So, just what the heck is Marketing?

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Fri, Jun 09, 2017

If you ever want to slow down or disrupt a board meeting or a strategy session, just ask this question...

marketing-2.jpgWhat do you mean by "Marketing"?

Definitions will overflow the room ranging from lofty academic statements, which no one will really understand, to acronyms from well-meaning analytics mechanics who have never been responsible for a sales quota. 

Various people will then take control of whiteboards and easels sketching out graphics, complex diagrams and bubble charts since words alone will not be able to suffice the enormity of all of these definitions.

...and at the end, no one will totally agree, and six or ten months later, there will be a similar discussion, but this time the question will be… “So, explain to me, what do you mean when you say “qualified lead”?

Asking these questions about marketing is something like asking..."Do I sound good when I'm singing in the shower?"

Everyone thinks they sound pretty good, or that they do marketing reasonably well, when in fact, there's only a tiny fraction of really great artists and experts, and those people are, in fact, constantly experimenting with change themselves.  To be an expert in marketing today in this rapidly cascading world of rapid change, even faster innovation and new technologies plus a long list of metrics requires a mix of both curiosity and discipline. 

  • The curiosity relates to constantly assessing and being open to new applications, new technologies and new processes.  
  • he discipline applies to always remembering the simple fact that the only real objective of marketing is to generate leads and therefore increased revenue.

Since marketing is a blend of both art and science, and the last time I looked, I have the privilege of teaching this stuff as a professor at Tufts and a lecturer at MIT, (but still regard myself as only a student of marketing) I would love to get your interpretations, definitions or even diagrams and bubble charts to the very simple question of…“What the heck is Marketing?” 

So, Why the Question now?

  1. Every summer I spend many days on the NH beach reading, studying, thinking and interpreting the answer to this question in prep for the upcoming fall semester. I know!  It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, and it might as well be me, don't you think?
  2. I just facilitated a three day strategy meeting with one of our long term customers who happens to be among the top 200 brands in the world, and we took that time to tactically interpret this question in exacting detail.  An absolutely fascinating meeting, which is one of the reasons I'm reaching out to our various Derby Tribe members here to get your fresh ideas.  
  3. What I have learned as a student of Marketing both in our consulting practice and in my teaching at Tufts and MIT, is that whatever we know now about Marketing will be somewhat obsolete in 18 to 24 months from now.  Will the fundamentals remain the same?  Maybe, probably and could be.  Will the strategies, the tactics and the metrics remain the same?  Some, of course, but not many.
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inbound marketing 2017.pngWhile you're figuring out how to help here, after you've made your comments on your own ideas, you may also want to take at look at the Inbound piece of Marketing by clicking into the recently released "State of Inbound" from our friends at Hubspot.

Marketing Plan-2-1.pngI would love to get your comments, your engagement, ideas and leadership  here.  You can note them below as open comments, which would be great since it would help me to listen to the back and forth, but, of course if you just want to email me at, that would also work.

What I do know is that you don't need to be an expert or even a student of marketing to join in this discussion, since in your own "signing in the shower" on this subject, you already have your own interpretation, and it's that which I'm looking for in reaching out to the Tribe.

Join me at Tufts this fall for a Sales or Marketing Project 

tufts 2.bmpJoin me this fall at Tufts for a semester-long project which will bring a team of experienced sales and marketing students to your company to create detailed operating plans, do market research and provide you and your company with fresh and innovative solutions.  

tufts spring 2017_edited.jpg

I have the privilege of being a professor at Tufts where I teach a course in "The Art & Science of Sales", and another in "Inbound Marketing".  If you're Interested, just email me at, and I will send you a one pager detailing the arrangement.

Good Selling, Good Marketing...and Good Planning !
The time is now, not tomorrow !

 Jack Derby

Head Coach  

 Derby Management...for 25 years
 -Sales & Marketing Productivity experts
 -Business & Strategy Planning specialists
 -Senior Management Coaches for CEOs & VPs

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Boston, MA 02117
Jack's Cell: 617-504-4222