The Meaning and Purpose of Marketing

Written by
Miki Lainovic
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5
min read

Marketing is a core function of any business, big or small. And it’s been around for a long time.

Leonardo Da Vinci almost invented marketing in 1503, but the Mona Lisa turned out to be too low-res to use on pizza boxes. Instead, the invention of magazines in the 1700s led to the earliest-known marketing. In the 1800s the field evolved to include poster advertising, then adapted to new media such as radio in the early 1900s, which also saw the advent of public relations. 

One century and a host of media revolutions later, today’s marketers are shifting hard to digital media. Online marketing has proven so effective that it’s wholly eclipsed print as a way to reach consumers. Online e-commerce sales in the US reached $431.6 billion in 2020, and by 2025, experts estimate those sales to reach $563.4 billion.

The bottom line is you can’t ignore marketing. What does that mean for independent creators? We’ll dive into the basics as we define marketing and explain how it can help you build an audience and monetize your work.

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What is marketing?

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In the broadest sense, marketing’s purpose is to help a business grow by selling more of its product or service. Marketing activities are the way a company promotes that product or service to potential customers. 

Marketing can happen at pretty much any stage of the process of making and selling something. It includes elements like market research, visual branding, advertising, and social-media interaction. Your marketing can impact the way you talk about your product, the way you present it to the market and even the way you distribute it. (Note that advertising can be an element of marketing as well — but advertising and marketing are not the same thing.) 

Marketing can also be handled internally, by your full-time team (which, if you’re an independent creator, is probably just you), or by an outside agency. Whichever method you choose depends on your company's budget and what works well for its current strength and size. 

As with anything, it’s important to start with a strategy. A good way to build a basic marketing strategy is to use the four Ps: product, pricing, place, and promotion.

What are the 4 Ps, and how do they define marketing services?

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Initially designed by Professor James Culliton and deemed part of the “marketing mix” by Neil H. Borden in the 1940s, the 4 Ps can give you a basic but sturdy plan for taking your product to market.

Product

First and foremost, you need a product to sell. Your product can range from a physical item, like a T-shirt, to a subscription service like a podcast. 

Whatever it is, there has to be something somebody (hopefully lots of somebodies) wants to buy. It’s essential to do some research on the audience you believe will make up your target market.

What is your audience’s overall demographic? What do they want from your product? Why do they want it? Knowing how to meet their needs will inform your product — and your marketing strategy.

Price

Next is price. How much will your product cost? Here's where your market research will be critical, as it'll tell you how much money your target market will be willing to spend. 

For example, is your audience composed primarily of teens with little disposable income? You’ll want to set your price low to fit their budget.

Other things you'll want to factor into this final price:

  • How much it will cost to make and ship your product. If it’s a service, your time is the main cost.
  • How much do competing products cost?
  • How are competing products bundled, and how does that impact the price?  
  • How much value are you creating for your customers? Value-based pricing often leads to higher margins than setting prices purely based on costs.

The goal is to find the maximum price consumers are willing to pay for your product; if it’s more than it costs you to produce it, you’re in business. 

Place

Where you sell your product will affect your distribution strategy. The most significant variable here is whether you’re selling at a physical store or online. In both cases, you want to create a fun, unique shopping experience that's easy and enjoyable for your customers. This is crucial to keep them coming back for more.

Promotion

This is the part you probably already associate with marketing — the communication methods you use to talk about, generate interest in, and sell your product or service across all forms of media. Examples of promotion would be paid advertising, social media campaigns, and virtual or actual events.

What does marketing do for your business?

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So how do the 4 Ps help a creator’s business? At the core, they promote growth. To do that, they have to do a bunch of specific things:

Raise brand awareness

  • Helping consumers understand what product or service you’re selling and how it'll meet their needs.

Build brand trust

  • Instilling faith in your products. Which only happens if your marketing campaigns continue to deliver on your promises.

Generate traffic

  • The more visits to your website, the more opportunities to convert those visitors into sales.

Track metrics

  • Measure everything you possibly can — from online traffic to social-media interactions to email conversions — so you can assess what’s working, what’s not, and make adjustments. You want to put your resources toward what’s working, so you need to know what that is. 

Increase revenue

  • The top line is the bottom line for a marketing campaign. If all the above happens, sales should go up. If they don’t, you need to reassess. 

Different types of marketing

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Under the marketing umbrella are a handful of tactics for promotion and growth. Creators should at least be familiar with all of them — you’ll probably choose something on this list when you’re ready to promote.   

Digital marketing

Anything you do to promote your business online. It’s quickly becoming synonymous with marketing generally, and it includes things like email marketing, mobile marketing, and social media marketing.

Content marketing

Content marketing is the act of creating consistent, valuable content for your audience, with the intent to drive consumer engagement by offering them solutions to their problems, insights they find useful, or entertainment they enjoy.

SEO marketing

We’re talking “search engine optimization,” or the act of using keywords, phrases, and specific topics to increase your website’s visibility on a search engine like Google. Because that’s where we all go when we’re looking for information or stuff to buy, SEO is critical for marketers.

Social media marketing

The ubiquity of social media makes it another vital piece of your marketing plan. 

Social media marketing can create and maintain social accounts to increase brand awareness, hashtag campaigns, or community engagement. You’ll get more response when you pay to boost your content — which can be quite cost-effective. The social media platforms to pay closest attention to for marketers are, as you’d guess, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. 

Video marketing

In a way, video marketing has been around since the first TV commercials. But you no longer need a big budget and a creative agency to reach your target market with video. You just need accounts on YouTube, Instagram, etc., plus some basic gear. With all those things and a good story to tell, video will be incredibly effective.

The bottom line

Marketing is an essential part of any business. If you want to grow, you have to do it. 

To recap:

  • The purpose of marketing is to convert your audience into loyal long-term customers, using various tactics ranging from market research to social-media interaction.
  • If you don’t know where to start, let the four Ps be your guide.
  • Marketing can help you grow your business by raising brand awareness, building trust, and generating traffic.
  • You can use different types of marketing to increase your online audience, including video marketing, social media marketing, and content marketing.
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Written by
Written by
Miki Lainovic

Business development associate at Descript

Descript is a collaborative audio/video editor that works like a doc. It includes transcription, a screen recorder, publishing, and some mind-bendingly useful AI tools.
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Miki Lainovic

Business development associate at Descript

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