It was when I was in b-school that I realized that marketing is the most important function in a business. Finance and human resources are important, but come later, once you have a business and people. Product development and operations seem more fundamental, but think about it: until you think of the customer, of who you’re making the product (or providing the service) for, you haven’t got much of a business. And that, that thinking of the person who’s going to pay you for doing what you do, and thinking of how you are going to get them to buy what you have to sell, how you make the product better so they want to buy it: that’s marketing.
And when you put it that way, it’s what you start doing before you set up a business and hire people; before you start working on that marvelous new software idea you have. It starts when you say, “Oh, this will be a great concept, and this product is going to help people do that.”
Marketing is thinking about the customer, and acting on that thought. It’s trying to develop the best product, or improve on the product you have already got. It’s trying to provide the best service, so that your customers are happy. It’s trying to put your best foot forward, all the time. It’s trying to present your best face, to publicize all the great things about you. It’s trying to sell. And while these last two things are what is usually meant when someone says “marketing”, the word encompasses all the others too.
So marketing isn’t just what you do as a business. It’s also what you do as a person. It’s how you dress up for an interview. It’s how you smile and say “Good morning” to your department head, because that’s the person who’s going to sign off your next pay rise. It’s how you give that email one final look and remove typos and add a more cheery spin to the bad news. It’s making sure that everything that goes out in your name – each email (internal or external), each document, every phone call – is as immaculate as possible. It’s building a brand for yourself.
That part of marketing is communication. You communicate that you’re an amazingly competent person who loves his or her job.
Marketing is also strategy, as when you decide what you are going to sell: what product, what service, what skills among those that you possess. What skills in yourself, or what features in your product, are you going to improve or enhance so that you become that much better to your customer (who may just be your boss, or even your girlfriend).
So, what do you think of marketing? How do you use it in your professional or personal life?