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The term marketing has become so embedded in our daily vocabulary that asking “What is Marketing?” seems almost like a trick question.

Marketing (graphic).

“Marketing is marketing. What do you mean what is marketing?” 

Let me shift the question slightly: As a small-business owner, when are you marketing and when are you not?

In short: Marketing is all the actions you perform to take an idea from a concept in your head to product or service in the market. And that includes everything from developing your idea while sipping your early-morning coffee in all your pajama'd glory to building relationships with potential clients, and to actually selling your product to interested parties. So what is marketing, practically speaking? Let's dive right in!

I think we can all safely agree that when you’re running an ad for your products or services—whether online or offline—you’re marketing those products or services to an audience. (And let’s hold off the distinction between marketing and advertising for now, though that too will come into play later on in this discussion.)

  • But what about when you’re writing a Facebook post or update that’s not directly selling your products (though it may link to them). Are you marketing then?
  • Or what about when you get on the phone with a client or answer a client’s email. Are you marketing in those moments?
  • Or to go further still, what about when you’re sitting at home sipping your early-morning coffee in all your pajama'd glory and developing in your mind a new product or service you could create for your market while absent-mindedly chewing on the end of an old pencil. Is that marketing?

The short, and perhaps shocking, the answer is: Yes, to all of the above.

You are indeed marketing in all of those moments whether you realize it or not. 

So what is then this elusive marketing thing and how can you utilize it for growing your small business? Let’s take things from the beginning, shall we? First, how do we define marketing?

More Than Just Selling: The 4 P’s of Marketing

There are four Ps traditionally included in the definition of marketing:

  • The identification, selection, and development of a product.
  • The determination of its price.
  • The promotion you create around that product to raise awareness.
  • The selection of a distribution channel or place where the product will be available to the customer.

Or, as I like to say for a simpler explanation and for utilizing the root of the term “marketing” itself: 

Marketing is everything and anything you do take a product to the market.

And that definition of marketing includes everything from creating the product, to promoting the product, and to physically taking the product to the market.

As you see, marketing extends far beyond simply promoting a product (which is what most people usually mean when they say they’ll do some marketing), in both directions of the product promotion.

Marketing begins from the moment you begin developing your idea into a product and extends far beyond your promotional efforts until the created product reaches your customer’s hands.

Marketing, Branding, and Advertising: What’s the Difference?

Before analyzing further what marketing is and how you do it, let’s first define what marketing is not, so we have a clearer picture of the subject at hand.

I already mentioned running an ad for your product claiming as being part of marketing. So are marketing and advertising the same thing?

Not exactly. 

Advertising is the specific actions a business owner takes to draw attention towards a product or service. Collectively, we called those actions “advertisements” and they can range from printing a flyer to post around your neighborhood to running an international TV or Facebook video ad and everything in between.

Since promoting your product should be part of your marketing efforts, advertising becomes a subsection of your marketing strategy. 

Your marketing strategy will likely include advertising, but should also extend to other forms of promotion beyond formal advertising such as social media engagement, product giveaways, free trials, blogging, etc. (But more on those later…)

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Marketing strategy (graphic).

You may also have heard about a little thing called “branding” that your business also needs. But if everything from the conception and creation of a product to its pricing and placement in the market is marketing, then what is branding?

To put it shortly, branding is the character you decide to create for your company and which will also extend to each product or service your offer. 

Marketing is how you implement and display that character in the process of taking your product to the market.

If you want to dig deeper into the details and mechanics of branding, then sink your teeth into this article dedicated to small-business branding:

Also note that at our Envato Market you can purchase ready-to-use brand assets.

Getting Your Hands Dirty: What is Marketing in Practical Terms?

Now that we’ve seen the bird’s-eye overview of what marketing is, let’s swoop down to get a closer view of what marketing can be in more practical terms. How do you market something from concept to customer?

Product Development

First in our four Ps of marketing was the identification, selection, and development of a product. Remember the pajama scene I painted above where you’re developing a new product in your head while sipping your morning coffee?

That’s a necessary process of marketing (pajamas optional) because you can’t simply develop the first idea that ever pops into your head hoping that it will work or, even worse, thinking that with some good “marketing” or promotion you’ll make it work.

In order to successfully market a product, you have to start with a good product. And a good product isn’t simply a good-quality product but a product that’s fit for the market.

That’s why the first step of marketing is called market research. Before you start running wild with your idea like it’s a pair of scissors, you need to first validate that idea.

Is your idea for a product or service unique or does it already exist in the market? If it already exists, what is its current state? How is it offered and how is it perceived by customers?

Are there any major flaws or drawbacks in the current products available in the market that your idea will solve? If so, how?

What will make your product unique and why should customers prefer it over another product?

Is there room in the market for new products or have big-name companies already saturated the field?

Many of these questions touch upon branding points that you need to consider, but also fall under your general marketing strategy. You want to avoid making a product that lacks demand, or try to compete with an established product from a larger and much more well-known company, that is if you expect it to succeed in your marketing efforts.

Marketing begins from the minute you begin thinking about your product and thinking how you will market that product.

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Marketing research (graphic).

Price Establishment

Once you’ve done your market research and fully developed your product idea, the next step is to establish the price of your product or service.

