Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for selling that product or service.
From a societal point of view, marketing is the link between a society’s material requirements and its economic patterns of response. Marketing satisfies these needs and wants through exchange processes and building long term relationships. Marketing can be looked at as an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, delivering and communicating value to customers, and managing customer relationships in ways that also benefit the organization and its shareholders. Marketing is the science of choosing target marketsthrough market analysis and market segmentation, as well as understanding consumer buying behavior and providing superior customer value.
There are five competing concepts under which organizations can choose to operate their business: the production concept, the product concept, the selling concept, the marketing concept, and the holistic marketing concept. The four components of holistic marketing are relationship marketing, internal marketing, integrated marketing, and socially responsive marketing. The set of engagements necessary for successful marketing management includes capturing marketing insights, connecting with customers, building strong brands, shaping the market offerings, delivering and communicating value, creating long-term growth, and developing marketing strategies and plans
A firm in the market economy survives by producing goods that persons are willing and able to buy. Consequently, ascertaining consumer demand is vital for a firm's future viability and even existence as a going concern. Many companies today have a customer focus (or market orientation). This implies that the company focuses its activities and products on consumer demands. Generally, there are three ways of doing this: the customer-driven approach, the market change identification approach and the product innovation approach.
In the consumer-driven approach, consumer wants are the drivers of all strategic marketing decisions. No strategy is pursued until it passes the test of consumer research. Every aspect of a market offering, including the nature of the product itself, is driven by the needs of potential consumers. The starting point is always the consumer. The rationale for this approach is that there is no reason to spend R&D (research and development) funds developing products that people will not buy. History attests to many products that were commercial failures in spite of being technological breakthroughs.
A formal approach to this customer-focused marketing is known as SIVA (Solution, Information, Value, Access). This system is basically the four Ps renamed and reworded to provide a customer focus. The SIVA Model provides a demand/customer-centric alternative to the well-known 4Ps supply side model (product, price, placement, promotion) of marketing management.
If any of the 4Ps were problematic or were not in the marketing factor of the business, the business could be in trouble and so other companies may appear in the surroundings of the company, so the consumer demand on its products will decrease. However, in recent years service marketing has widened the domains to be considered, contributing to the 7P's of marketing in total. The other 3P's of service marketing are: process, physical environment and people.
Some consider there to be a fifth "P": positioning. See Positioning (marketing).
Some qualifications or caveats for customer focus exist. They do not invalidate or contradict the principle of customer focus; rather, they simply add extra dimensions of awareness and caution to it.
The work of Christensen and colleagues on disruptive technology has produced a theoretical framework that explains the failure of firms not because they were technologically inept (often quite the opposite), but because the value networks in which they profitably operated included customers who could not value a disruptive innovation at the time and capability state of its emergence and thus actively dissuaded the firms from developing it. The lessons drawn from this work include:
- Taking customer focus with a grain of salt, treating it as only a subset of one's corporate strategy rather than the sole driving factor. This means looking beyond current-state customer focus to predict what customers will be demanding some years in the future, even if they themselves discount the prediction.
- Pursuing new markets (thus new value networks) when they are still in a commercially inferior or unattractive state, simply because their potential to grow and intersect with established markets and value networks looks like a likely bet. This may involve buying stakes in the stock of smaller firms, acquiring them outright, or incubating small, financially distinct units within one's organization to compete against them.
Other caveats of customer focus are:
- The extent to which what customers say they want does not match their purchasing decisions. Thus surveys of customers might claim that 70% of a restaurant's customers want healthier choices on the menu, but only 10% of them actually buy the new items once they are offered. This might be acceptable except for the extent to which those items are money-losing propositions for the business, bleeding red ink. A lesson from this type of situation is to be smarter about the true test validity of instruments like surveys. A corollary argument is that "truly understanding customers sometimes means understanding them better than they understand themselves." Thus one could argue that the principle of customer focus, or being close to the customers, is not violated here—just expanded upon.
- The extent to which customers are currently ignorant of what one might argue they should want—which is dicey because whether it can be acted upon affordably depends on whether or how soon the customers will learn, or be convinced, otherwise. IT hardware and software capabilities and automobile features are examples. Customers who in 1997 said that they would not place any value on internet browsing capability on a mobile phone, or 6% better fuel efficiency in their vehicle, might say something different today, because the value proposition of those opportunities has changed.