is no objective reality. There are no facts. There are no best products. All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect. The perception is the reality… Marketing is the process of dealing with those perceptions.”

My own definition is: “Marketing = managing perceptions, motivations and expectations.” What do I mean by that? I mean that marketing is about consciously managing everything your organisation does, 24 hours a day, that creates an impression in the marketplace, builds perceptions in people’s minds, motivates them to buy and makes it easy for them to do business with you. And whether you like it or not, everything you do does create an impression.

Some basic principles of marketing

People’s behaviours (“to buy or not to buy, that is the question”) are driven by their perceptions, motivations, beliefs and attitudes, and by their conclusions about past experiences. All those things happen inside the privacy of people’s heads, so you can’t control that. But you can control everything you do that might influence people’s perceptions and motivations, and thus their behaviour.

So marketing isn’t something you do for just a few hours a week, separate from everything else you do. It means:

understanding your organisation and your products/services from the customer’s point of view;
designing/creating your product or service with the customer in mind (what are the benefits for the customer; what problem does it solve; how do you want the customer to feel about using it?);
considering all your potential audiences, not just the customers who walk into your retail shop;
making it as easy and painless as possible for people to do business with you;
ensuring that every interaction with a customer (the “Moment of Truth”) results in that customer having a positive impression of your organisation;
keeping your customers satisfied – no, surprised and delighted – with better-than-expected quality and service;
devising every marketing message in terms of the benefits to the customer, not the benefits to you;
treating your customers the way you’d like to be treated yourself when you’re a customer;
focusing on long-term relationships, not short-term transactions;
presenting a consistent image in everything you do, so that there’s synergy between every element of your marketing strategy.
Doing all these things well won’t necessarily guarantee your success in the marketplace, but doing them badly will have predictably negative consequences. The challenge, of course, is to find a way of doing all these things in such a way that you still achieve your own objectives (profit is a good one).