Marketing encompasses all activities that facilitate the exchange of goods and services. Broadly differentiated into business to consumer marketing (B2C) and business to business marketing (B2B), these promotional activities aid in the transactional process by providing information about offered products to interested parties, improving the business/client relationship, and anticipating the needs of consumers through product development and improvement. Not to be limited to advertising, marketing is more inclusive than merely providing promotional information. Marketing is an ongoing process that should inform all business strategy decisions.
Marketing activities are usually classified according to the Four Ps:
- Product–The good or service that is being offered for sale or exchange is identified, designed, and developed.
- Price–Products are valuated and priced according to a number of market criteria, but is most dependent on what buyers are willing to pay.
- Place–Distribution of the product is critical to sales and can include considerations of location, exclusive distribution or franchising.
- Promotion–This involves the dissemination of information about the product, its price, and availability. Promotion is typically the greatest part of a marketing professional’s responsibilities.
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Although different marketing approaches emphasize different aspects of marketing, the most prevalent approach today is the Market Orientation model. This model focuses on the customer’s needs, desires and tastes in order to produce a good or service that satisfies the customer. In this model, all business decisions are subject to the overall strategy of customer satisfaction. Marketing research would gather information about desirable product features; research & development would engineer a product that possesses such features; and promotions would determine the appropriate pricing, availability and advertising strategy.
In order to facilitate marketing, the modern marketing profession has developed a vital subspecialty: marketing research. Marketing research utilizes a variety of methods of gathering consumer information in order to ascertain the most viable marketing opportunities and challenges, evaluate ongoing marketing programs, and implement refinements to the marketing strategy. Once this quantitative and qualitative information is gathered, it is then analyzed with a focus on how positive consumer response can be optimized. Marketing research is often categorized as B2B and B2C, or as qualitative and quantitative.
Marketing research has taken on enormous importance as the business environment has become more competitive. This technically demanding discipline is expected to utilize the latest technologies and methodologies to analyze available data about consumer behavior and develop reliable predictions about that behavior in response to marketing actions. Marketing research is characterized by two important qualities
- Systematic–Marketing research should be rigorously tested by scientific methods. According to the empirical method, research should begin with a hypothesis that is proven or disproven by evidence.
- Objective–All data gathered should be as accurate as possible and should not be skewed by any pre-existing bias. Evaluations and conclusions based on the data should adhere strictly to the evidence, and not be improperly influenced by personal or professional bias, or by a desire to confirm the hypothesis.
Marketing research data is classified as primary or secondary data. Primary data is acquired through communication with or observation of consumers. Some common methods for primary data acquisition are questionnaires, polls, and interviews. Secondary data is gained through third parties who may have amassed the data through primary interactions, but for a different purpose. Primary data is often more trustworthy than secondary as methodologies for data obtainment may be questionable, so the source for secondary data is an important consideration. Although primary data is more reliable it can be expensive to acquire, so secondary data is often utilized despite its possible flaws.
Marketing research can be further refined according to market segmentation. Segmentation refers to the classification of a group of consumers according to important marketing characteristics, such as age, profession, income or product preference. Segmentation permits businesses to gain specific and detailed information about a target group of consumers, and then devote its limited resources to maximizing transactions within this segment.
Promotion of a business’ goods or services is the responsibility most commonly associated with marketing. As information delivery systems have improved from technological advancements, the platforms or channels available to marketing professionals have multiplied. Originally, promotion was limited to word of mouth and typically restricted to very small localities, but modern marketing can occur on a vast array of platforms.
- Print–This form of marketing is inclusive of newspapers, magazines, brochures, direct mail, and billboards. Although the importance of print marketing has diminished since the advent of the internet, it remains important due to its portability, durability, tactile satisfaction, and novelty. Print marketing materials will continue to play an important role in marketing as it often helps emphasize marketing efforts in other channels.
- Radio and Television–These broadcast mediums are important channels due to widespread access and considerable market penetration. Due to the high cost associated with these channels, considerable marketing research is utilized to ensure an optimal consumer response.
- Telemarketing–This form of push marketing has a very high conversion rate and is critical to many high end businesses. The high costs associated with the human capital outlay necessary for this type of marketing have been mitigated by the use of automation and precise market segmentation.
- Search Engine Marketing–This includes a number of organic and paid mechanisms for raising the ranking of a website in search engine results. The enhanced ranking should drive more internet visitor traffic to the business home page.
- Email Marketing–The use of emails to promote a business or product, or nurture a relationship with an existing or prospective customer is a part of almost all online marketing campaigns. This form of marketing has become revitalized as social media and mobile marketing generate more leads for email delivery.
- Social Media Marketing–The enormous number of visitors on popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter has made business promotion a must on these sites. More businesses are utilizing networking as a cost effective means of disseminating product and brand information to a large number of potential customers.
- Mobile Marketing–These emerging forms of marketing utilize technology and programs unique to mobile internet devices like smartphones and tablets. Many of the other online marketing strategies have been revised and customized to optimize marketing results on these increasingly popular devices.
According to ZenithOptimedia, businesses around the world are predicted to spend $489 billion on advertising and promotion in 2012. This is a 4.8% increase from 2011, and is expected to grow by 5.3% in 2013 and 6.1% in 2014. The marketing sector with the largest expected growth is the Internet related ones; by 2014, Internet ad spending is projected to grow by 35.1% to $118.94 billion.