Welcome to Marketing 101!
This is the first in a series of about some of the basics of marketing. The series is designed for everyone – whether you’re already a social media smartypants or you’re working on building your blog, your brand, or your business; whether you need to know more about all the marketers approaching you about your blog, or you’re just curious about the marketing jargon flying around the internet and the stories behind those crazy companies who try to sell you stuff.
To help set the stage, let me tell you a bit about my background. I received an MBA from the Ross School of Business at The University of Michigan and have worked in marketing for more than a decade including for companies like Kraft Foods and Campbell's Soup. Many of my examples will be from the world of Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) or, in other words, stuff you can buy in a grocery store. Both because that's a marketing world I know well and because we have all shopped in a grocery store, so such examples should be easy to grok.
I hope you'll all jump in and add your perspective, understanding and questions. I have a set of topics planned but I would love to cover the topics and questions you have. So with that, let's get started!What is Marketing?
The exchange of information between buyers and sellers
I wear shoes. I like cute, functional shoes. If all the people who make and sell shoes never told me about their shoes, I would be frustrated and barefoot. I really hate going barefoot, so I’m happy to learn about their shoes. But as much as I hate going barefoot, I also hate ugly, painful shoes. I'm not going to continue to buy ugly shoes that hurt my feet. If I tell the people who make and sell the shoes what I think is cute, and functional -- what I would gladly pay for -- the shoe manufacturers are happy because ultimately they can offer shoes that people like me are happy to buy.
Sellers gather information from buyers and develop goods and services. They communicate what they have to sell, and the benefits of their products (which is an umbrella term for goods, services, ideas, etc...), to potential buyers. Buyers then exchange money or other forms of payment for products from sellers.
This system of communication –- the exchange of information to facilitate the trading of products for payment (which can be money, credit, time, labor, attention, etc...) -- is marketing. As you can see, when done well it is a win-win for both buyers and sellers.Who Are The Buyers?
Customers and Consumers
You'll frequently see the terms "consumer" and "customer" bandied about, often used interchangeably. From my CPG perspective, there is a clear distinction. A manufacturer sells the goods they produce to a grocery store. Grocery stores are therefore their customers. Grocery stores however don't use the products that the manufacturers make. The people who do are the consumers (or, in tech terms, sometimes referred to as "end users") of the manufacturer's products. In this equation the manufacturer's consumers would be the grocery store's customers. Got that? Customers pay you for goods and services, consumers use goods and services. And sometimes they are one in the same.
Not everyone makes that distinction, however. Social media types in particular seem to have a deep distaste for the word "consumer" so customer is a safer choice to use when you're having a social media conversation. But, if you are getting pitched by or want to work with or consult for a company that does use this terminology (and many, if not most, of the companies who approach you do) it is important that you understand this fundamental difference.Who Are The Sellers?
B2C and B2B
Manufacturers who sell to retailers and whose products are used by consumers have different ways of marketing to customers and consumers. When they approach you to feature, advertise or promote something on your blog, they are marketing to consumers. The shorthand lingo for this is B2C or Business-to-Consumer.
Another example of B2C is television advertising of grocery store items. Manufacturers hire advertising agencies to create the ads and pay for the time to air them even though consumers don't buy products directly from them. However, by letting consumers know about the products they make, consumers will go to grocery stores and purchase them. This means then that grocery stores have to stock their shelves by buying the products from the manufacturers. Therefore B2C is a major and crucial component of a CPG marketing strategy.
B2B is another term you frequently see. An example of Business-to-Business marketing is shown on the show The Office. The fictional Dunder Mifflin sells paper to business customers not to individual consumers. Another example might be companies that manufacture copiers and printers. The manufacturer of copiers would use B2B marketing for selling to offices and would use B2C marketing for individual printers for home use.Why Should Bloggers Or Anybody Else Care About Marketing
Let me give an example that can help you think about where you might fit in this marketing system as a blogger. Not all payments have to come in the form of cold hard cash. As a blogger you are selling your words and you might hope to be rewarded in the form of readers. You can then market yourself by providing information about your product, soliciting feedback from your readers and improving your product by writing more of what they want to read and less of what they don't.
Even if you aren't a blogger, we all market ourselves in some way in many situations. And we can be better and smarter as consumers and help marketers do a better job of communicating with us and providing the information we need and want when we understand the process.
In this series I am going to primarily focus on B2C marketing and will generally use the term consumers.
Now that we are on to the same page with our lingo we are ready to go! Let me know what you'd like to learn and I'll do my best to help.
A few smart marketing blogs:
Susan Getgood - Marketing Roadmaps
Toby Bloomberg - Diva Marketing Blog
Nancy Friedman - Fritinancy
Maria Niles blogs about marketing to consumers at Fizz from ConsumerPop.
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