What is Marketing? Tutorial

In the first section of our highly detailed Principles of Marketing Tutorials we lay the groundwork for our study of the field of marketing with a close look at marketing’s key concepts and the important tasks marketers perform.

We will see that marketing encompasses a wide array of business decisions that are essential to the success of nearly all organizations.

Coverage in this part of the tutorial includes a close examination of the definition of marketing. A dissection of the key terms in the definition will show that marketing’s primary focus is to identify and satisfy customers in a way that helps build a solid and, hopefully, sustained relationship that encourages customers to continue doing business with the marketer.

We also will spend a short time on the history of marketing and see how it has evolved from a process centered on simply getting as many people as possible to purchase a product to today’s highly complex efforts designed to build long term customer relationships. Additionally, we'll see that marketing is not only important to individual organizations it also carries both positive and negative influences at a broader societal level. Finally we look at what it takes to be a marketer in today’s world.

Welcome to the world of marketing and the Principles of Marketing Tutorials from KnowThis.com. The main intention of this tutorial is to offer a straightforward examination of one of the most important, exciting and challenging business activities crucial to nearly all organizations.

The Principles of Marketing Tutorials are ideal for anyone who is new to marketing as it covers all essential marketing areas. By spending time with this tutorial the marketing novice will quickly gain the foundation needed to appreciate what marketers do and understand the full scope of marketing decision making. For some, reading this tutorial may also offer insight into career options that exist in the marketing field.

Experienced marketers may also find this tutorial useful. Often seasoned marketers tend to focus on just a few areas of marketing as part of their day-to-day activities and this tutorial may serve as a good refresher for areas of marketing for which they have not recently spent much time.

Before we get started we should mention that most of what we discuss applies to all types of businesses including those whose objective is to make money (i.e., for-profit businesses) as well as those not driven by a profit-making motive (i.e., not-for-profit organizations). However, the reader should be aware that we often use the terms organization, company, corporation, and firm interchangeably. While the later three terms are often associated with profit-making businesses, the reader should understand the use of one of these terms does not necessarily limit the context of the discussion to for-profit businesses but may apply across all types of marketing situations including not-for-profits.

Let’s examine our definition of marketing in a little more detail by looking at the key terms.

Strategies and Tactics

Strategies are best explained as the direction the marketing effort takes over some period of time while tactics are actionable steps or decisions made in order to follow the strategies established. For instance, if a company’s strategy is to begin selling its products in a new country, the tactics may involve the marketing decisions made to carry this out. Performing strategic and tactical planning activities in advance of taking action is considered critical for long-term marketing success.


Arguably the most important marketing function involves efforts needed to gain knowledge of customers, competitors, and markets (i.e., where marketers do business). We will see throughout this tutorial how marketing research is utilized in all decision areas.


Competition forces marketers to be creative people. When marketers begin new ventures, such as building a new company, it is often based around something that is new (e.g., a new product, a new way of getting products to customers, a new advertising approach, etc.). But once something new is launched innovation does not end. Competitive pressure is continually felt by the marketer, who must respond by again devising new strategies and tactics that help the organization remain successful. For marketers, the cycle of creating something new never ends.


Today’s marketers work hard to ensure their customers return to purchase from them again and again. Long gone (see our discussion of History of Marketing below) are the days when success for a marketer was measured simply in how many sales they made each day. Now, in most marketing situations, marketing success is evaluated not only in terms of sales figures but also by how long a marketer retains good customers. Consequently, marketers’ efforts to attract customers do not end when a customer makes a purchase. It continues in various ways for, hopefully, a long time after the initial purchase.

Satisfying Relationships

A key objective of marketing is to provide products and services that customers really want AND to make customers feel their contact with the marketer is helping build a good relationship between the two. In this way the customer becomes a partner in the transaction, not just a source of revenue for the marketer.

Value for Both Customer and Marketer

Value refers to the perception of benefits received for what someone must give up. For customers, value is most often measured by how much benefit they feel they are getting for their money, though the value one customer feels may differ from what another customer feels even though they purchase the same product. On the other side of the transaction, the marketer for a for-profit organization may measure value in terms of how much profit they make for the marketing efforts and resources expended. For a successful marketing effort to take place both the customer and the marketer must feel they are receiving something worth while in return for their efforts. Without a strong perception of value it is unlikely a strong relationship can be built. Throughout this tutorial we will emphasize value and show ways marketers build value into the products they offer.

Our starting point for learning about marketing is to begin with the basics and that starts with defining marketing. Since marketing has been an important part of business for a long time we could consult one of the many hundreds of books written on the subject to locate a definition. Or, as is more the custom today, we could search the Internet to see how marketing is defined. Whether we search print or electronic form we will find that marketing is defined in many different ways.

In order to reach the goal of creating a relationship that holds value for customers and for the organization, marketers use a diverse Toolkit that includes (but is not limited to) making decisions regarding:

  1. Target Markets – markets consist of customers identified as possessing needs the marketer believes can be addressed by its marketing efforts
  2. Products – consists of tangible (e.g., goods) or intangible (e.g., services) solution to the market’s needs
  3. Promotion – a means for communicating information about the marketing organization’s products to the market
  4. Distribution – the methods used by the marketer that enable the market to obtain products
  5. Pricing – ways for the marketer to set and adjust the cost paid by the market to obtain products
  6. Supporting Services – additional options that enhance a product’s value

While these decisions are shown with a number, the order of decision-making does not necessarily follow this sequence. However, as we will discuss, in almost all cases marketers should first identify target markets (#1) prior to making decisions #2 through #6 (commonly called the Marketing Mix) since these decisions are going to be directed toward satisfying the desired target markets.

Each option within the Marketer’s Toolkit is tightly integrated with all other options so that a decision in one area could, and often does, impact decisions in other areas. For instance, a change in the price of a product (e.g., lowering the price) could impact the distribution area (e.g., requires increased product shipments to retail stores).

Additionally, options within the Toolkit are affected by factors that are not controlled by the marketer. These factors include economic conditions, legal issues, technological developments, social/cultural changes, and many more. While not managed in the way marketers control their Toolkit, these external factors must be monitored and dealt with since these can cause considerable harm to the organization. Ignoring outside elements also can lead to missed opportunities in the market especially if competitors are the first to take advantage of the opportunities. As part of the strategic and tactical planning process discussed above it is wise for marketers to pay close attention to the environment outside the organization.

Finally, as noted earlier, research plays a significant role in all marketing decisions areas. As we will see in the Marketing Research Tutorial, marketing decisions should not be made without first committing time and resources to obtaining needed information.