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Back to basics: what is marketing?

Many people associate the term “marketing” with thoughts of advertising, exhibitions and corporate events. But these are just the tools that can be used to achieve a desired outcome - part of a planned programme to achieve specific objectives.

Marketing is, of course, a much broader discipline and one that is fundamental to making a business more successful - it may involve all, some or none of the activities suggested above.

Fundamentally, marketing is understanding what your customer want and making sure that your business meets those needs to both your and the customers’ benefit.

Under this definition, any company that has people responsible for product development, sales, customer services, technical services, publicity or business development is involved in marketing - whether it uses that job title or not. Marketing is not just the domain of the marketing (or ‘colouring in’) department.

The labels that you give to the people involved in the marketing process are not important. What is important though is that the management of the business think about the marketing issues that affect their organisation and the markets within which it operates.

  • Who are your customers? Not just their names but the type of businesses they are? Big? Small? Specialist? General? National? Local? Do they fit into recognisable categories? And do they behave in similar ways?
  • What do they want from you? What do they actually want from you? Product? Service? Both? What elements of service? And what do they want to do with the product?
  • Why do they buy from you, rather than a competitor? It’s not always price. Availability, specialisation, services, quality and reliability can all be factors that get you the order rather than a competitor.
  • Do you meet their needs? And is this better or worse than their expectation?
  • Can you satisfy their needs and make money at the same time? Is the price the customer is prepared to pay too low? Can they use an alternative that is more cost-effective (not necessarily cheaper) than what you can offer?
  • Who are your competitors? Often it’s not just a company that does the same product or service as you. Customers in the construction industry often have a lot of choice in how they build a building, for example.

Trying to answer these questions will make a significant contribution to making the business a lot more successful.

Business or marketing plans that address these issues will provide direction for the management team and employees of the company to understand what it’s all about and what is expected of them.

That, in essence, is marketing.

Strategies will determine tactics, which could in turn lead to the traditional face of marketing: advertising, PR, exhibitions, corporate events, sales team structure, etc, but only if they are appropriate - both in terms of cost but also relevance to the objectives.

Ian Exall is the marketing manager at shower manufacturer Aqualisa and chairman of CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.

CIMCIG is the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group. CIMCIG assists marketers working in the construction industry. Whether they work for contractors, manufacturers, professional practices, materials suppliers, information providers or specialist marketing consultants. Membership of CIMCIG is over 800 and growing. For further details visit


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