"I don't like marketing."
Not the first, and probably not the last time I heard a business owner say this. This is due to many reasons. One of the reasons is a common misconception, thinking that marketing is just selling. Yes, selling is marketing. But marketing is not selling. Marketing isn't even promotion, though promotion is marketing. Marketing is a much bigger process.
Let's start with a definition of marketing by AMA (it's a bit complicated, so bare with me):
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.
American Marketing Association. Definition of marketing. Retrieved Jan 3 2017.
Simply put, marketing is the whole process of bringing a product, service, idea or other offering for people. It includes the creation of the product or the service, market research, the packaging, price, the availability and placement, branding, all the communication, promotion and selling, customer service and much more. Basically, if you offer products, services, ideas, your skills or anything else to other people, you are marketing. Yes, even if you are just trying to get a new job or keep your old one, you are marketing. Or if you are trying to get people to submit into an idea or ideal, you are marketing. Saving the world, getting people to understand the concept of climate change, or advocating human rights? Marketing. This blog post is marketing too. Even though I don't sell anything in it.
For those who run a business, sell products or services, or want to build an audience (including blog readership and Instagram followers) marketing is not optional. It's something you must do. Build and they'll come isn't reality. And besides, building is marketing too. Since you are already doing it, why won't you go on with it?
It's true, the end point of marketing is some sort of selling. However, the marketing can have intermediate points. For example, marketing can be used to attract people and raise awareness, nurture leads, turn your existing clients or other stakeholders into promoters, build trust, spread ideas, communicate changes, and more. Marketing can be directed outside from a business, and it can be directed inside, towards the partners, employers, co-workers, and employees. When directed outside the targets of marketing can include clients, competition, possible employees and partners, collaborators, bloggers and press, to mention some. Thus marketing isn't always about selling, nor even straightforward promotion.
I already mentioned some things marketing entails. I'd like to highlight a handful of them, because there are some parts of marketing that get easily overlooked or misunderstood.
Creating the product or service, and setting up a business are also marketing. The word marketing refers to bringing something to market. Without the product or service or whatever you are marketing, there is no marketing. The product, service, idea, set of skills, brand, or other offering is the basis of marketing.
Pricing is an often misunderstood part of marketing. Many people think that in order to make sales and get clients, you must lower your prices and have sales. Going cheap is one way to make sales, but not necessary and often not such a great idea. Cheap pricing works best if you can sell lots of things in a short time, but doesn't work that well in selling (custom) services. On the other hand, smartphones are a good example of highly priced, but very popular items. Raising your prices can grow your business. A freelance web designer Leah Kalamakis raised her prices last year and and got more clients.
Packaging doesn't only refer to the actual physical wrapping of a product. It also includes all the other things that are included in the package with the product. The aforementioned smartphones often come with a basic set of headphones and an instruction booklet. Yet packaging can refer to non-physical packaging too. In case you offer web design services, you can package your services to include many different things. You could create a web design package which features such things as search engine optimisation and configuring analytics for the site. Packaging of your services and skills also include the way you look and sound.
Communicating is important in marketing. Communicating what your products or services include. Communicating how they can be used and how they can be valuable to people. Communicating can be sharing information and making sales pitches. More importantly it is asking questions and making research, offering customer service, and listening. Customer isn't always right (it's a silly saying anyways). But the communication is no good when it's one sided. Remember that all the communication you have with clients, employees, employers, co-workers, partners, collaborators, competition, press, stakeholders and others is marketing. If it makes it easier to you, think marketing as communicating.
These days there are some big marketing trends. Such things as content marketing and inbound marketing (or permission marketing) are gaining ground from straightforward advertising. Content marketing refers to using informational and possibly entertaining content, such as blog posts, emails, ebooks, webinars and other videos, social media updates and infographics, to educate, build awareness, delight and help people. The content doesn't necessarily include pitches or selling, but can direct people towards conversion and purchases. In the best content marketing, those indulging the content don't feel like being "victims" of marketing. Which brings me to inbound.
Inbound or permission marketing is a form of marketing in which the idea is not to interrupt people with advertisement and selling pitches, but to earn their attention. In inbound marketing you get your products, services and ideas ready and optimised to be found when people are looking for them. Imagine a vacuum cleaner salesman. Going door to door the salesman interrupts people while they are doing other things than cleaning (or even while they are cleaning and don't want to be interrupted). Those people aren't necessarily ready to buy the vacuum cleaner at this point, not even after the sales pitch and presentation. In inbound marketing the vacuum cleaner salesman makes sure the people will find him when they decide they need a new vacuum cleaner. Content marketing is a part of your inbound marketing process. In addition to that inbound marketing also can refer using search engine optimisation and other methods making the products, services and ideas easier to find for people who are ready to buy them. Inbound marketing sets everything ready and easy for people to find and buy.
For those who believe they don't like marketing, content and inbound marketing are the things. In them, the selling is put aside and you can concentrate on creating and sharing valuable content. With that content you communicate your skills, knowledge and desire to help. When everything goes right, this builds trust and awareness.
You can create blog posts around your skills and knowledge. Building an email list is a must. If writing is not your cup of tea, try making (live) videos, hosting webinars (or online workshops) or podcasting. Infographics are also very popular. Use your imagination. If you are into making comic strips, do that. If you are into taking and sharing selfies on Instagram, do that. I also host a Facebook community. Social media services, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and more, can be utilised in multiple ways. Rather than selling, or even talking about what you offer, use these blog posts, emails, videos, comic strips, selfies, webinars, Facebook groups, social media services, and podcasts for adding value and giving information. Let the people come to you, ask for your products and services. Later, you can build up to sales and pitching within your content. Even then, keep the selling as a minor part, and adding value and giving information as the main point.
Not actively selling or pitching doesn't mean you can slack or just wait for people to come to you. Obviously marketing doesn't happen by pushing a button or sitting on your butt. It requires work. However, if you run a business, want to make sales or gain email subscribers, spread your ideas or get a job, you must work for it. Some of your hard work with marketing will fail. Some of it will work out. There are no guarantees a method that worked for someone else will work for you. Therefore effective marketing requires lots of ongoing research, testing, measuring and adjusting. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes resources. Without all those, your marketing will not make results.
Keep in mind that nothing will happen and results won't come over night. An overnight success requires patience, building audiences, testing and adjusting, creating products and services. And many many failures. There's lots of trial and error involved in it. I don't say this to scare you off. I say this for you to be ready and prepared.
Eventually marketing isn't that difficult nor it's such an alien concept. It's creating, communicating and delivering. It's bringing a product, service, idea, skill set or other offering to markets. The purpose of marketing can be building awareness, helping, communicating, building trust, converting and closing. Marketing is not just selling or promoting, while sales and promotion are part of marketing. Marketing is more than buying ad space and coming up with calls to action. There are many other ways to market, including offering information and helping other people.