Having spent most of my career as a marketer – specifically B2B and the context we’ll be using here – I am often asked: “what’s your definition of marketing?”
It’s an easy question. Yet, ask ten different people who do this for a living and see what answers you get back. I decided to create my own definition of marketing to make this conversation easier and repeatable. Mindful of the famous words of the great physicist, I wanted a standard explanation that even a small child could understand – so here is my “kid-friendly” version:
“Marketing is getting people to know who you are, getting them to like you, and getting them to buy something from you.”
Simple right? For the moment, let’s throw away the over-used jargon like conversions, customer journey, storytelling, content is king, growth hacking and so on. Let’s put aside the 18-step processes and complex flowcharts for now. At its core, I truly believe marketing boils down to these three simple concepts. I even tested this on a friend’s 5-year old daughter, and she seemed to get it just fine.
A Simpler Definition of Marketing: The “3xAs”
I just happen to like catchy words that begin with the same letter. So, when giving my definition of marketing to business people, I start with something I call the “3xAs.” This stands for Awareness, Attraction, and Action. In a long B2B sales cycle, these phases usually happen in a linear fashion, but not always. For example, an activity designed to attract may also be the first introduction to your company. In whatever order the “3xAs” take place, though, they all must happen at some point for an opportunity to be born.
Now I’ll put my “grown up hat” back on and explain it with a little more sophistication. But first it should be noted – and this is always part of my talk-track – that marketing is a foundation-building process. Its impact is cumulative over time. There are no silver bullets and very few short-cuts. Sure, there is always the rare exception, but in the B2B world, marketing takes time and to win you have to build relationships. The longer the sales cycle, usually resulting from the complexity or price of what you sell – the more important the relationship. I should also point out that many of the channels used to communicate will traverse the “3xAs.” What changes are the goals, tone and messaging.
More commonly referred to as brand awareness, it all starts here. People can’t possibly buy from you if they don’t know you exist. Getting a target audience to know you, includes the following examples of activity and vehicles focused on introducing your company to potential buyers. With any of the “3xAs,” the most critical element is relevance. The more your products or services can impact a particular target audience – the better your chances of being heard, acknowledged and considered.
- Traditional and digital advertising.
- Social media coverage.
- Press releases and other forms of PR.
- Participation in industry and trade associations.
- Search Engine Optimization driving traffic to your website.
- Trade shows, seminars and other in-person events.
- Webinars, podcasts, live broadcasts and other media-based programs.
- Explainer videos or animations.
- Introductory eMail Marketing.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the equation is building a positive perception of your brand, and this can come in many forms. Getting people to endear themselves to your company usually involves giving away something first. Here are a few examples:
- Many of the activities from above – but with an emphasis on helping in some way.
- Adding value through education, tools, or other resources.
- Thought-leadership – it helps build credibility and trust.
- Exhibiting good corporate citizenship.
- Building the impression that yours will be a good company to deal with.
- Having a useful and engaging website.
- Having strong, relevant referrals and testimonials.
The action part of the “3xAs” is designed to get people to do something. Most often referred to as “call-to-actions,” the objective is to get them to engage, and hopefully buy when the timing is right. When it comes down to it, shouldn’t this be the real goal of marketing? During the action stage, the approach and messaging get stronger and more explicit. the intent is to “push” a little harder in driving toward your desired outcome. Here are some typical examples of what companies hope to achieve during the action phase:
- Subscriptions to on-going communications from your business.
- Sign-ups for attending a webinar and participation.
- Taking you up on a promotion or incentive.
- Agreeing to talk to a salesperson – either a call or visit.
- Agreeing to a product demonstration.
Your definition of marketing is likely different than mine. But, I’ll wager that however you think about it, the same basic elements are there. In a long, complex sale, the progression through the “3xAs” is usually sequential over a lengthy period of time. It’s the way most B2B sales cycles naturally progress. There are few exceptions. By going through the process of building awareness, creating attraction and stimulating action – sales will be easier and happen more often on the back-end. So what’s your definition of marketing?