What are the basics of marketing?

Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy, puts it best when he says ‘marketing is the lens of the customer in your organisation’. That means to say marketing is an attitude as much as it is an activity, and it is far broader than just promotion and advertising – it’s everything your customer can see, touch or interact within your business. 

Three stages

Mark Ritson, Professor of Marketing, puts marketing into three buckets, each of which deserves time and attention. 

These buckets are: market orientation, strategy, and tactics. Here, we’ll explain each, giving you a reference point on how to build out your own marketing activities. 


Market Orientation

Market orientation is the first thing you should do before even having a product. Simply put, in this stage you’re looking to understand the pains, needs and desires of the market you have chosen. 

To find out these needs, pains and wants, you can ask people, observe what they say on social media, or more formally do things such as bring together a focus group to ask questions. 

Essentially, you are looking to get to a place where you’re able to identify all those ‘don’t you hate it when…’ or ‘I would love it if…’ moments your potential customers have. 

Market orientation is always the bit people miss or skip over, but by having an understanding of what the market wants, you’re able to create a product and use language to advertise it that matter to the customer, rather than just mattering to you.


Now you have an understanding of what the market wants, you’re able to start developing a strategy to match. Simply put, this strategy dictates things like the audience you are targeting, tone of voice, key messages, what your brand will sound like and other elements which will stay consistent over the course of time, even if your tactics change. 

Here, target audience is perhaps the most important as if you are saying your audience is ‘everyone’, what you’re actually saying is your audience is ‘no one’ because your message will be so broad, it won’t resonate with anyone. 

One tool that is worth considering is developing a ‘persona’. Here, you create a fictional version of your target audience, almost as if they’re in the room there with you. The advantage here is you are then able to go back to the persona with every decision you make and ask the question ‘will this thing I am doing benefit <persona name>?’

For more on creating personas, there is a great resource here: https://www.hubspot.com/make-my-persona

Once you have created your persona, everything else quite simply begins to fall out of this version of your target audience, including tone of voice, the messages that will resonate and more. 


This is the bit everyone rushes to, but will ultimately fall flat if you haven’t done the groundwork upfront in the orientation and strategy stages. 

The simplest way to evaluate this upfront is the 4Ps, although there is many nuances once you get cracking. 

First, product – finally we’re defining what we sell. The product is a solution to the problems discovered in the orientation stage. 

Second, price. Here, you’re looking for the right price for the market. With enough understanding of the problem you are solving and the financial position of your customers, price should fall out fairly quickly, too. 

Third, place. Where do you want your product to be consumed? Are you online only, in person, on the move? All these things will contribute to how customer will interact with your company. 

Finally, promotion. At this stage, it’s worth stopping to dedicate a little time to this section. 


First, it’s better to stop thinking about marketing as digital marketing vs old fashioned marketing. If you’re solving the needs of the customer – you’re marketing. 

Promotion is the process of advertising or communicating what your product or service is about to the customer. It’s also the bit where everyone says ‘my cousin has told me to start on Facebook, so I think we should do that’. 

When you’re planning on doing your promotion, try splitting up your activity into five stages: 

  • Awareness – Making someone aware of your product
  • Consideration – Making someone who is potentially interested in your product, move to purchase
  • Purchase – Making the purchase process as easy as possible
  • Retention – Keeping the customers you have, rather than having to keep on finding new ones
  • Advocacy – Turning your current customers into your biggest fans

This is useful because when you’re looking to start your activity, it’s important to not just do stuff, it’s important to do it with purpose. The above five steps provide the ‘with purpose’ bit. 

There is a multitude of ways to promote your business, and no ‘right’ answer on the mix of channels that make up your strategy. The only answer that is right is whatever suits your audience. However, by doing the orientation and strategy stages, you’re far more likely to know exactly what these channels are. 


Finally, there has to be a word put in the direction of measurement. 

It’s no good chucking £100 at something and hoping it will work. Instead, take a moment to consider what you would like out of any of your marketing activities, and then plan how you can measure the success of this. 

Ultimately, it’s all about understanding what works in terms of hitting the goals you set, and doing more of that, and doing less of what doesn’t.