By Gary Shawhan, The CHEMARK Consulting Group
There are many definitions of “marketing” offered by various individuals including industry recognized experts known for their view on marketing and its roles. Phillip Kotler, in his many publications, has offered a variety of descriptions on the topic “what is marketing.” One of Kotler’s definitions is as follows:
A Kotler Definition of Marketing
“1) marketing is the process by which an organization relates creatively, productively, and profitably to the marketplace. 2) Marketing is the art of relating and satisfying customers at a profit. 3) Marketing is getting the right goods and services to the right people, at the right places, at the right time, at the right price with the right communications and promotion.”
The American Marketing Association is an organization that brings together individual involved directly or indirectly in the actively of marketing. AMA’s mission is “to strive to be the most relevant force and voice shaping marketing around the world, an essential community of marketers.” Their definition of marketing is:
AMA’s Definition of 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.”
I wanted to add one more contributor to the list of sources providing a description of marketing, Wikipedia, who offers this relatively simple definition:
“Marketing is the process of exploring, creating, and delivering value to meet the needs of a target audience.”
With just these three references, it is clear that the umbrella of activities under which “marketing” falls is extremely broad. There is no one definition within which the role and activities that comprise the marketing effort can be realistically made to fit the business challenges confronting one company to the another- even when they serve similar markets and industries.
For this article, we will we narrow the scope of the discussion on the role of marketing today to coatings and related or supporting specialty chemicals manufacturers.
Traditional Roles for Marketing
“Marketing” today includes the same individual elements that it did in years past. It also has evolved to include such things as e-commerce, social media and the sometime unexpected changes that arise from mergers and acquisitions.
Marketing plays a primary role in identifying potential growth opportunities both within and outside of the present business. Market research is a fundamental marketing task through which growth opportunities are identified and characterized.. Market research activities include gathering and analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data needed to assess the company’s current market position which help guide further business strategies.
Business development is frequently a critical part of the marketing responsibility. Shepherding the effort required to bring a new product or service to market or integrating an acquisition into the existing business infrastructure is a complex activity. The role of marketing, in a business development mode, is to combine their effort (in some fashion) with a number of other departments or business groups within the organization. This includes manufacturing, research and development, sales, technical support, distribution, logistics, communications, and of-course management.
The size of the company, their geographic reach, the complexity of the markets they serve, and the organizational structure of the company clearly influence the role marketing plays in the business development process.
As a product, service, or new technology advances toward commercialization, the planning and execution of a test market or beta-site is frequently led as part of the marketing (or business development) effort. From this point forward, the marketing role transitions to supporting commercialization of the product or service. These activities include communicating and supporting the sales effort to achieve differentiation from other competitors, supporting brand image and corporate identity, and guiding the advertising and promotional activities.
In larger, multi-national corporations, individual departments segregate the responsibilities for tasks such as communications. Advertising and media interaction, internet and social media, trade shows, literature, product information, etc., are all part of product promotion and effective product/market positioning.
Table 1 offers a perspective on the marketing function and its various purposes in business.
Table 1: A Perspective on the Marketing Function
The role of marketing is to both help construct and then assist in executing a successful “plan”
The marketing objective is to support profitable growth
The goal of marketing is to play a principal part in satisfying the needs of their customers
The practice of marketing is a fluid activity with varying levels of involvement across the entire life cycle of a particular product, technology, or service. In addition, these marketing activities take on the characteristics of the business and the personality of the company
The marketing function works best when it is adaptable and conforms to both the internal structure and strategic direction of the organization and the external dynamics of the markets or industries that the company has chosen to serve
Some Key Challenges for Marketers in Today’s Business Environment
There are several current business issues that are impacting marketing’s priorities when researching, evaluating, and developing growth business strategies. Among these issues are the following four topics which have a significant influence on how companies need to adjust their strategies in order to do business in today’s coatings market.
Traditionally, a company could rely on a reasonably well-defined list of competitors they would have to contend with when developing or implementing a go-to-market plan. In many respects, a SWOT analysis from say 5-years prior could have been over-laid with a current one with few changes in the competitive landscape
Today, as a result of the extremely active M&A business environment, even if you have a score card you cannot always count on who the competitive players are going to be in the not-to-distant future. As a consequence, the quality and depth of the market research effort required to construct a well-thought-out business plan has been elevated. Marketing has to contribute sufficient due diligence to reduce risk and increased the probability of success for any new business venture.
Access to and positioning within the right channels-to-market has become a top priority for many companies. Consolidations among distributors, for example, have created major problems for companies that rely on distribution to complement their direct sales efforts. Fewer high-quality distributors that maintain a knowledgeable (coatings) sales force and poses a broad geographic footprint are now available to choose from.
Distributor consolidations are often accompanied with an organizational drive to move towards fewer principles and product offerings. This create both winners and losers among suppliers vying for their services. This issue applies to additive suppliers, resin manufacturers, and formulators.
In an alternative context, retail market channels continue to maintain their strong market position in serving the DIY, DIFM and professional users. Those manufacturers that have established a primary supply position with these mega-retailers or “big box” manufactures limit access to these market by other competitors. The importance of channel-to-market positioning as the primary supplier to these major retailers is critical.
Today, marketing is challenged with identifying and helping to plot a market strategy that has a viable channel-to-market plan.
Company Image and Brand Positioning
The value of company image and brand positioning, in today’s coatings market, has been elevated significantly as a result of concerns over global warming and the importance of sustainability. This includes a focus on reducing carbon footprint and the incorporation of more bio-based raw materials in next generation formulations. It also included a commitment to recycle/reuse (circularity) of the products the company manufactures as well as addressing waste minimization. These issues are increasingly impacting company behavior and influencing their long-term business strategies.
Marketing plays a primary role in protecting and enhancing the company’s image as well as strengthening company brands in the marketplace. These activities include:
- Convey the corporate image to stockholders and the investment community in general
- Protect/enhance the company’s strategic market position as a “market leader” or strengthening the company image as primary “market challenger”
- Improve the company image and visibility forward to other levels of the value chain. This includes OEM, tier suppliers, distributors, and industry piers
- Elevate brand awareness and differentiation for the company’s products/services among customers.
Media, Digital Marketing and Search engine optimization (SEO)
Advertising, interacting with the media, and industry interactions through conferences and trade show has always been an important component of the marketing effort. Today, digital marketing, social media, and the internet in various forms are an added component to doing business in today coating marketplace. This is true regardless of a company’s size or the type of products or services they are trying to market.
Marketers today need to have an active, on-going plan of communications in this space. This means having a committed effort to keep information current in the various platforms your committed to support. It also requires that there be a monitoring of the activities of key competitors to ensure your company is keeping pace. For those companies that have a significant portion of their business directly linked to the individual consumer, it can require a separate group or department to effectively manage this effort.