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Marketing is so much more than advertising

My wife and I had dinner with a couple we know not long ago and during the meal, the topic shifted to our respective jobs. The folks we were with are both successful business people; he runs a small business, she’s an operations executive. And both talked about how successful their respective companies performed, “without marketing.”

Without marketing?

There’s no such thing. If you’re selling to a customer, by definition, you’re marketing. But maybe you don’t realize it. Let’s take a look at what I mean.

Many of you probably have heard of “the 4 P’s of marketing.” But in case you haven’t, take a quick look:

  1. Product. What you offer your customers.
  2. Pricing. What you charge for that offering.
  3. Place. Where you sell your offering.
  4. Promotion. How your customers find out about it.

Each of these comprises one component of successful marketing.

Unfortunately, many people—including my dinner guests that night—substitute “marketing” when they mean “promotion.” And there’s no doubt promotion contributes significantly to marketing. But it’s far from the whole enchilada.

When you’re listening to customers to improve your products and services, you’re marketing. If you’re looking at how to increase revenues, you’re marketing. When you negotiate distribution deals, partnerships or sign new sales channels, you’re marketing. And, yes, when you’re improving your SEO, paid search, social media or email campaigns, you’re marketing, too.

But if you look at the most successful companies, their whole process revolves around such tight integration that the trees disappear into the forest. And that’s a good thing.

  • Apple does a great job of building products people want, offering them through appropriate channels and promoting them effectively. Yes, many people remember the dancing silhouettes of the old iPod campaigns, but it was the “1,000 songs in your pocket” benefit statement (a product concept) that sold the device most effectively. My colleague Frank Reed is right when he suggests that Apple’s latest promotional techniques may have oversold the product. But, let’s face it, commercials aren’t what sold 3 million new iPads or 4 million iPhone 4S’s in their first weekends on the market.
  • Amazon provides free shipping to “Prime” members (price), one-click checkout (place), and the second-best selling tablet on the market (product) to its customers. And, yes, the company ranks very well for many searches and has robust paid search, email and remarketing programs in its arsenal.
  • I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen an ad (paid or otherwise) for Facebook. Clearly the social media giant ranks exceedingly well in natural search. And they’ve got social media marketing down to an art form (c’mon, how did you first hear about Facebook?) But you also heard about it because the company relentlessly innovates its basic product offering, continuing to provide its users with “the place to be” among social sites. And, as a consumer, its tough to beat their pricing.

Our fearless leader around here recently highlighted the dangers of “tricky marketing claims” and he couldn’t be more right. A snazzy advertising claim will only take you so far. Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of worrying about fooling people with a claim in its advertising, someone actually innovated the insurance product itself? After all, there’s an old saying among advertising types that says,

“When it’s too hard to write the ad, fix the product.”

So, if you’re not thrilled with your business results lately, aren’t seeing the conversion rates you’d really like to, or don’t have such satisfied customers any more, maybe the problem is that you’re doing too much advertising—and not nearly enough marketing.

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Tim Peter


Tim Peter built his first website in 1995 and loves that he still gets to do that every day. Tim has spent almost two decades figuring out where customers are, how they interact with brands online, and delivering those customers to his clients’ front door. These efforts have generated billions of dollars in revenue and reduced costs.

Tim works with client organizations to build effective teams focused on converting browsers to buyers and building their brand and business. He helps those companies discover how marketing, technology, and analytics tie together to drive business results. He doesn't get excited because of the toys or tech. He gets excited because of what it all means for the bottom line.

An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. He is a member of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization (SEMPO), HSMAI, and the Digital Analytics Association.

Tim currently serves as Senior Advisor at SoloSegment, a marketing technology company that uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve engagement and conversion for large enterprise, B2B companies.

Tim Peter’s recent client work covers a wide range of digital marketing activities including developing digital and mobile marketing strategies, creating digital product roadmaps, assessing organizational capabilities, and conducting vendor evaluations for diverse clients including major hospitality companies, real estate brands, SaaS providers, and marketing agencies.

Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor, the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm, and a major financial services firm, developing various award-winning products and services for his customers. Tim can be reached at tim@timpeter.com or by phone at 201-305-0055.

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