Ask a few entrepreneurs about marketing and you will probably get different answers from each of them. Some will say

it is their advertising, some will say branding, others will mumble incoherently because they don’t really understand it.

For many new entrepreneurs marketing is often overlooked in the beginning, often because of its vast all-encompassing

nature; however it is something an entrepreneur should be thinking about from day one. The marketing plan, usually

part of a business plan an entrepreneur will write when starting a business, has all the elements that make up marketing

including; branding, advertising, packaging, customers, research, and more. However, marketing is more than the sum

of the parts that make it up, it is about the strategy of how those things come together.

 

To find out more about why marketing is important to inventors with a new product, new businesses just launching or

existing businesses looking to improve customer relations, I talked with an experienced Marketing Executive, Brad

Stevens. We started by talking about what really defines marketing. “Marketing involves the strategic coordination of

several core elements of business,” Brad starts to explain, “namely the nature of the product itself; the price at which it

will be sold; the place where it will be made available to buyers; and the promotion that will be used to create

awareness and drive demand.” He goes on to explain that in addition to the traditional 4 P’s of marketing, often a 5 th P

–People- should be included. “That is, the people who comprise your target market.” He further explains,

“Understanding your target intrinsically, that is- knowing the essence of your customers' fundamental needs and

desires, and how your product uniquely fulfills them, can be the true north that guides every element of your marketing

plan.”

 

At its core Marketing is about the customer and meeting their needs. I asked Brad about his experience as Vice

President of two companies known for building successful customer loyalty programs – Starbucks and Nordstrom and

how individual entrepreneurs can build good customer relationships early on. “Customers are drawn to authenticity.”

He says, “That's not always easy to explain to an entrepreneur, but what I like to point out is that the thing that makes

the entrepreneur passionate about his/her business is likely to be the same thing that will give it the best chance to

capture customers.  The entrepreneur creates the product or service because it solves a problem or addresses an unmet

need in the marketplace.”

 

When an entrepreneur takes the time to consider all the other elements of marketing early, they have an opportunity to

build a brand that will be seen as a champion to the consumer. Looking closely at the competition or potential

customers provides much of the foundation for marketing, including possible price, promotion and place can be

identified. Whether there is a direct competitor or not, any new business will be taking market share from someone

else, so identifying them early helps to start building a comprehensive marketing strategy. This approach will fuel the

passion that sparked the idea in the first place and build a business that will more easily find its customers.

 

I finished the interview with Brad by asking him what advice he had for other entrepreneurs. “I find it hard to distill

business success down to a single idea.” He said, “so I’ll string together some related tenets: Keep it simple and stay on

course.  Remain as nimble as you can for as long as you can.  Don’t over extend yourself or get distracted from your

mission. Succeed or fail, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you stayed true to the original ideals that guided

you from the beginning.”

 

*This piece originally appeared in the Bellingham Herald.