When you consider the functional areas of business—accounting, finance, management, marketing, and operations—marketing is the one you probably know the most about. After all, as a consumer and target of all sorts of advertising messages, you’ve been on the receiving end of marketing initiatives for most of your life. What you probably don’t appreciate, however, is the extent to which marketing focuses on providing value to the customer. According to the American Marketing Association, “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
In other words, marketing isn’t just advertising and selling. It includes everything that organizations do to satisfy customer needs:
- Coming up with a product or service and defining its features and benefits
- Setting its price
- Identifying its target market
- Making potential customers aware of it
- Getting people to buy it
- Delivering it to people who buy it
- Managing relationships with customers after it has been delivered
Think about a typical business—a local movie theatre, for example. It’s easy to see how the person who decides what movies to show is involved in marketing: he or she selects the product to be sold. It’s even easier to see how the person who puts ads in the newspaper works in marketing: he or she is in charge of advertising—making people aware of the product and getting them to buy it. What about the ticket seller and the person behind the counter who gets the popcorn and soda or the projectionist? Are they marketing the business? Absolutely. The purpose of every job in the theatre is satisfying customer needs, and as we’ve seen, identifying and satisfying customer needs is what marketing is all about. Marketing is a team effort involving everyone in the organization.
If everyone is responsible for marketing, can the average organization do without an official marketing department? Not necessarily: most organizations have marketing departments in which individuals are actively involved in some marketing-related activity—product/service design and development, pricing, promotion, sales, and distribution. As specialists in identifying and satisfying customer needs, members of the marketing department manage, plan, organize, lead, and control the organization’s overall marketing efforts.
The Marketing Concept
The following flowchart is designed to remind you that to achieve company profitability goals, you need to start with three things:
1. Find out what customers or potential customers need.
2. Develop products/services to meet those needs.
3. Engage the entire organization in efforts to satisfy customers.
At the same time, you need to achieve organizational goals, such as profitability and growth. This basic philosophy—satisfying customer needs while meeting organizational goals—is called the marketing concept, and when it’s effectively applied, it guides all of an organization’s marketing activities.
The marketing concept puts the customer first: as your most important goal, satisfying the customer must be the goal of everyone in the organization. But this doesn’t mean that you ignore the bottom line; if you want to survive and grow, you need to make some profit. What you’re looking for is the proper balance between the commitments to customer satisfaction and company survival. Consider the case of Medtronic, a manufacturer of medical devices, such as pacemakers and defibrillators. The company boasts more than 50 percent of the market in cardiac devices and is considered the industry standard setter. Everyone in the organization understands that defects are intolerable in products that are designed to keep people alive. Thus, committing employees to the goal of zero defects is vital to both Medtronic’s customer base and its bottom line. “A single quality issue,” explains CEO Arthur D. Collins Jr., “can deep-six a business”.