Marketing – What’s Your Definition?

Marketing? View from beach house on Sunset Beach, Oahu where I didn’t think a lot about marketing.

I’m blogging on a plane coming back from a week in paradise. That’s part of my process for returning to the “real world”.  As a marketer I cannot help but think what’s behind the communications and actions of companies I engage with as a consumer. My time on Oahu talking with local residents and surfers in Haleiwa was a notable contrast to the techie social media marketing world I live in day to day.

In today’s digital age, things move fast. New models of communication establish themselves quickly and new categories of brand and consumer engagement continuously emerge. Defining the means for communicating with and engaging with customers is by no means static whether you’re trying to reach cosmopolitan buyers in London or tourists of a sleepy village on a tropical island.

Marketing evolves with consumer preferences, technologies and society. A specific definition of marketing is no more static than marketing itself.

Recently Heidi Cohen pinged me for a super-size roudup post on definitions of marketing. Here’s mine:

The practice of creating value for the mutual benefit of meeting consumer needs and business objectives. In action, that means knowing and meeting target audience/community information discovery, consumption and sharing behaviors with relevant and timely communications throughout the customer lifecycle. Engagment influence consumer behavior to drive revenue outcomes and strengthen relationships.

That’s just one definition and Heidi’s post came up with 72. That’s right, 72! If we ask that many people what marketing is and get such a variety of definitions, it’s no wonder marketing advice is such a crapshoot for so many companies. Asking a company marketer what they do should essentially define what marketing is for that company.

But I’m guessing it doesn’t.   A lot of companies are simply executing tactics without a broader vision of customer engagement trends. They’re in a perpetual state of experimentation to see what sticks and to see what works.  Does that work? Does it adapt? Does it focus on what’s important?

As our own online marketing agency evaluates it’s own marketing efforts, I also challenge our readers to reflect on what you’re really doing to communicate with and engage customers,  Are you executing tactics with uncertain outcomes simply because you’ve always done it that way? Are you continuing to experiment with things that have no clear connection to measurable results? Are you really engaging customers and developing relationships?

What’s your definition of marketing?


Lee Odden: @leeodden@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.

View Comments (37)

  • Marketing is very easy to define for me. Creating trust between a company and consumers. Establishing your relationship from the basis of trust and professional courtesy is a fundamental basis for any positive marketing strategy.

  • Marketing=Finding the customers/businesses and connecting them with their product or service they need! Effective marketers can do this in only a few steps.

  • There really isn't just one answer to your question, rather it's an opinion/preference.
    Marketing may not be as important to some, as it could be essential for others.
    Or it could be that the service is more important to market than the product (or vice versa).
    Owners/operators/managers should choose what will be most effecient for their company!

    • I does change with the situation - good points. In the end, companies that want to engage in commerce must find a way to monetize and that usually means connecting customers with products and services. Creating awareness of solutions and engaging customers is the marketing.

  • Hello Lee,Great post! The last thing you need are more definitions for marketing, but take a look at this Quora discussion (What is marketing?) that was initiated on March 10: http://www.quora.com/What-is-m... Several great answers.

  • Finding out who 'they' are
    Finding out what 'they' want
    GIving it to them the way 'they' want it!!

  • I love the idea of having the space to really think about your marketing and, on a grey day here in Aldermaston UK, Oahu sounds as good as any! There has been a few blogs and tweets on this recently - the definition that comes closest to my thinking is "marketing is the process of creating wealth through meeting consumers needs"


  • Marketing starts when you first come up with your idea and should encompass everything your company communicates to your customers, your vendors, your employees and shareholders.

    Far too many people fall short putting marketing in a single box such as buying advertising. It's amazing when marketing students graduate from college and then end up as advertising buyers!

    Great topic...

  • Idea inception, idea realization, commercialization ( no more an idea but a real product )

  • Marketing is simply a means to an end. Marketing is the process a company/business goes through to promote themselves and their products to consumers. It can be accomplished in multiple ways and can come in many forms, however, the main goal of marketing remains the same; to convince consumers to buy your products rather than those of your competitor.