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Prepare to perform: The last lap to CAT

 

For any organisation, Marketing is one of the most important business functions, if not the most critical. Broadly speaking, Marketing helps companies communicate with customers, but it is much, much more. In this article, we explore what exactly is meant by Marketing, and what it entails.

 
 

There has probably never been a time when effective marketing has been more important than at present for businesses and enterprises. The role that marketing plays in guiding corporate strategies is crucial, and yet, it still remains the weak link for many companies in how they connect with customers.

The value of marketing
As an MBA aspirant, you must surely have gathered the basics of the primary business functions, e.g. Marketing, Finance, Operations, Accounting, Supply Chain & Logistics, and other business functions. All these business functions apart from Marketing won’t really matter without sufficient demand (to be able to drive profits) for a company’s products or services. To put it simply, there must be revenue for there to be a profit! Therefore, a firm’s financial success often depends on its marketing acumen.
The value of marketing also extends to society as a whole — it helps introduce products that ease and/or enrich people’s lives. Successful marketing builds demand for such products and services, which, in turn, creates jobs. By contributing to the bottom line, successful marketing also allows firms to more fully engage in socially responsible activities.


How marketing benefits businesses
• It builds strong brands
• It creates loyal customers
• It protects from competition
• It increases negotiating power
• And in doing all of these, it increase profits!

How marketing benefits society
• It helps build strong companies, thereby creating new jobs
• It increases innovation and competition, which enhance people’s lives
• It informs and protects consumers

But, really, what IS marketing?
Marketing, as a business function, has been misinterpreted and over-simplified in the past and continues to be as such. In fact, very often, marketing is confused to be merely a fancy word for ‘selling’ (which in itself is a very important business function), or with a classical business naïveté of giving consumers what they want. To many others, it is about ‘advertising and promotions’, laced with the new-age terms such as digital or social media marketing. Then there are several others who think of marketing as market research, or the process of finding out what the customers really want.
Unfortunately, such misinterpretations and over-simplifications cause a lot of confusion about marketing as a business function and its importance to businesses, and have done much harm to its importance in profession and in academic institutions.
In the true sense, marketing as a business function is about all of these activities and much more! It is true that marketing is not about selling, yet the ultimate objective of a successful marketing is to make a sale! Marketing is not ‘advertising and promotion’, which are actually means to communicating with potential customers to inform and to convince them about a company’s products or services, and their value. Similarly, without understanding the customers’ needs, by virtue of market research, it is unlikely that a company will come up with a successful product. It is the marketing function that understands the interplay of the product value and the price that customers would be willing to pay for it. Marketing also works as a feedback mechanism inside the company, bringing in on-ground wisdom and channelling it back to the company for product or service development activities.
According to Peter F. Drucker, often described as ‘the founder of modern management’, “...there is only one valid definition of business purpose: To create a customer... [therefore], any business enterprise has two — and only these two — basic functions: Marketing and innovation. They are entrepreneurial functions. Marketing is distinguishing, the unique function of the business.”
So, in simple words, marketing is a process of matching a company’s resources with identified customer needs. Marketing is what businesses must do to create and exchange value with customers. So, marketing sets a firm’s strategic direction. It requires deep knowledge of customers, competitors and collaborators, and great skills in deploying an organisation’s capabilities so as to serve customers profitably. In that sense, marketing is a broad general management responsibility, not just a function delegated only to specialists. So anyone who has career interests that lead to the setting and the execution of the strategy of an organisation will require marketing skills and insight.

So does Marketing really have any impact?
While you may have heard about applying marketing concepts for products and service, these concepts can be applied to almost anything – the most complex being, marketing a country!
Tourism has a profound impact on a country’s economy. It not only gains directly by the spend of the tourists, but also from a positive travel experience, which often results in an increased goodwill that positively impacts the country’s economy by bringing in investments too! Post India’s liberalisation in 1991, the foreign traveller arrival (FTA) in India was 1.68 million, which very slowly grew to 2.38 million (in 2002) at a paltry growth rate (CAGR) of 3.2%.
In 2002, India launched a marketing campaign to promote the country as a premium tourist destination for sophisticated travellers across the globe. The campaign was named ‘Incredible India’, and had several touch-points to engage and enrich interested parties. Immediately after the launch, the FTA increased to 2.73 million (2003) and in 2013, it had increased to 6.97 at a CAGR of 10.3%!

What you study in a Marketing MBA class
As a Marketing MBA student, you may be interested in either Business-to-Business (B2B) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing. However, for both the practices, you will have to learn and understand the art and the science behind putting customers, products and services together at the right price and the right time. Business schools offer an assortment of courses that help MBA students in developing a marketing acumen that they can use in their post-MBA career.


The American Marketing Association (AMA), a professional association for marketing professionals, defines Marketing as, “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” (approved on July 2013)

Marketing is not only:
Selling
Advertising and Promotion
Shopping
Something sassy
Cost center with little or no direct impact
Theoretical
English! [Au contraire, marketing practice is derived from observation of experience and theorisation about cause and effect in commercial exchange process. In that aspect, marketing is extremely analytical]

While courses may differ in titles, the coverage is more or less the same – Marketing Strategy and Management, Marketing Theory, Market Research & Consumer Insights, Product Development & Management, Data Analytics, Ethical and Legal Issues, Channel Management, Pricing, Advertising and Sales Promotion, Brand Management, Marketing Intelligence, Digital Marketing, International Marketing, etc. In addition to the classroom and practicum, several B-schools have student-driven marketing clubs, which take up short-term projects that apply marketing principals.
           
Potential career paths
There can be various career paths for Marketing MBA graduates. While the titles may differ from what have been listed here, the roles and responsibilities will remain the same –
Brand Manager or Marketing Manager or Product Manager at the highest level supervises the marketing function for a company’s specific brand.  Based on their roles and responsibilities, the Brand Managers often are like small business owners within a company. It is their responsibility to refine a brand’s essence, map out their direct and indirect competitors, identify marketing opportunities, and be able to effectively communicate the unique benefits of that product or service.
Sales Manager or Business Development Manager is responsible for implementing business development plans for either an organisation or a particular division within that organisation. They attempt to determine business level objectives and identify opportunities based on market analysis and research, and execute approved business plans and lead their implementation. Usually, the primary objective of a Sales Manager or a Business Development Manager is to increase a company’s market share in the target categories. In that sense, they develop and execute marketing and business plans to support products and services, and also look for new business opportunities.
Market Research Manager is responsible for the marketing intelligence function of the marketing organisation. To support marketing actions, they collect, analyse and interpret data from the marketplace, and look at the trends and consumer behaviours. With data and analyses, they develop new concepts or ideas for company’s products, services, or business direction in general. They may also provide support in various other decision-making activities (such as new projects by the company) by analysing the project scope and proposal, and determine whether the expected benefits from these projects justify expenditures.
Internet / Online Marketing Manager is responsible for exploiting a range of Internet-based avenues such as social media, pay-per-click marketing, search engine optimisation and website content, etc, to create awareness about a company’s products and services. Increasingly, they collaborate with other roles described above by sharing data and insights to help them.