Found Feather Back to School logoIt’s almost Christmas break, but we have one last integrated communications topic for you.

We’ve already talked about public relations and media relations in our Back to School Series, but communication questions remain.

A big one – whether you’re a college student, intern, accountant, blogger, business owner, start-up, entrepreneur or celebrity chef – continuously leaves people confused. What is marketing, and how do I wield its power for good?

Marketing is in some ways a misleading term. Many people think it is one thing, but it isn’t. There are many specialized areas of marketing, carried out in different ways, to different people to accomplish very different things. Because of all these variations, there are specialized careers within marketing and specialized companies often provide niche marketing in just one area on the marketing spectrum.

Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service.

The first thing to know about marketing – and in fact this can be carried over to all communications – is vital: It cannot be done in isolation. Any marketing you consider must be carried out in consideration and support of an overarching vision, as part of a defined brand. Do not create this as you go.

Start at the beginning with strategy and mission. Verbalize your brand, establish your organization’s voice. Put it on paper. Make sure you have a clean logo reflective of your organization and appropriate for your business (i.e not embarrassing). Take stock of your existing communication vehicles: blogs, social media pages, advertising, sales materials, speaking engagements, websites.

If after you have taken stock of your existing communications you find you do not have a brand identity – that’s where you start. That bucket of work is “marketing,” but successful execution requires marketing strategy, marketing copy writing (for things like tag lines), graphic design and a marketing liaison to secure buy-in from senior leadership. Then, of course, all this will have to be communicated internally and externally, which will require yet another skill set to successfully market.

Your company has a story, and through marketing, you want to consistently and clearly tell your story to the world.

Once you have strategy and brand taken care of, there are two key facets of marketing strategy: audience and vehicle

Ultimately, audience drives communication vehicle selection. So let’s talk audience.

Before you decide what kind of marketing to do, you need to know who you are marketing to (and what you are asking of them).

Let’s say you created a product targeted at people who have ADD, and want to get the word out. Your audience Audience breakdown is then defined. But you will need to further segment your audience. Is the product for adults? Professionals? Wellness gurus? Utilize the information you gain through audience analysis to refine your marketing strategy.

After you determine your audience, it’s time to think tactics. Remember, you want all these tactics to drive the successful achievement of your strategic goals. Tactics could include building a website, creating an online tutorial for your app, sponsoring an event, or speaking at a conference.

There is also a segment of marketing that is focused on sales support, providing the sales team the materials they need to go in the field and sell the products. Depending on your business, this may be an important element in your overall marketing plan.

This is just the tip of the marketing iceberg, but should give you a good idea of not only how marketing is different than media relations and PR, but how complex the field is on its own. Don’t be afraid to call in the professionals!

Found Feather Communications is an Integrated Communications firm based in Nashville, Tennessee.