Determining your product’s price can’t happen randomly and there are many factors you need to take into consideration that will affect the marketing of your product.

The first and most obvious question to ask is: how much will it cost you in time and labor to create your product so you can establish your profit margins?

But you also have to consider the price of similar products in the market. You can’t price your product at three times the price of a similar product in the market. Not if it doesn’t have any major advantages over your competitors’ products or if it doesn’t belong to a high-end brand that can back its price.

And just like you don’t want to overprice your product, you also want to be careful not to underprice your effort.

First of all, if you market your product at too low a price, you may end up losing money instead of gaining money from your sales. But there are also other adverse effects. People may automatically think that your product is of low quality. Or they may think that it must be faulty or problematic.

Choosing the right price point for your product is crucial for entering your market at the right level and marketing your product successfully.

Promotional Campaigns

This is the part of marketing that’s most well-known and that many people erroneously consider the whole deal around marketing. But while promotion is only one part of your marketing strategy, it's an important part. 

Your product or services promotions can include paid advertisements, as noted above, but it can and should also include other actions such as: 

  • Talking about your product on social media whether in a directly or indirectly promotional way.
  • Engaging with other people talking about your product (or products related to yours) on social media.
  • Answering customer questions and providing impeccable customer service (because what your customers say about your products and services to others will have a much greater impact on your marketing efforts than any amount of paid advertising you ever do).
  • Giving away free samples or trials of your products or services to increase trust with potential customers.
  • Sending a weekly newsletter and/or regularly blogging about issues that concern your customers (and that are not always explicitly promotional or self-serving) to develop and cultivate trust and a relationship with your customers.
  • Being present as a sponsor or participant at events that interest your ideal customers but may not be directly related to your product or industry. (This is why energy sports, for example, often become sponsors or offer free products during community fitness events and races.)
  • Partnering with other business owners in related fields and offering your products or services as complementary packages to theirs. (For example, if you produce videos for online courses, you can team up with an instructor who teaches how to create online courses and offer your services to their primed audience at a discount price or an introductory offer.)

To put it briefly, anything and everything that promotes your product or service to the wider market, whether through paid campaigns or casual engagement with potential clients, is part of your marketing promotion.

Place of Distribution

If people have to walk through a desert and swim through turbulent waters to get to a place where your product is available, guess what? No one will buy and all your marketing efforts will fail.

The availability of your product at all the right places forms the final part of your marketing. Because customers have to be able to find your product for sale where it’s convenient for them.

Should your product be available online, at local shops, or both? What are the pros and cons of each options? Who’s your ideal audience? People in a local community attending a specific event, for example, or a world-wide market with a specific hobby?

Answering these questions (which can form part of your initial market research) and understanding your ideal customer’s buying behavior will play a crucial role in the success or failure of your marketing efforts.

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Marketing distribution (graphic).

Types of Marketing

81. That’s how many types of marketing I counted in the relevant wikipedia entry. 81 types of marketing all with links to other pages for full explanations.

Holy Moly! Does that mean you need to be doing all that marketing in order stand a chance in the market?

Panic, Shock, Horror, Gasp!

Relax. Take a breath. And no, you don’t.

Marketing can become quite an involved business if you break it down into all its separate parts and dig deep into the potential of each one.

As you know large companies, even medium-sized companies in fact, have entire departments dedicated to marketing with various chiefs and managers leading entire teams into well-orchestrated marketing campaigns.

Does that mean your small business stands no chance of succeeding at marketing and should give up on the idea all together?

Of course not!

What you do need to do, however, is find and discover the marketing actions that can work for your company (at your level). Then you can create a lean and efficient marketing plan that will not only bring results for your company but also stop you from constantly thinking and worrying about your marketing!

With the internet having become a constant part of our lives, most small-business owners will get the greatest return on their marketing investment from online types of marketing. This is true especially for businesses that deal with web-based products and services such as website design, web development, coding, video editing, animations, web graphics, audio production, game development, etc.

Online marketing can include paid advertising in various online channels such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

Email marketingEmail marketingEmail marketing
Email marketing (graphic).

But it can also include other types of indirect marketing that boosts sales through the building of trust between company and clients and require far smaller budgets than formal advertising campaigns. And email marketing is perhaps the most efficient and cost effective way of achieving these results:

Also, you can purchase professional email templates at an affordable price though our Envato Market. If you're on a budget, but need a quality solution, jump over and browse through the hundreds of designs made for popular email platforms, such as MailChimp and Campaign Monitor.

Of course, it’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. Which means you should try to diversify your marketing efforts to reach as many people as possible through different channels. But because keeping your sanity and managing your time effectively should be your number-one priority (as already mentioned earlier), it’s also a good idea to build a good system for your marketing efforts to keep you organized and on track:

And marketing doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. As a small-business owner, you may not have the million-dollar marketing budgets that the “big kids” have, but you can get creative with your marketing and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, as the saying goes:

How Do You Define Marketing?

What is marketing to you and how do you do it? What do your marketing efforts consist in and which activities have brought the greatest return for your marketing time and dollars?

Share on the forum with us and all the other small-business owners interested in ramping up their marketing game!

Marketing Resources at Envato

We have a number of resources at Envato you can use to build affordable marketing campaigns, such as: website themes, email marketing templates, and branding assets on Envato Market.

Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2016. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.

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