Why Marketing Isn't Just One "Thing"
Updated: Sep 21
As a marketing consultancy, it is fascinating (and baffling!) to us how those external to the industry seem to lump all of the skillsets and facets associated with the discipline into one, all encompassing thing. Normally, we’d try to find a more descriptive word than thing but in this case, it describes it so well. To those not in the industry, marketing seems to be viewed as a single giant beast.
We’d like to say that this is similar to other practices we’re not familiar with, however it doesn't appear to be the same with other industries. You don’t expect your GP to perform surgery on you or indeed your decorators to take out a wall of your house. Do you expect your building surveyor to rewire your house? So why do we look at marketers and expect them to be experts in all the professional verticals? Why is marketing regarded as one whole thing and not as separate specialities within an industry?
Marketing's Image Problem
Part of the problem is that it has been exacerbated by the industry itself. Disciplines have been broken down into separate specialisms but we still refer to them under the marketing umbrella. Maybe this is because it helps define the skills more easily to customers. Most seem to be familiar with SEO now; what it is, what it stands for but at the beginning, it was quite the alien concept. So layman's terms would have been employed in order to explain where these services sat. It meant that clients could immediately grasp what department this practice was part of and of course, "marketing" helps with your SEO - reflecting what prospects are searching for.
Unfortunately, this has lead to confusion on the side of the sector's customer base. With all disciplines being referred to as "marketing", there are few differentiators for prospects to easily decipher what it is they actually need. Thus resulting in frustrations that are really caused by a misunderstanding of expectations; e.g. what a supplier is delivering and what a customer is asking.
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So What Is Marketing?
Web designers, Illustrators, SEO practitioners, Copywriters, Advertisers are all in marketing, they just aren't all marketing, they are specialists.
Let’s use the GP analogy to simplify that. GPs, surgeons, paramedics and nurses are all in medicine. They are all medical professions but their specialisms are very different. It is the same in Marketing.
Your CMO, Head of Marketing or Marketing Manager are most likely to be GPs of marketing. They will know a little about a lot. Have a wide spectrum of knowledge on a number of topics and will view them holistically and in context of the wider business objectives, depending how senior they are.
Your specialists will know a lot about a little. Their knowledge will be extremely deep in their chosen skill and when they work, it will only be within the context of that very topic, not necessarily the wider business aims.
Making Marketing Work
You need both to make marketing work. Not necessarily all in house. Naturally that’s the dream but that isn’t always practical or doable. So you need to realistically look at the areas of marketing you want to focus on, where your skill gaps are and which facet is most important to the business at this time.
If you do not have a Head of Marketing, you’re most likely going to have to act that role yourself. You (or they) are the glue that holds the pieces together. They are the manager of the team. So they need to steer their players into producing assets or activity which works towards the overall goal.
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Each piece needs to work together to ensure effective promotion. And not just that, and here’s the absolute clincher … your marketing needs to align to your overall business objectives not just marketing ones.
If your marketing isn’t aligned to your business goals, however tenuously, why are you doing it?
If your marketing is performing strongly and you have the cash and the time, by all means, indulge in those nice-to-have projects (what a place to be in!) but if it isn’t, stick to activity that is going to have a positive impact on your goals.
Would you fly to Canada on a business trip if you weren’t looking for customers there? No. Don’t do something in your marketing that isn’t also following your business goals.
You can’t separate marketing from the business because it’s your voice, your tone, your image, it’s everybody in the business representing the company. It’s their visible personas that customers put on your business - why would you treat something as precious as your reputation as an afterthought?
Marketing isn’t a luxury and it isn’t a standalone department. It is absolutely necessary to the performance and growth of your business. Take advantage of its power and get yourself out there effectively.
Is your industry regarded as a "whole thing" or are you lucky enough to be separated out? Perhaps that comes with its own problems. What do you wish people knew about your industry? Share your wisdom in the comments below.