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Ask the Experts: Definition of Marketing

May 3, 2011

Last month, you asked Chuck Raymond, the Marketing Manager at Geosyntec Consultants, a few questions. Today, Chuck answers the question, “What is your definition of marketing?”

Before we get to what my definition of marketing is, first let’s see if we can figure out what it isn’t, and usually my first place to look for that is the dictionary. Dictionary.com defines marketing as “the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.” Merriam-Webster’s defines it as “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.”

Well, I guess those are OK, and they may work just fine if you’re selling cars or cheeseburgers, but to me they are far too cold, impersonal, and industrial. In a service industry like ours, marketing should, and by all rights needs to, involve personal relationships forged over time. If you’re trying to figure out the best way to market IPads or Big Macs to the masses, then sitting in an office somewhere with no personal contact to the ultimate customer can and often does work just fine. But in a high-end service industry like ours where the ultimate customer needs to feel comfortable that they are spending their hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars wisely, it is that personal “hand-holding,” that one-on-one connection that has come from the relationship building process that usually results in ultimate success.

Brian Tracy, author, speaker, and motivator, says that, “Relationships are the hallmark of the mature person,” and “Outselling your competition is easy when you have built long-term relationships with clients.” Again, not my own words, but the man is right. Now, at many firms, including mine, in our industry that relationship building is mostly done by the technical staff, but at other firms it is more centralized in the marketing or business development department. No matter who does it, it’s about forming that bond. The relationship process can start with the written word, such as on your web site or LinkedIn or in a blog, a brochure, or a flier (for the old school types). It can be a well-placed article in a trade magazine or a peer-reviewed article in a scientific publication. It can be a handwritten note to congratulate a prospect on a promotion. It can also start with the spoken word at a trade show or conference where somebody from your firm is speaking, or over drinks at a networking event. Regardless, the marketing process has begun.

Relationship building as part of marketing must be thought of and practiced as not an event but a process, done carefully over time that ideally results in both parties benefitting. So to sum up, my definition of marketing in the A/E/C industry would be more like, “The process of long-term relationship building that establishes a trust between a buyer (client; customer) and a seller (vendor; contractor) that provides both parties with tangible benefits.” I know it’s long, but hey, it’s my dictionary.

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