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What is marketing?

Posted by Ali Schwanke on July 5, 2017
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That’s a tough question to answer. 


Because everyone has a different definition of marketing – one that’s typically defined by an individual’s experience with products or services, such as a Target ad or a radio commercial for an upcoming concert.

We recently asked this as a question on Facebook, and the comments alone confirmed that marketing is a confusing word with multiple meanings: 


It leaves room for interpretation if you’ve been caught “off guard” by a sneaky promotion (which we don’t like). Take these responses from the same thread: 


Or, if you’ve been part of an amazing brand experience that has you talking about it for months (thank you very much, Universal Studios Harry Potterland), you may view marketing in a positive light.

If you ask the experts at the American Marketing Association, they define marketing as “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.”

A few answers from the Facebook thread pointed at this, so we’re getting closer: 


Nevertheless, despite input from Facebook friends, it’s still very overwhelming.

So, hang with us here as we break it down.  

For starters, marketing is far more than promotional products, or websites, email or social media. Marketing is the engine that powers the growth of your company. 

When it’s done right, it helps set the tone for the company’s products and services. It positions the company competitively in the marketplace, delivering value for a fair price (that the consumer is willing to pay).7-Ps.png

At Simple Strat, we like to break marketing down into its smaller parts. Perhaps you’ve heard these referenced in your college marketing class or a business seminar. These are the 4 P’s of marketing:

  • Product
  • Place
  • Promotion
  • Price

However, when we talk to clients about marketing, we also bring up 3 additional P’s:

  • People
  • Process
  • Position

The combination of all of these elements work together to drive your organization. That’s what MAKES UP your marketing!

People almost always jump to marketing as “promotion” – but that’s simply one aspect of marketing.

Let’s see why it’s way more than that. 

Pro Tip: To start your marketing off on the right foot, you'll need one more "P" - a plan. If you want help writing a marketing plan that incorporates all the elements of marketing, check out our marketing plan template and guide.

Marketing Plan Guide and Template



It goes without saying that a company should have a solid product or service. There’s an old adage that says if you’re going for best quality, lowest price or fastest delivery, you can only pick 2. You can’t have all three. 

Because of that, you might settle for having the lowest price, but your product might be lower quality. 

Jay Stevenson, the founder of Guerilla Marketing, said, “Nothing makes a company go out of business faster than great promotion of a bad product.”

Before you jump into the tactics and marketing plan, you first must examine your product and services.

  • What are the benefits that your customers enjoy?
  • What problem are you solving?
  • How does your product compare to competitor products?



You wouldn’t invite people to a party when your house is full of trash would you? That’s crazy.

However, we see business owners every day who have messy websites, unmanaged social platforms, and scattered marketing messages.

Your place is not only your brick and mortar location, but your online location as well.

  • Can people find you?
  • Both online and offline?
  • Does it provide the visual experience that matches your overall brand?

For many retail businesses, place can make or break their business in a matter of months. No amount of promotion can overcome a poor location. The same goes for your online presence. 

Don’t spend a bunch of money on search engine optimization if your website is difficult to navigate or sends the wrong message to your visitors. First impressions matter – so make it count! Place is important!



Ok, so this is what it sounds like – all of the promotional tactics that get the word out to your customers. This would include PR, website, social media, direct mail, ads, etc.

As mentioned, these are tactical and timed accordingly.

Your promotions should be targeted to the specific customer segments that would buy your products or services.

Too many companies try to spread their net too wide, and only end up appealing to themselves. For a message to resonate with a target audience, spend time researching your audience and segment them for promotions specific to their preferences.



Pricing strategy is what set Warby Parker on the map. Sure, they had a great website and phenomenal PR, but they spent a significant amount of time identifying the right price to enter the market.

Go in too high and you risk alienating customers. Go in too low and you risk being stuck as a discount provider for the rest of your days.

Just ask JCPenney. That didn’t end well for them.

Just like place, you’re not likely to overcome a pricing problem by doing more promotion. Discounts and coupons make customers believe the value of your product or service is actually less over time. Patterns of behavior lead them to believe that they should not buy at full price.

On the other hand, the lowest priced option in a sea of high priced business proposals may lead the decision maker to believe that the lowest priced company is not experienced enough to do the job right.

We’ve been on the other side of proposals like that – which is why it’s important to know what pricing strategy exists in the marketplace, the perception of your value, and where those two things meet. 



Have you ever loved a product or service, but lost respect for the brand thanks to a poor customer service experience?

We’re all in the people business. One bad interaction can reverse many great marketing campaigns, and even worse – cause people to question the very things you promised in those promotions. 

People can be an advantage in marketing.

  • Do you have the best of the best?
  • Are they friendly?
  • Eager to learn?
  • Use good manners? (this seems like a no brainer but it goes without saying!)

Chick-fil-A is known for saying, “My Pleasure” after you thank them. They ALL say it. It’s part of the atmosphere they’ve created through their marketing experience. They don’t put up with people who don’t live the vision of the company.

People can be your competitive advantage, especially in a service business where the deliverable involves people and brainpower!

People are an important asset in the marketing of a company – don’t overlook this!



While it’s often reserved to operations, process can be a competitive advantage that can help you with the marketing of your company.

Take Zappos for example.

They accept returns up to a year after you order from their company. That may be a little extensive, but it’s easy to remember, easy to do, and they keep their word. A business model shift into non-traditional returns, and the ease of those returns, has now created an opportunity for Zappos to use this message in their marketing and leverage it to gain and retain customers.

How you serve your customers, handle customer complaints, hire and manage employees, etc, all affect the experience people have with your brand. If it takes 10 clicks to get to the final checkout page on your website, your process may be inhibiting customers from actually purchasing your product. Streamline the process and you’ve made it easier work with your company.

Take a good look at your processes and determine if you can leverage them to connect with your audience in a deeper and more meaningful way.



This should come first actually, but it’s often the least understood aspect of marketing. 

“Position” refers to YOUR position in the marketplace relative to your competitors. It’s not uncommon that we’ll have the conversation with a business owner or marketer and they’ll say, “No one really does what I do, so I don’t really have any direct competitors.”

Ok, to each his own. But you’re joking yourself if you think you don’t have competition.

You’re vying with someone or something for the purse strings. If you sell a new kind of vacuum, yes, maybe no one competes with you on that. But you’re still competing for the dollars that would be spent on a vacuum – period.

Position requires that you do a deep dive into your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

  • What are you really good at?
  • What puts you at risk as a weakness?
  • Where can you capitalize on opportunities?
  • Where do you need to hedge your bets against external threats?

It also requires a significant review of your competitors:

  • What is their main message?
  • What is their go-to market strategy?
  • How do they service customers?
  • What type of talent do they have working for them?

Once you take a look at all of these variables, you can see the holes in the marketplace and where your company can fit. And that’s a great place to be. You can own that space and develop your message around it – which makes the rest of the P’s of marketing come together.  

Are you too close to it?

Even after examining all of these components of marketing, you may find that you’re too close to your product or service to be objective about your marketing. That’s where an outside perspective is helpful. Our team is skilled at helping you explore these aspects, and really dig into the foundation of your company.

If you’d like to talk further about marketing, reach out and schedule a free consultation. No strings attached – we simply want to learn more about your company and how marketing can be leveraged to drive growth.   

Marketing Plan Guide and Template 

Posted in Marketing Strategy