Marketing as a Deliberative Process

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By Marshall Doak, Director of the Southern Oregon University Small Business Development Center

July 2024

Starting with this definition of marketing: “The creation of an image or description of a product or service that elicits a positive response in a target group”, the concept of marketing seems relatively straightforward. If we take this definition as sufficient to adequately describe marketing, then we can break down the elements of it to find four distinct components to include to develop a successful marketing plan, being:

1) Having something to offer other people;

2) Creating imagery through pictures, words and spoken messaging;

3) Communicating the intended message to others, and

4) Connecting with your target audience to create a positive response in the individuals you are targeting.

Having something

What is the core competency or product group you are wanting to base your business on? What do you know about your market for size, location, demographics, psychographics, potential? What are the features you have that will be made interesting to others? What is your value proposition?

Creating Imagery

What are you wanting to convey to your audience? What messaging are you wanting to use to reach out? Does your messaging align with how you want to present your service or product line? Is it attractive and compelling? Does it represent you well? Will your messaging be relatable to your target group(s)? Are you using storytelling and third-party testimonials?

Communicating the message

For communication to be successful, there needs to be a clear, succinct message transmitted and a receptive receiver in order to have success. Content, presentation, timing, audience characteristics, location and season are all elements to consider when communicating information outward. The goal is to align the messaging with the ability of the receiver to understand the content in order for the communication to succeed.

Connecting with Others

Of course, none of this matters if a connection is not made with people who you are wanting to convert to customers. This may sound a little cold, but it is perfectly alright to communicate with other people with the intent to persuade them, to guide them to change their impressions, their spending habits, and their acceptance of the goods and services you provide. This is the step in the sales funnel where a prospect is converted into a customer. This is the culmination of all the preparatory work, of the systems placed into service, of all the purchasing, fabricating and assembly work completed in order to have the opportunity to have a serious conversation about who you are and what you offer with the intention to establish a lasting relationship with a prospect for mutual benefit.

This is not the end point to marketing, rather it is a rough outline of pertinent elements of the marketing process or dynamic. These elements are supported through the application of principles that have been developed through the study of human responses to various marketing strategies. It has been determined that effective marketing is best performed when it is based on some substantial body of knowledge. This knowledge reservoir is built through research and through testing the information collected from individuals through sampling, interviews, the use of focus groups and through the use of surveys.

The Body of Knowledge

When thinking about using information to make marketing decisions, oftentimes the first question that arises is: What do I need to know in order to develop a viable, effective marketing plan? The answers to this question can be arranged into groups to facilitate understanding. Typical groupings of information include:

  • A marketer might want to know who the potential customers might be. This includes all the physical characteristics such as age, sex, income, race and education level of the potential customer or client base. This type of information describes the demographics of the target group.
  • Obtaining a report on the makeup of the industry that the subject company is in gives great insight into setting expectations for the performance of marketing initiatives over time.
  • A marketer might want to know where the target group(s) of clients reside. This location data can be extremely valuable to help focus marketing outreaches and programs.
  • Wouldn’t it be helpful to understand the characteristics of how a target group of clients may act and react to different types of product and service offerings? This describes psychographics, the understanding of the characteristics and preferences of the target groups. It includes the manner which your target group of customers access information to base their decision-making on.
  • When a company looks at new markets, it might be wise to understand a little about the competitive landscape of the target area. It is possible to develop a list of competitors that are currently occupying the space to understand the competitive environment of the target area. Knowing this in advance can confer market advantages to new entrants.
  • From a developmental perspective, it might be good to know of who and where potential supply chain partners are located. Lists of potential suppliers can be developed to aide in the selection of distribution and supply partners.
  • Having information available to understand what peer companies experience with regards to revenues and associated costs is extremely helpful in creating budgets, forecasts, and to track the progress of the company. Benchmarking your company against peers and your past performance is revealing to understand where your strengths and weaknesses are.
  • In determining how best to approach locating operations, using the power of mapping tools can greatly speed the process of selecting likely areas to operate in. Combining mapping with customer psychographics and demographics is an extremely powerful process to use to definitively define who, where customers reside, and how to market to achieve the best results in a marketing plan.

All of this information is readily obtainable through the use of secondary research into potential markets. The judicious use of these types of information can make the difference between success and failure of a marketing strategy.

Should these information sources prove to be insufficient to accumulate the needed information, then the use of primary research is possible, although this can be costly to implement. Primary research involves contacting potential clients to determine their preferences, ability and interest to purchase, and to determine which features of your product and service are most appealing to the potential target market or market segment.

If you are using this article as a guide, then you may realize you have reached a point where you have accumulated a body of knowledge and have a definition, or template to use to develop an effective and cost-efficient model for the development of a marketing strategy, plan and promotion. This is not the end of a process, rather it is the start to the ‘Art of Marketing’ to gain real-life information for how your developed strategy and support materials work in the most definitive arena for marketing, which is the real world.

Up until this point in the process of developing a marketing strategy has been developed from realistic information based on an analytic process. From this point forward, the manner of the development process changes from the analytic, or quantitative process, to the qualitative process. The skillset required to be successful in a qualitative atmosphere is quite different than the quantitative, and the ‘Art of Marketing’ takes on new meaning. This is the point where traditional marketing techniques and tools become effective in the hands of a Marketing Artist. Regardless of an individual’s skillset, the best results for a marketing plan and strategy are obtained through a collaborative process between team members who have a variety of skills and personalities, and not solely reliant upon an individual perspective or approach. This is also the point where marketing can be described as an art form, which is much more than an analytic process. The upside to this is an understanding that marketing is a creative process and it is oftentimes in this area of business development that the most joy is found by entrepreneurs.

All of this activity and effort finally comes down to developing the ability to influence your target customers to change their purchasing habits and divert a portion of that spending your way. And yes, that qualitative measure can be quantified and measured against preset benchmarks to assure yourself that the time, expense and efforts are suitably rewarded.

Marshall Doak is the Director of the Southern Oregon University Small Business Development Center
and a huge supporter of innovation and the community that forms around innovation in the economy.
In private practice as owner of Managed Successions, LLC, he develops and manages projects for public
and private organizations for specific goal achievement success. He can be reached through: or 541-646-4126.

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