Welcome to the first of this series of articles on eMarketing and Online Advertising on the Digit Magazine. Throughout the next few issues, I will walk you through the basics of eMarketing and show you several practical tips to do effective marketing for your brand/website on the worldwide web.
One fundamental mistake most self-proclaimed eMarketing experts are making is, to categorize eMarketing as a “techy business”. In fact, technology is only an enabler of eMarketing, but not the essence of it. Therefore it is utmost important for one to know the basics of Marketing, before learning the “e” version of the same devil. Trying to learn eMarketing without knowing the fundamentals of marketing is like trying to learn how to run, without even knowing how to stand on your own feet. So, let’s straight away get into business by learning the basics of marketing.
What is Marketing?
A common myth among most Sri Lankans is the idea that marketing is synonymous with selling. The emerging trend of “tele-marketing firms” who try to hard sell their products to us with extensive infomercials on TV, and door to door sales people who identify them selves as “marketing executives” are some of the reasons for our people to believe in this myth. Interestingly enough, management guru Peter Drucker says, “The aim of marketing is to make selling unnecessary”. This statement by Peter Drucker is a clear indication that Marketing is a much wider subject area than merely selling a product. If you do your marketing right, the product will sell by itself. Objective of marketing is to making it is unnecessary for the company to put extra efforts to sell their product.
Different professional bodies and institutions in the field of marketing have defined the concept in many different ways. I believe it should not be the objective of this series of articles to go into such detailed technical definitions of the subject. Instead, I will tell you my most favorite definition of marketing which I gathered from Philip Kotler. He defines marketing in one sentence to say, “Marketing is managing profitable customer relationships”. I believe this is the most concise and most meaningful definition of marketing. This definition captures the two extremes that the marketers have to balance in performing their job for the brand or the product they are representing. The two extremes are;
1) Earning profit for the company
2) Building customer relationships.
If your marketing activities achieve short-term profitability but lose valuable customers in the long-term as a result of making them dissatisfied with poor product quality or poor service; then you haven’t achieved success in your marketing efforts. On the other hand, if your marketing activities create ultra satisfied customers who are willing to buy from you for many more years, but not making a sizable profit for your company; then again you are in a losing proposition. The job of the marketer therefore is, to strike a balance between these two extremes.
While it is understandable that profit can be achieved by measurable financial decision, the question arise how do someone create lasting customer relationships in the process. The answer lies in the process of crating customer value. Therefore, marketing is essentially a process of creating customer values and demanding a profit from the customer for delivering such value. For example, think of the amount you are willing to pay more for a home visit doctor as compared to paying a visit to a doctor by yourself. The gap is usually very much greater than the cost of transportation to be incurred by either party (you or the doctor). You are willing to pay more for a home visit doctor, because you find it convenient. Convenience is a “customer value” created by the home visit doctor. You can now think of many more similar examples such as, meter taxis, home delivered Pizza, low fat food, etc. In each of these cases, the marketer is addressing a problem faced by the customer, which is not covered by a competitor’s offer. The customer is willing to pay a price higher than the cost of producing it, because customer sees “value” in possessing the product as a solution for the problem they face. Therefore to put it in a simple form, we can say that marketing is essentially is a customer value creation process.
In the process of value creation and delivery in the market place, a company is first taking a strategic approach to marketing and then operationalizes their strategies through tactical level marketing tools. This distinction between strategic marketing and tactical marketing will become very important when we move on to define eMarketing in the future. Almost all the stuff that we are going to learn as eMarketing will fall mostly into the categorization of tactical marketing. In other words, eMarketing merely is a medium of executing the marketing strategies developed by a company at a much broader level.
What is Strategy and What are Tactics?
My last two sentences in the above paragraph may become controversial among people who preach the words “emarketing Strategies”. If emarketing is only a tactical tool of executing a broader level marketing strategy, how can we see this many blog posts, ebooks, and sometimes, printed books been written on the topic “eMarketing Strategy”. The answer is very simple. The word “strategy” is the most commonly misused (abused; sometime even raped) word among many practicing managers and marketers. Most people do not see much of a difference between a strategy and a tactic. Therefore, they wrongly use the word “strategy” to identify all the actions they take in their marketing efforts. So what is strategy then? It’s a much argued word in modern management literature and I haven’t seen a consensus definition for this term so far. Therefore, I will stick to the definition of Henry Mintzberg, which is accepted as a well-established definition of business strategy. According to him strategy is
- A plan, a “how,” a means of getting from here to there.
- A pattern in actions over time; for example, a company that regularly markets very expensive products is using a “high end” strategy.
- Strategy is position; that is, it reflects decisions to offer particular products or services in particular markets.
- Strategy is perspective, that is, vision and direction.
In contrast, Micheal E Porter talks about “competitive strategy” where he defines strategy as “deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.” In short, Porter argues that strategy is about competitive position, about differentiating yourself in the eyes of the customer, about adding value through a mix of activities different from those used by competitors.
A much more generally accepted and commonly taught definition is “Strategy is, knowing where you want to go and figuring out how to go there”. If we take this definition for business strategy, we can say “act of going there” is your tactical plan. For example, you might figure out that taking a motorcycle ride is the best method of going to the place you are planning to go. Now the tactical part is to figuring out “what type, size of a motor cycle?”, “how to start the motor cycle?” etc.
In marketing field, we talk about the 4 P’s (or 7 P’s) of marketing as the tactical level plans. That is, once you figure out your strategic route towards achieving your business vision, you then use your Products, Price, Place (distribution), and Promotion (additionally People, Processes, and Physical Evidence in services) to deliver the value identified in your strategy making process. You use these 4P’s as a vehicle to transport your created value to the mind of the customers.
In this sense, my argument is; use of eMarketing exists in one or more of these P’s in marketing; not in the strategy making process. For example, using SEO is a way of distributing your content (products) to those who are searching a solution for a problem, which will be potentially addressed by your product. Imagine you have the best remedy for stomachache in the world, but if your product is not available when a customer looks at a supermarket shelve to buy a remedy for stomachache; that means you have not done your “distribution” (Placement) well. It applies if you are not present in Google organic results when a customer searches for “remedy for stomachache”.
Therefore, we can conclude that eMarketing plays more of a tactical marketing role, rather than being a strategic marketing activity. eMarketing can hardly be a competitive strength in the future, as cost of adopting eMarketing is fast becoming cheaper to afford for any company, and the knowledge base of eMarketing is widely spreading thanks to many free online sources to learn eMarketing. This further hinders the strategic value of eMarketing for organizations.
Having a lower strategic value does not mean that companies can survive without eMarketing. In fact eMarketing is fast becoming a utility like water and electricity. Therefore, eMarketing is no longer a strategic option. It is necessary component in your marketing mix for the future.
Marketing is commonly misunderstood as a synonym for effective selling. Nevertheless, marketing is essentially different from the concept of selling. We define marketing as “Managing profitable customer relationships”. It is a process of creating customer value. Marketing differs in strategic marketing and tactical marketing. Strategic marketing involves identification of profitable market gaps and designing superior value propositions to fulfill such gaps. Tactical marketing involves executing such strategies into actions and getting results. We have concluded that eMarketing plays a more of a tactical marketing role in organizations, and the strategic role of eMarketing is insignificant.
In the Next Issue
The focus on this article was mainly on understanding the basics of marketing. In the next article I will move into in detail about eMarketing and the key components of a a perfect eMarketing mix.