We've noticed that on a well known marketing web site (actually, it's on the ClickZ.com web site), there is an article with a similar title - just what is marketing? This is a very good question and the answer typically ends up (as it is in the aforementioned article) being a lot of tactics, like advertising, brand management, sales, service, pricing, email marketing, etc. That's a good start, but far from complete.
And that's one of the problems with the web. There are lots of web sites out there with people claiming to be knowledgeable about marketing. In fact, if you go to search engines like Google and type in marketing, you'll come up with over 16,000,000 web pages! By the time you've got that many people claiming to be experts in marketing, it's difficult to even know what marketing means.
MARKETING IS NOT TACTICS
When most people think of marketing, they think of marketing tactics. People associate marketing with tactics, partly because they're fun. Advertising is fun, promotions are fun, and so is sending out email campaigns and every other similar tactic. But tactics, while the most salient aspects of marketing, are similar to the tactics of sport. They're very important, but useless without having a sound basis of knowledge.
And so it is with marketing. Marketing is far more than tactics. Marketing is analysis, and a sound marketing strategy is based on this analysis.
OBVIOUSLY, MARKETING IS ABOUT CUSTOMERS
What type of analysis are we talking about? Well, analysis about customers, for example. Having a solid understanding of customers means having a solid understanding about how customers behave, their motivations, their perceptions and preferences. It means segmenting the market correctly and not in the way that most companies think about segmentation (if they ever do).
It means having a profound understanding of their attitudes, their knowledge and their emotions. Without having this knowledge, the tactics of marketing are just blowing in the wind. You'll hope that the tactics work, but be blissfully unaware about whether anyone would want to pay attention or listen.