This is often the first question that a lot of companies and individuals who are new or unsure about the area ask me when I am discussing the possibilities available to them in terms of creating a sound plan to drive brand awareness & acquire & retain clients.
Investopedia defines it as https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/marketing.asp . Wikipedia has a good definition https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing but it oversimplifies the process that is now multichannel, multi-activity with over 80% of activities being digital.
Marketing management is constantly evolving, not in principle but in technical complexity. When I was a young brand manager, you had email, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, outdoor ads, cinema ads, mailshots (snail mail & fire lighting materials....), exhibitions etc. Today you can ad in multichannel communications such as social media, blogs, webinars, podcasts, websites, search engines, affiliate marketing, etc. So if we know that marketing is the activities undertaken to sell a product or service then how can we make this simpler & come back to deliver the meaning of marketing? In truth, you can.
It's all a matter of being clear what your brand stands for, who your target clients are (of course segmented by their particular needs) & creating a plan around delivering a great experience for them. So how do we choose? Well here's the tricky part. It all depends: age, ethnicity, interests, sex, height, weight, time, culture & many more factors can all get into the mix. My approach is to simplify as much as possible so start off by finding as many facts as you can through search engines & also ask people their opinions. This should deliver enough to start off with a simple model where the segments or let's say groups of consumers with similar needs can be targeted more easily to sell more of your product or service. This then reveals the most likely places that they would go on the internet or in normal times to shop, eat, drink & allows you to match the channel, the message & your business forecast with those groups. The test then on reviewing is "did it work?" ie did you sell what you thought you would to the groups that you targetted.
I can also recommend sites like Neil Patel who recommends 25 Marketing Books You Should Be Reading (neilpatel.com) as well as taking you through how to create effective websites, social media & other digital media so that you become " streetwise" in the world of digital marketing. If you are an and SME or startup business the chances are that marketing is playing a larger part in your organisation then it is key that you both understand the basics, and you get value for money.
What you really need is a helping hand from an experienced marketing director or manager without the expense of hiring full time unless you are ready to pay a large chunk for experience & competence. Over the last year, I have used my experience on a number of SMEs & startups in France and the UK & found that being a minimal part of their marketing team is sufficient to power companies to greater and profitable growth. The beauty of this arrangement is that companies can subscribe to your services and flex according to need. It also brings a refreshing element to the marketing since I and my teamwork on a number of clients at the same time so good ideas can be shared between sectors and countries!
Lastly, I also believe that mixing experience with young talent is essential to get the most out of today's marketing budgets. The bottom line is always the profitable monetisation element & without this, you don't have a sound business model. Again a great article on this is here A Complete Guide to App Monetization (neilpatel.com) - I constantly read articles like this to keep up to date with changes in algorithms, new applications & new trends. It also helps to implant solid big company process & rigour early to take into account your growth & the need for discipline to deliver your results.
To finish, remember that if you are clear who you are & what you expect to achieve then by keeping things relatively simple you can deliver great results from start-up and beyond using marketing!