What do you think of when you consider the role of marketing in a business? Like most, you're probably thinking of the process of creating graphics, brochures, websites or posting on social media. Unfortunately, it is marketers themselves that have proliferated this perception over recent decades by focusing on communications, or comms for short, rather than the true concept behind the role - being strategic.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that the true role of marketing has been lost amongst tactical activities, such as those mentioned above. Surely, creating logos is the task of a graphic designer, and creating websites is for web developers? Yes, but actually marketing is all about understanding the needs of the customer and then creating value in response to that understanding. But hang on, it’s the business that creates value, right? Yes, absolutely, but some do so considerably more effectively than others. And they are rewarded for doing so too. When this occurs it is known as achieving ‘competitive advantage’, and it’s a rare and very precious thing. It’s also a shared component of successful businesses.
How do we achieve competitive advantage?
If businesses simply replicate the same product as other businesses, there are no advantages for the consumer to buy from one supplier over another. If a business creates a superior product, then it can expect to achieve higher profitability as a result. This is competitive advantage. Maintaining that advantage over time has become more challenging than ever due to advances in technology and the availability of knowledge. Competition is high. This is where marketers can play a key role in helping businesses to firstly understand the market and the consumer, and then to help shape those products or services that will potentially provide a competitive advantage.
The true role of marketing
The challenge faced by marketers is that many businesses simply want the tactics, not the strategy. Market-orientation and understanding consumer preferences tends to get pushed down the list of priorities amongst organisations that are preoccupied with the day-to-day minutiae of business. Dealing with issues like that looming deadline or choosing the phone contract that presents the best deal often get in the way of understanding the people who ultimately put food on the table - your clients! Sure, marketing is a broad church and does include tactics like branding and creative activities, but more importantly it’s the catalyst to adopting a company-wide approach to being consumer-oriented in order to achieve greater profitability.
So, to summarise, it's those organisations that choose to consciously adopt a strategic approach as opposed to randomly spreading comms that are going to reap the rewards. Don't get me wrong, comms are an important aspect of marketing, but without strategy, those comms are considerably less impactful and ill-targeted.
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