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What do I mean by "marketing" anyway?

Marketing is next quarter's salesA few weeks back, I talked about the “4 P’s of marketing” and why they’re important. But while that post explained what marketing consists of, it didn’t explain what marketing is and why it’s important.

Well, that changes right here.

I once heard Pam Slim of Escape From Cubicle Nation say:

“Marketing is what you do in order to get your phone to ring or your email to ding. Sales is what happens when you pick up the phone or you answer the email.”

Now, Pam’s definition veers a little close to the “promotion” side of the four P’s, but it’s certainly true enough.

Still, the simplest definition I’ve ever heard of marketing is:

“Marketing is next quarter’s sales.”

Marketing is what you do every day that’s focused on bringing in more customers. Most people don’t know this, but in its early days, Starbucks spent nothing on advertising. Their only marketing expense was for training baristas how to make a perfect cup of coffee. Howard Schultz knew that the perfect cup of coffee would make customers come back — and would bring their friends with them. So everything the company did revolved around fulfilling that customer need.

And their sales grew quarter after quarter.

What about non-profits?

Obviously, not every organization has “sales” in the traditional sense. Non-profits, for instance, may focus on raising awareness or driving contributions. That’s OK. What every organization does have is a need to create action. Sometimes the action is a sale. Sometimes the action is a donation. Sometimes the action is getting people to show up early on a Saturday morning to clean up a local park. For purposes of marketing, those actions are “sales.”

Back during the dot-com bust, I worked on an initiative to get employees to save money. Our company was feeling the pinch and was looking for anything we could do to cut costs without cutting headcount. We never “sold” anything in terms of a product or service. But every time an employee used the stairs instead of an elevator, printed copies using both sides of the paper or turned off the lights when leaving their office was a win for the company. And, for these purposes, a “sale.”

What about brand building?

Sometimes when I tell people that “Marketing is next quarter’s sales,” they immediately recoil. Usually, these people call themselves “brand marketers.” And they feel that their job has nothing to do with selling and everything to do with building a brand.

I agree with half that statement.

Building a brand is the most important thing a marketer can do for his or her organization.

But I’d ask those folks who cringe why it’s so important to build a brand.

So, why is is so important to build your brand?

Because customers prefer to buy from brands they know and trust.

It’s never a question of “either/or” when it comes to brand building “vs.” sales. You build brands to capture high-value customers for the long haul. You build brands to drive sales.


Sales and marketing are different activities. But they’re highly related. Peter Drucker once said,

“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

Whether you accomplish it by improving your product, experimenting with price, trying new places to sell or running great promotions, your marketing exists to create that customer.

Now stop reading. And go do just that.

Interested in learning more about e-commerce and digital marketing? Register to receive a free copy of my new special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals. And, if that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of strategy, digital marketing, and e-commerce, including:

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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