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What is marketing?

In short, marketing means communicating the value of a product or service to customers for the purpose of making a sale. As a standalone definition, however, that doesn’t offer much in the way of practical understanding or actionable advice. So here are two essential marketing ingredients that may make a little more sense: the message and the delivery mechanism.

The Message

What does it mean to communicate value to potential customers? Value, essentially, is something that a customer will find useful, informative, entertaining, and, more importantly, it’s something they’ll be willing to pay for.

To communicate value, marketers and salesmen typically present the benefits of an offer through a value proposition, which is a vendor’s promise of the benefits that the customer will receive. A slogan, sales copy, and even visual design elements all contribute to communicating a value proposition to customers.

These terms may be new to you, so we’ll illustrate their meaning with a few real-world examples.

Wherever you are, wherever they are – Skype keeps you together. What people really value in Skype is the ability it offers to stay in touch with people all around the world. This tagline is an excellent embodiment of the benefits that the customers really want from the service and it communicates that message clearly and concisely.

Create professional client proposals in minutes. Bidsketch’s value proposition gets straight to the point and presents its core function in no-nonsense terms. Its customers value the time-saving features of the product, so this is another good example of a value proposition that clearly delivers the product benefits.

The best web hosting starting at $5.99 $3.95/month. Bluehost’s front page (at the time of this writing) presents two core benefits right off the bat: quality web hosting at a low price. As with the previous tagline, this one communicates the benefits immediately through a concise value proposition.

Website Design, Online Marketing, & Mobile App Development with Stunning Results. Blue Fountain Media’s front page delivers a clear message that encapsulates their services – design, marketing, and app development – followed by the benefits that customers are after – “stunning results.” Results, of course, are what all businesses strive for, so it makes sense for B2B value propositions to promise results.

The message should always be followed by a call-to-action, which tell the customer what they need to do to receive the benefits of the message. Typical online calls-to-action include sign-up forms, “Buy Now” buttons, email hyperlinks, and so forth.

Take a look at any of the above examples, or any of your favorite online services, and you will begin to see this same structure repeat itself over and over.

The Delivery

The other half of the message is the delivery mechanism. The message’s delivery includes everything from the medium and format of communication to the technology used.

The purpose of the delivery is to draw customers closer towards the purchase. Often this is accomplished through the use of a purchase funnel. Marketing and delivery methods can include everything from paid advertising to search engine optimization to social media marketing, blogging, and more.

Though a systemic overview of delivery mechanisms would take too long, we’ll cover a few broad examples here:

The Web – Search engine marketing, search engine optimization, and blogging are some of the most fundamental methods of online marketing. Websites are often the final points of business-to-customer contact, so they are considered by some to be the most vital. Delivering your message effectively over the web requires a team that handles the technical aspects of SEO, website performance, as well as an effective sales approach that uses design and written copy to deliver your message clearly and concisely.

Social Media – Social networks have risen to prominence and people now spend more time on social media than any other online activity. Companies can deliver their message on social media directly – through their own social media accounts – or through paid advertising. Effective delivery on social media is often indirect, since most people are turned off by hard sales…after all, people get on social media to interact with their friends, not be sold to. Shareable content that is entertaining and informative is the way to go for most marketers.

AdvertisingPaid advertising is everywhere, from apps to websites to social media to YouTube, TV, radio, print, and more. Ads usually have a small amount of space to deliver the message, so a compact message with a compact call-to-action are required to generate any traffic from an ad.

 

Marketing is an interdisciplinary and creative field, and there are countless ways to express your message and reach your customers. These two main ingredients – the message and the delivery – may provide a basis for understanding the gist of the field, but it will take much, much more study to become proficient.