What Marketing Really Is (And How It Can Help You Build A Thriving Business)

14 May, 2021 By Bobby Klinck
It's time to talk candidly about what marketing really is and how it can help you build a thriving online business.

Many people in the online space call themselves “marketers.” In reality, though, they aren’t marketers… they’re online sellers. Most online entrepreneurs are focusing on selling, not on marketing.

I’m a firm believer that marketing isn’t about ninja tactics or secret strategies. When you do the basic stuff right and you serve your people, your business will thrive and succeed.

I’m not saying that selling is bad (I sell a lot), but when you’re building a thriving business that serves people first, it’s important to have a solid understanding of what marketing really is and how it’s different from selling.

Marketing By Definition

Let’s start with how the American Marketing Association (AMA) defines the word “marketing.”

“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.”

American Marketing Association

See? There’s a lot in there that has nothing to do with selling. What constitutes marketing is all the stuff involved in creating a product and bringing it to market.

The AMA definition includes “have value for customers.” The sales piece isn’t what makes up a big part of marketing. Instead, it’s about creating the right product or solution that will have value for people.

Meanwhile, communicating the value undoubtedly involves traditional marketing as we know it – messaging, advertising, copywriting – but there’s more to it than that.

Delivering your offering has nothing to do with selling. Instead, it’s thinking about how to deliver the result that will have value for your people. Sure, exchanging has an aspect of selling, but it’s literally just the act of exchange.

Many actions and activities involved in marketing have nothing to do with selling. What I want to emphasize is that marketing is NOT just about you and the customer. It’s just as much about creating and communicating your products or services that have value for partners (i.e., team, vendors, suppliers, etc.). Marketing is also about relationships.

Marketing Makes Selling Superfluous

Peter Drucker, one of the really smart business thinkers, said this: “There will always, one can assume, be a need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.”

Marketing is the process that happens before you sell. It’s how you make the customers understand that the product or service fits them, and when they’re ready to buy, your offering sells itself. Selling becomes effortless. People buy even without you convincing them to do so.

Marketing, then, is about creating the right offer and putting it in front of the right people at the right time with the right message. By “right,” I mean it’s right for your people, not for you.

Marketing Focuses On The Needs Of The Buyer

Selling focuses on the needs of the seller to convert his product into cash. It’s about thinking, “I need to turn this into money for me and my personal needs.”

But marketing focuses on the needs of the customer and satisfying those needs with the product and all the other things associated with creating, delivering, and finally consuming it.

Marketing is saying “How do I meet your needs as my buyer? How do I serve you as my customer? How do I create the right thing?” I’m meeting your needs, not mine.

From this perspective, being a serve-first entrepreneur is focused on marketing, not selling. But I wanna get deeper into this, which brings us to the next point.

Selling Becomes Service When Done Right

There’s this concept we hear a lot that says selling is service. But again, I wanna diffuse that.

Selling only becomes a service when it’s done right and subjugated to marketing. If I sell you something that you don’t need now, it isn’t service. Marketing isn’t about focusing on creating content to generate demand, selling to people, and pressuring them to buy. That’s NOT being a serve-first entrepreneur.

Serve-first entrepreneurship means spending a lot more time on things other than selling. That includes finding your people, spending time with them, and trying to understand them at a deep level. Connecting with them is how you learn what they want, need, and value.

Marketing Makes Selling An Afterthought

When you understand your customers deeply and you build relationships with them, that’s when you’re able to create products or services that will serve their needs and offer value to them.

Marketing  also means that you think about what happens after they buy, such as using a different platform or how to deliver the value to them. You have to be intentional about that. This is when marketing makes selling an afterthought.

Now I don’t mean to tell you not to sell. Of course, you have to sell. But don’t put pressure on people to buy when it’s not right for them.

Don’t make them feel bad when they don’t buy. Don’t do that crap because that’s not serving your people.

I know that when I’ve created the right product with the right offer and I communicate what it is to my people, the right ones will join at the right moment.

And I gotta tell you this, as a serve-first entrepreneur I have confidence that if I serve and make my product available, people will join when it’s right for them.

You don’t need to create some crazy FOMO or scarcity to get people to buy. Because guess what? These tactics often bring in a lot of people who shouldn’t buy. Then what happens is they can’t get value right now, that’s gonna upset them and leave a bad taste in their mouth.

Wrapping Up

When you use the serve-first marketing approach instead of the me-first selling approach, you’ll have a thriving business. When you allow customers to buy your product or service when it’s right for them based on their timeline and not yours, they’ll get the value. These people become brand evangelists who will say good things about you. And that’s the power of shifting from selling to marketing — you create goodwill, not ill will.

If you want to learn more about how to become a real marketer and a serve-first entrepreneur, join BADA$$ Online Marketing University. It’s my completely FREE signature program that I created to serve entrepreneurs who want to build a thriving online business.

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Bobby Klinck

Harvard Lawyer and Online Entrepreneur