It's surprising how many business professionals don't really know what marketing is. Some people perceive it to be a necessary evil that consumes budgets and provides little payback; others see it as a person or department tasked with producing tactical "creative things" such as advertising, Web sites, email campaigns, and so on.
If we go back in time, we can find a simple way to define marketing.
In 1912, LL Bean founded his company on the marketing concept: Simply, supply for a product is greater than demand and therefore to compete a company must first determine what the consumer wants, then produce what the consumer wants, and then sells the consumer what it wants.
In his first circular, LL Bean wrote: "I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and the customer is still satisfied. We will thank anyone to return goods that are not perfectly satisfactory.... Above all things we wish to avoid having a dissatisfied customer."
Peter Drucker wrote in his book, The Practice of Management, in 1954, that "if we want to know what business is we must first start with its purpose.... There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. What business thinks it produces is not of first importance—especially not to the future of the business or to its success. What the customer thinks he/she is buying, what he/she considers "value" is decisive—it determines what a business is, what it produces, and whether it will prosper."
Just as the development of telephones did not just stop at crank handles, the development of marketing's role has not stopped with these original definitions. In 2004, the American Marketing Association redefined marketing as "an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders."
If we can take one idea away from all of these definitions, it would be that Marketing's job is to create customer value, engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty. Marketing serves as the stand-in for the customer, informing product development and other functions of what customers want and need.
Essentially, Marketing serves as the "voice of the customer" and is responsible for developing and implementing the processes used to capture the customer requirements so the company is able to provide customers with best-in-class service/product. Yet, even the most educated marketers forget the foundation of marketing: the marketing mix.
Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.