Marketing is not the same as advertising. Advertising is part of marketing.
Why is this important to small business owners?
Because, although rare, you might not always need to advertise but every business on Earth needs marketing. Wether it’s a lemonade stand, a restaurant, a landscaping company, etc...
In simplest terms, marketing is any contact your business has with your potential customer. You can also add that the ultimate purpose of such communication be to get them to buy from you or be aware of you (so they can later buy or refer you to someone that will buy).
What this means to you as a business owner is that you will always need a marketing strategy but not necessarily need to advertise. Because your business logo, business card, the trifold menu you put into every to go order, your website, the sign above the door... they are all part of your marketing mix.
What I see is a lot of business owners that skip the marketing part and jump into advertising, because they feel they “have to” in order to get customers. Which is true to a degree the problem is that when you advertise without having a marketing strategy (preferably a marketing plan) your advertising might be unfocused, confusing, misguided and ultimately not effective in generating customers or permanent customers but very effective in emptying your checking account!
So do me and you a favor and take some time to put together a marketing plan (which should be part of a business plan) or at the very least come up with a one page marketing strategy (yes it needs to be written) that at least covers the following:
- What does my business do? What benefit does it provide? Strengths and weaknesses?
- Who is my ideal customer? Where do they live? How do they buy? What do they want?
- What can I do to differentiate myself?
- What do I want to achieve with my marketing?
- What is my advertising budget?
- What specific advertising mediums am I going to use to communicate my marketing message?
- When and for how long will I advertise?
- How will I know if my advertising is working?
So now when you sit down with that advertising sales rep. you can ask them how they can help you communicate what you want instead of just buying advertising because they need to fill a quota and you need to do “something” to get customers.