What is marketing? How to describe marketing to your colleagues

If you’re in the marketing industry, you’ll know how rewarding it is, and how instrumental it can be to business success. You’ll also know how hard it is to describe what you do to your colleagues. From sales to finance, people outside marketing often answer the question of ‘what is marketing?’ with ‘the fluffy stuff’, ‘just posters and flyers’, or (very uncharitably) ‘a drain on our resources’ – and apart from being inaccurate, it can result in marketers being seriously under-utilised.

To combat that, at HN we’ve created a handy guide to explaining the four branches of marketing to your colleagues, and how they benefit your business:

The four branches of marketing:

1. Analytical marketing
All about understanding your customers’ needs, behaviours and values, using research and insight. It helps us decide what to sell, who to sell it to, and how to position it best to the customer.

2. Operational marketing
Putting systems and processes in place to manage the marketing process and ensure its effectiveness. This ensures that marketing provides a solid ROI and does what it says it does.

3. Marketing planning
Optimising your budget, improving the way you implement your strategy, and creating targeted value propositions. Not surprisingly, it ensures that we stick to a plan instead of committing random acts of marketing.

4. Creative marketing
The communication of your proposition. The last bit of the process, where we create the flyers, write the copy, and do the ‘fluffy stuff’ that convinces the customer to buy from us.

And, if you want something a little more artistic to help explain to your colleagues what marketing is, here’s four definitions from the HN team themselves:


What do you think marketing is? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

3 tips for more effective target marketing

Inbound marketing – we all want to do it, but getting it right is hard. The key to success is accurate targeting of your audience to ensure their interest and attention. But how can you achieve that? Here at HN we have 3 tips to help marketers reach their target markets more effectively.

1: Proactively target the buying team

Time was that the sales team would do this, but nowadays the buying team is doing its own research before the salesperson has even picked up the phone. Marketers need to reach out to buying teams themselves by providing content that positions your products or services as the solution to their problems.

2: Target smarter, not harder

It’s not just about targeting by demographic, or job role. Your prospects will all be at different points in the buying cycle, and you need content that can reach out to them – wherever they are – and move them further along the cycle.

3: Get specific

Placing an ad on websites that your audience demographic are visiting will only get you so far. There’s no reason not to focus on the specific characteristics of your target audience – or ‘micro-targeting’ as it’s called. With the right data (best if from multiple sources to ensure its validity) you can create content that speaks to very specific personas and engages them.

Do you find audience targeting a struggle? How do you go about creating content that speaks to your audience? We’d love to hear your thoughts and if you like what you read then feel free to share.

4 key B2B marketing tools CMOs are using – explained

In the world of B2B, the number of tools available to help marketers and CMOs is mind-boggling. To help you make sense of things, we’ve made a handy list of the top four marketing tools CMOs are using – and explained why they’re so useful.


Does snackable content leave your audience hungry?

Do we all suffer from an attention deficit?
The human race reportedly now has “the attention span of less than a goldfish”, and long content is about as useful to marketers as a bicycle is to a fish. In today’s permanently connected world, snackable content is regarded as the only type of content that will make it through the barrage of information we experience every day.

But is it really, though?

If our attention spans are so poor, how can I have sat and spent at least 10 minutes on this article already, without wandering away from my desk? How do I regularly drive up to Leeds without getting distracted and missing my junction? How do our customers get through RFP documents, which are often long and complex, without giving up?

The answer is simple: there’s nothing wrong with our attention span. It’s our motivation as consumers of content that’s being affected.

Motivation is the key
Think of it this way: you’ll watch a documentary, or read a book for an evening, because you’re interested in the content you’re consuming, and (especially in the case of fiction) because you’re emotionally invested in it. That interest motivates us to pay attention long after we theoretically should have become distracted and disappeared, and it’s this same motivation (or lack of it) that’s responsible for the rise in snackable content.

By keeping content short, marketers can convey their message to the audience before that audience has lost interest and moved on. There’s no denying that this is a powerful weapon in the marketer’s arsenal, but to say that it’s the only tool that works any more makes the assumption that there’s nothing you can do about your audience’s motivation to pay attention to your organisation. That simply isn’t true. After all, in the B2B world the customer is at some point going to have to sit down and pay attention to someone – they’re spending, in some cases, tens of thousands of pounds on a purchase – so the job of the marketer is to motivate the customer to pay attention to their brand over the competition’s. That’s where snackable content comes in.

Hook, line and sinker
In the same way that the advert for that documentary we were talking about earlier motivated you to sit down and watch the whole thing, snackable content needs to motivate the customer to sit down and take a proper look at your proposition. It’s not about giving them a condensed version of your entire proposition or message, but giving them just enough to pique their interest and pointing them towards your longer content that conveys your message and your proposition in full. A tweet that leads to a webinar; a blog post that links to a white paper; these are examples of how snackable and long-form content can form a powerful one-two punch that entices an unmotivated audience to engage with you.

The trick, as you’ve no doubt guessed, is making that snackable content as juicy and inviting as you can. Though the analogy of a goldfish might not be quite accurate (they have memories of up to three months, according to Wikipedia ), it’s true that your audience are busy people who have information coming at them from all angles. Short content that shines like a diamond is required to get them to notice you – but once they do, don’t feel pressured into saying everything you have to say in a rush. Treat snackable content as a gateway to the wonders of your longer content, and you’ll find that your audience do, too.

Does your company’s self-narrative limit your marketing strategy?

Not long ago, the BBC aired a fascinating episode of a series called Four Thought, which featured as its guest speaker the psychotherapist Philippa Perry. In the 15-minute segment (you can listen to it here), Perry discusses three foster children who seem unable to interpret good news because they have never heard it; she tells us that they’ve become victims of their own self-narrative – the story they tell about themselves, to themselves. The children did not tell themselves a happy story, and it changed how they were able to perceive the world.

This got me thinking; what stories do we as businesses tell ourselves, to ourselves? What’s our brand’s self-narrative?

If we tell ourselves negative stories – that business is slow right now, or that our market is in decline and there’s nothing we can do about it, for example – then what opportunities might we miss?

One of the companies I used to work for had just this problem. We told ourselves that our market was only interested in the cheapest price, that our head office in Japan didn’t understand how we worked, and that our colleagues in mainland Europe weren’t cooperating with us because they didn’t like our relative autonomy. I wonder what opportunities we missed because we told ourselves these things. If we’d adjusted our brand’s self-narrative, who knows what new approaches might have occurred to us? Our entire way of doing business could have changed.

Of course, you can’t just go changing the facts – for instance, if you’re in a declining market, there’s no point in denying it – but you can change how you view them. Instead of telling yourself that there’s nothing you can do about your market, tell yourself that you can get your exit strategy sorted and take business from others leaving the market early. Positive thinking can go a long way in changing how you see the market. In the case of my old company, if we’d told ourselves that we needed to show our customers that the cheapest price wasn’t the benefit they thought it was — that there were other measures of value — we could have made some interesting opportunities for ourselves. And if we had taken some more time to understand and support our colleagues in Europe and Japan, we might have been able to follow up on those opportunities with great success.

Changing your brand’s self-narrative won’t just potentially help you find new strategies and customers; it will also change how your customers think of you. If you sound negative, your customers will think of you as negative. If you believe in your company, then your customers will start to do the same.

So what’s the moral to this tale, other than that BBC Radio 4 produces some very thought-provoking material? It’s this: the stories we tell about ourselves have an enormous impact on us and our customers. Make sure you’re telling the right ones.