My Favorite Definition of Marketing

Karen Janowski

Karen Janowski

by Karen Janowski of Traction Team

I find that many startup CEOs carry around – but may not verbalize – a definition of marketing as one or more of the following:

  • getting buzz online and in traditional media
  • generating leads for the sales force to follow up
  • social media, websites, search engine optimization
  • collateral material to support selling
  • branding, tagline, logo, corporate identity
  • a black hole for spending money

Then, there are traditional definitions such as “the 4 P’s” (product, place, promotion, and price).  I recall a somewhat tongue-in-cheek definition by a former colleague (applied to businesses where the sales were strictly through retail storefronts):  “Sales is in charge of getting the products on the shelf and marketing is responsible for moving them off.”

But of all the definitions of marketing found in the business literature and offered by various wags and pundits, my very favorite is by the late Theodore Levitt, revered Harvard Business School professor. Levitt had a knack for simplifying complex ideas and enlightening businesspeople.   In his seminal article, “Marketing Myopia,” he writes that the marketing process is:

“a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse and satisfy customer needs”

I love this definition because it is both succinct and encompassing.

Marketing discovers customer needs through research, observation, analysis, lurking in social media, testing product concepts and so on.   Marketing helps to create customer needs by supporting invention and launching new products into the marketplace.  “Arousing customer needs” is an intriguing phrase that encapsulates the concepts of getting a product noticed and awakening in customers the desire to purchase it.  And, finally, satisfying customer needs brings the whole process to a happy conclusion in which satisfied customers repeatedly purchase from the company and recommend the products to others.  This last piece is the measure of a product’s success, what we call “traction” –  paying customers who love your product and recommend it to others.

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