Marketing – It’s Not What You Think

Ask ten people what their definition of marketing is and you’ll probably get eleven different answers. Ask your brother-in-law, the one with the MBA from Wharton, and you’ll most likely hear him define marketing using lots of professional jargon.

I found a website listing 72 different definitions of marketing. When I read some of these definitions, I thought about my clients trying to make sense of these definitions and struggling to create and implement a marketing campaign. If I’m dazed by these definitions, I could imagine what my clients might be feeling.

Before I present my definition of marketing (I hope mine can be added as #73 on the list), here’s what marketing isn’t:

  • Producing flyers, brochures, or any printed promotional material
  • Building a website
  • Tweeting, blogging, or posting on Facebook
  • Using public relations
  • Going to the grocery store

The promotional/communication tactics listed above are implemented after defining marketing goals, objectives, and strategies.

Most definitions of marketing focus on creating strategies and tactics to build a marketing plan to sell products. These marketing models are transactional.

To demonstrate key points of the transactional model, we’ll use selling a garden hose.

      • Customers have more than one purchasing option. They can buy a 6-foot hose or 10-foot hose.
      • It’s easy to sell value. The hose has a lifetime guaranty and comes with two types of nozzles, etc. What a deal
      • There’s little emotional involvement when considering buying a garden hose.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t get worked up or emotionally engaged when considering purchasing a garden hose.
      • Whether you’re online or visiting a retail store, traditional sales techniques are used to persuade you to purchase the hose. The salesperson and online product descriptions tout the features and benefits of the hose.

My marketing model is relational not transactional.  It focuses on building and maintaining vital business relationships before the sale.

Let’s use the example of a financial planner to demonstrate key points about the relational model.

The sale is consultative. Potential clients need to be educated on what a financial planner does and what benefit the client will receive from the planner’s services. Consequently, the consultative sales process takes time. Also, potential clients go online and do their homework prior to purchasing the services. They check out the financial planner’s credentials and any reviews. They also comparative shop, looking at other financial planners. Clearly, hiring a financial planner is not an impulse purchase.

  The financial planner provides one service. Of course, the delivery of the service is tailored to the unique needs of the client.

•  It’s a challenge to sell perceived value. Perceived value is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the buyer of the financial planner’s service and ability to satisfy client needs. You pay for the financial planner’s knowledge, experience, insights, and skills, not just for the time spent working with you.

  • There is a high level of emotional involvement in a client’s decision to hire a financial planner. Potential clients might get ‘sticker shock’ when it comes time to discuss fees. Once again, the potential client needs time to make the decision to engage the services of the financial planner.
  • For the most part, financial planners depend on referral sources and word-of-mouth from current and former clients for business.

Let’s dive into my model of marketing. Plain and simple: marketing is about creating a care and feeding program to develop and sustain connections and relationships with those in a position to refer business to you and those who will directly purchase your services.

Strategic Relationships

There are two types of strategic relationships:

  1. Prospective and existing customers or clients
  2. Individuals who are in a position to refer customers or clients (referral sources) to you.

What do I mean by managing strategic relationships? First, let’s break down this definition.

Management. I use the term management to describe any activity you do to keep your marketing engine running. Whether you’re self-employed or own a small business, there are certain planning activities you have to do prior to initiating and maintaining relationships. This includes everything from compiling names for a newsletter to putting together timelines for the distribution of promotional information (online or in print).

Your job is to create, implement, and manage a plan that takes care of and feeds your strategic relationships.

Strategic. The word strategic describes something important and vital.  Certain relationships are vital and others are not. For example, you might have identified primary, secondary, and tertiary target groups or market segments. You might consider your primary target group as your vital group-the group who is most likely to refer customers or most likely to be your primary customer. This would be your primary strategic relationship.

Relationships. There are two goals involved in building and maintaining relationships. In my relational model, your first job is to build a relationship using methods such as sharing content via social media or your blog or attending events where you’re most likely to meet customer or referrers. Your second job is to delight customers or clients so much that they will return.

If you want to start a web-based business, don’t fool yourself into thinking that all you have to do is build a website, post content on Facebook (or other social media platforms), collect lots of followers on Twitter, blog your brains out, or send blast emails.  How can you develop meaningful strategic relationships this way?

Marketing is the management of strategic relationships. It’s a care and feeding program you create for those in a position to refer business to you and those customers who want to purchase your product or service.

In the next installment of Marketing – It’s Not What You Think, I’ll give you a real-life example of how I used marketing as the management of strategic relationships to sell a service.    

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

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