Don’t confuse Advertising with Marketing

I see it all the time, and the confusion it creates can cause you to waste budget dollars that should not only be a fixed component of your budget but also an important component of a sustainable business.  When asked the question, “What is your marketing strategy” most small business owners will state “I have an ad in, on or with…” 

Advertising is a tool of a marketing strategy.  It targets specific industries or groups you want to ultimately sell you product or services to.  It is not your marketing plan or strategy.  However, many small business owners will be sold on advertising that will not support their product or service. 

What should marketing do?  Simply put, it should provide the business with a broad spectrum of qualified leads that potentially turn into sales that will help improve the businesses revenue.  Within that function are requirements for specific sales levels, contribution to your total revenue and volume of qualified leads month after month.  If your marketing isn’t providing that for you, then you need to change it so that it does. 

Advertising, on the other hand, is a communication method that promotes your product or services.  It is not intended to sell.  Rather, it is intended to attract the right kind of buyers who may have an interest and are qualified to purchase from you.  Using an advertising method where the salesperson tells you that have 50,000 readers, listeners, viewers or subscribers is not enough.  If that sales person cannot tell you who or what specifically that their advertising reaches, then the advertising they are selling you has no value to your business.  Advertising isn’t about clicks, showing up at the top of the page or likes; it too is about results. 

Advertising must reach YOUR target buyers in sufficient volume to develop the leads your marketing strategy identifies.  That means if your target customer is not clearly identified as being a target of the advertising you want to use in sufficient volume to support your business, then it is not a source for you.

When reviewing advertising, again as a tool of your marketing strategy, you must be absolutely certain that those you are trying to attract and influence are reached by that method. Before you even do that you must have a marketing strategy.  That marketing strategy must be aligned not only with your product and services but also with your sales, customer service, customer retention, production and product management functions.  Your marketing strategy will not be as effective as it can be, meaning under-utilization of your investment, unless that is done.  Further, your marketing efforts should only be focused on new first time customers.  Other elements of your business will focus on repeat buyers.  When developing your marketing strategy, consider the following:

  • Exactly, what is the demand for your products and services, and to what degree do you need to meet it?
  • How effectively are your competitors pursuing the same buyers that you are?
  • How can you be distinctively different?
  • How will your success be measured?
  • How will you capture the buyer’s interest?
  • How will you monitor and maintain your success level

You must also develop your markets.  A MARKET … is a category of buyers with similar product and profit interests, and who have a general interest, and the ability to purchase like-products and service types. Dentistry is a Medical Market of the Healthcare Industry.  The lawn and garden market is generally interested in gardening tools. The healthcare market is generally interested in medicines. The food service market is generally interested in beverages, and so on.  Markets are made up of channels.  Groups of potential customers that have the potential to be your customers.  You should have multiple markets for your business. 

These “marketing channels” should have sufficient volume to spread your revenue targets to help ensure sustainability of your new first time customers and your business.  The more markets your business can serve, and the more channels within those markets, the more sustainable you become.  A word of caution, too many markets is as dangerous to your business as too few.  Ideally, you should have 6-10 well performing viable market channels in your business. 

The key to managing those marketing channels is to ensure that you have enough future opportunity (qualified leads) in each of them at all times.  Keeping those channels filled is, in part, a responsibility of your advertising. 

That takes us back to the beginning of this article.  All too often advertising replaces marketing in a business and as a result, a lot of money is spent with minimal return.  Using the points I listed above, and ensuring you have the answer to each of them, will help you successfully manage your marketing strategy and develop good advertising tools.