"Marketing" (particularly Internet marketing) seems to be the subject of about 90% of blogs. It's the single most common topic for lenses on Squidoo. And it's a generally accepted synonym for lies, half-truths and general bullshit. A lot of people hate marketing without knowing exactly what it is.
So what is marketing?
A lot of people think of marketing as another word for "selling stuff," which is partly right. They're connected, but they're not the same. Selling is its own discipline. Fine marketers are often completely inept salespeople, and vice versa.
Along the same lines, a lot of people think marketing is advertising. Advertising is just one (sometimes very small and occasionally nonexistent) component of marketing.
Marketing is an organization's relationship with its customers
That's my definition, anyway, and it holds up pretty well for me.
Manufacturing is not marketing, but knowing what to make can be. Putting products together into interesting and easy-to-buy packages is part of marketing. Letting the product-making-people know what products turn customers on, and what kinds of new stuff customers want, is an important part of really good marketing.
It's not exactly sales, but it is the way salespeople interact with customers, and the way that customers feel after they talk with salespeople.
It's the way call centers answer the phone.
It's not IT, but it is whether or not the Web site is easy to use, handles sensitive information responsibly, and does what it's supposed to do.
It's not PR, but it needs to be in alignment with PR so you don't say one thing to the "public" and another thing to "your customers." Ideally, the public will get around to being your customers one of these days, so it's a good idea to get that communication in line.
It's not HR, but pissed off, disempowered employees tend not to treat customers like honored guests and friends.
Sometimes marketing includes the larger political implications of the supply chain. If slave and child labor from repressive countries are involved in your production, you've got a marketing (customer relationship) problem in addition to your ethical (looking yourself in the mirror) one.
Marketing is everything you say to customers, whether you say it in words, images or actions.
Marketing is the way you listen to what they say in return.
That's it, just those two. The next time you hear yourself saying, "I'm no good at marketing" or "I'm just not a marketer," see if that definition helps you frame your marketing problems in a more helpful way.
Flickr Creative Commons photo by babasteve