Marketing used to be merely one of many disciplines—on an equal footing with sales, finance, HR, manufacturing, operations, engineering or product development. Some might even say some considered it a lesser discipline.

Well, that's no longer true! Marketing is increasingly taking over our world—we as as organizations and as individuals.

The Organization as Marketing Department

While there's a specific marketing department at most companies, I think in today's inter-connected, service-oriented business, just about everyone in the company is a marketer. OK, that's probably more true in some industries than others, but consider these pockets of marketing activity from non-sales/marketing personnel:

  • Our front-line customer service manager, Anthony, is on the phone with hundreds of customers each week, answering questions about their email subscriptions or helping them unsubscribe. His mission? Make sure they understand our services and try to get as many of them as possible to stay on with us.

  • Our client data analysts Tom and Andrew talk and email with clients regularly as we send data back and forth for processing. They have an ever-present opportunity to ask clients for more data, to talk to them about their email programs, to give them advice or help on their business.

  • All receptionists greet people every day on the phone and in person. How many of those people's first impressions of your company come from a receptionist? How many of those who call or stop by are customers or potential customers?

  • Our head of product management Dan, and head of quality assurance Terry, talk to customers about their needs for reporting, or for custom functionality—not just trying to get the answer but trying to understand the business drivers behind the needs and thinking about the implications of those needs for other customers.

  • Any hiring manager or recruiter is doing screening interviews with candidates for a new position. One of those candidates will end up as the "chosen one"—meaning that our recruiter has to be selling that person (and therefore all candidates, since the winner is unknown at the outset) on how great our company is from first contact.

  • Our accounts receivable and billing specialist Kate calls clients when they have overdue bills. Getting this right is a true art form—it's tough to simultaneously be The Enforcer and also express appreciation for the customer's business.

All of these things sound distinctly like marketing to me. So, with all of this non-marketing marketing going on, what should a smart company do?

Weave the work of the marketing department into the daily lives of all employees: Make sure everyone knows core messaging and value propositions; teach everyone to think like a marketer; provide easy mechanisms for people to report market feedback and needs into the marketing department.

The Individual as Marketer

From the perspective of the individual (in a company, and in life), marketing is central to success, although the definition of your target market needs to change with the circumstances. Consider these examples:

  • Interviewing for a job? How good a job have you done building the brand of you (your list of accomplishments)? How good is your collateral (resume)?

  • Want to get an increase in your department's budget or buy a new piece of hardware? Have you adequately defined the return on the incremental investment you're proposing?

  • Need to get that project done? What's your universal selling proposition to get others to help you out ("here's why it's good for you to cooperate")? Are there any incentives involved ("I'll buy dinner if you stay late and help with this")?

  • Working hard to get a promotion? Identify a new customer segment, or a new problem to solve for your customers, or a solution to that problem... and your marketing skills will get you there.

  • Want to go somewhere off the beaten path on vacation? Better come up with some great selling points that resonate with specific members of your family (it's beautiful, it's inexpensive, the food is great, no one else has ever been there) to convince them all to go along with you!

* * *

I suppose this article could be titled "Everyone's in Sales," and that would also be fitting. Anyone who's not in marketing or sales, but is interested in learning a few of the basics, should consider some outside reading. I'd recommend Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind; SPIN Selling; Getting To Yes. But there are many, many other great books that would also do the job.

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Matt Blumberg is the CEO, founder and driving force behind Return Path ( Read his blog at