Marketing has two meanings in business: First, marketing is a strategic consumer orientation--firms should use as their principle objective the satisfaction of the wants and needs of their customers and other stakeholders. Consumers are free to choose from any competitor; they choose in order to maximize their own set of benefits. No matter what the quality of a firm's product, the efficiency of its logistics, the accuracy of its books, the soundness of its financing, if its offering does not meet consumer needs, it will not succeed. To support a consumer orientation, marketing emphasizes an understanding of buyers, both consumers and organizations, and their decision processes, as well as an understanding of the research methods associated with scientific study of the marketplace.
Second, marketing refers to the management of all the ways in which the firm and its external stakeholders interact. These management functions include the design of the product (goods and services), establishing prices, delivery of the product (time and place), promotion (advertising, personal selling, public relations, social media, sales promotion, and other branding activities), plus marketing research.
Because marketing is always either focused on or based upon consumers, people skills are important. Not the "glad-handing/back-slapping" stereotype of a used car salesman--deep people skills: An understanding of human behavior; a sensitivity to peoples' needs and concerns; good verbal and listening skills. In many marketing jobs, of course, poise, confidence, and inter-personal skills are important; but, throughout marketing, it is crucial to empathize with people.
The ability to make good decisions when there is rarely a clear "right" answer is a special skill of good marketers. Both consumers and the competitive marketplace are changing, not only a constant change, but a rapid change. As a result, marketers typically face uncertainty. Their decisions are made, of course, about the future, which is always unpredictable. But, marketers deal with human behavior that has thousands of small influences, creating a complexity that may never be fully known. Consider, for example, the role of social media. Marketers know that Facebook and Instagram posts affect consumer perceptions. But, even if the millions of posts every day could be analyzed that same day, the results would not necessarily predict the next day. Every hour of every day, the world is changing.
Other key characteristics for marketers include flexibility, the ability to respond to the unexpected; problem analysis and synthesis, skill in identifying new problems and new solutions; and creativity.
A concentration in marketing may be an entry point to a wide range of career paths. Some are specialized: Marketing Research (research, focus group interviewing, experimental design, data analyst, as examples), Advertising execution, New Product Design. Many others are more general: Brand Manager, Product Manager, Retail Management, Personal Selling or Sales Management. Almost all industries require marketing, including the arts, non-profits, and sports/entertainment/celebrity management.