Learning Marketing, Branding, P/R, Product Management, or Sales

You don't need to attend a prestigious university to learn basic business skills
You don’t need to attend a prestigious university to learn basic business skills: MIT main building, impressive in person too!

If you are a skilled marketer, P/R wiz, sales funnel expert, or have expertise in your field, skip this article (section). Essentially we will start with a project with a definition, in this case a marketing project. In marketing, there are a few terms and a few techniques which will define the work. We are going to look at marketing and product management as an example. If you are a domain expert in a different area, you may want to skim the marketing description simply to get an idea about the example in later sections. We will try to keep each section independent so the information will be useful even one section at a time.

In traditional corporate (product) marketing, the role of marketing is to take a product from the production side (sometimes engineering, creative, product design, etc.) to the sales and market realm. In simple terms, it is translating product specific description (features and benefits) into customer or market specific language. Essentially telling an average buyer what the product does. Further, it is also “selling” the benefits of the product: better, cheaper, faster, bigger, sexier, nicer… etc… Essentially, getting interest in the product. Sometimes, marketing is the creator of advertising, direct sales campaigns (i.e. junk mail), catalogs or sales promotion flyers, sales collateral, trade show displays, etc. Marketing in most organizations is responsible for the “stuff” the is needed to sell a product. Sales is responsible for the “activities” of selling the product: meeting customers, training sales people (i.e. indirect sales people in stores or “channels”), and tracking sales results. Marketing also helps and is sometimes responsible for setting prices, keeping an eye on competitors, tracking market behavior, and other strategic tasks. Marketing in many organizations is considered strategic while sales is considered tactical.  

Note: The descriptions use many terms which have not been previously defined. Explanations and definitions can be found in the glossary section. The writing style is designed to ease and smooth the reading.

Instead of teaching about marketing, my advice is to use available material. It also seems prudent to learn about the subject in the best way you can understand and which fits your needs. If you learn well by reading books, by all means get yourself a basic marketing book. If you need a specific book about certain marketing field: branding, positioning, direct marketing, get the standard in that category. If you are good at classroom and structured program studies, enroll in a full time or part time program. There are many courses you can take online. Some are formal like MIT OpenCourseWare Marketing  >>  Management course. There are many other courses you can find which are given by many large American universities. The world of free university courses is dynamic and competitive. What you will find today will surely change tomorrow. Search both through the search engines and directly with universities which seem to be useful. Finally there are many free and paid internet courses. Some are technical and are helpful in understanding marketing from the internet perspective (i.e. affiliate marketing, direct marketing such as SEO and direct mail campaigns). If you think this is what you need to get started, than go ahead and take the course. My experience is mixed with paid and free courses. I have not had the experience of paid courses which are worth recommending.  There are some horror stories about expensive courses (in the $1,000s) teaching “internet business” with not much success. Yet, the same courses have examples of successful student projects: web sites which sell products and make money.

Clear Message, Image, Ideas… Not Just for Marketing

Content in the form of writing, images (i.e. drawings, photos), videos and audio is needed for sites with many different topics. I use the marketing example because what I see. If you are going to develop a site for direct sales (digital or other products), if you are going to promote an idea (i.e. P/R), if you have information to store and publicize, or any other type of goal, you can use the techniques and ideas here. The idea of learning marketing or another subject is just a suggestion from experience. Whatever you are going to write about, you should have the background to design a “framework”. This framework will help in guiding you with the actual content creation. Having a few hundred articles without any organization, without any idea how to promote the writing, or without some sort of strategy, makes for a messy site. The one critical difference between the internet and other formats is the careful organization, clear message, and extreme focus readers expectations. Without a clear message in the first impression, readers simply go away to “somewhere better”. Usually they do not come back. (You will soon understand what I mean by “somewhere better”) Even with the best SEO, where Google and Bing send thousands of readers to your site, your key message will be lost. This is why you need some techniques, even a “flow”. A method to organize the ideas, clearly define the content, then keep improving both the creation (writing) and the overall site. This means not only promotion, sometimes in the form of SEO or advertising, but also the other tasks like organization (i.e. using key words, tags, categories), following a clear line of thought in the publication, clearly stating and “doing” what you intended to do. It may also mean changing your message or the way you present the material. One key benefit with sites and the internet as a whole is the quick dissemination and feedback. Getting quick feedback, even if it means not what you wanted initially, is a big advantage. This advantage will be used later when you both design your actual content and when you promote and improve your content.

Learn With An Aim To Plan, Write, Edit, Promote…

Once you get an idea of what you want to learn, start getting ready for the next step. You can just learn for enjoyment to to learn a new skill set. You can also learn for a career, to get that first job. Yet, for content development, you need to learn to develop plans, strategies, tactics, and eventually: real content. This means once you have a strategy, getting down to topics, actual description of the writing, then tactics to promote. This means, when you learn about positioning, uniquely defining and promoting a product “differently” than other products in a category, think about how it is done with content. Then think of what you need to learn, either through theory, or practical examples (i.e. case studies) to help you do this task for yourself. Here is where you need to stretch your mind a bit and learn in a targeted fashion. When you learn in a targeted fashion, you not only make the learning experience easier, you are also learning with a purpose. This should make the learning quicker and eventually much more profitable.

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