How Is Marketing Different Than Advertising, and Why Do I Care?

I have met with hundreds of small business owners and one thing I've noticed is they use the terms marketing and advertising interchangeably. It may seem like semantics, but in truth they are different. Let's look at just the generally accepted definition as published by Merriam-Webster on their online dictionary:

Advertising (noun): Techniques and practices used to bring products, services, opinions, or causes to public notice for the purpose of persuading the public to respond in a certain way.

Marketing (noun): The activities that are involved in making people aware of a company's products, making sure that the products are available to be bought, etc.

Well, that specifically clears things up, does not it? No, not even a little!

So, if Merrium and Webster can not clearly discern between the two, what chance does a small business owner have? None, game over, take your ball and go home. No, wait! You can ask someone that does know. You can ask a marketer. WORD OF CAUTION: you need to know the difference between a marketer and an advertising salesman. Ugh!

Luckily for you, I can explain the difference (And it has only taken you 200 or so words to get here).

Advertising is just a part, a sub-set of marketing. It's not the whole thing. Like putting is not the game of golf; it's an important part, but still just a part. The putting is like the advertising salesman – it is one aspect of the whole. Marketing starts at the beginning – before you even get to the golf course. Marketing (to truly 'drive' this analogy into the ground – and repair the divot) would be what course are we playing? What day and time? Who is in our foursome, etc? Once you're there: What club do I use from each spot, how should I approach this green etc, until you finally get on the green and can pull out – the putter (tad-ah).

The advertising salesman (and I'm not disparaging them) usually only sells one type of advertising. Maybe they put something in an envelope for you, or a magazine, or on the radio or in a big yellow book. Rarely will they have a strategic plan for your business to go to market. They are like a caddy with only a six iron in their bag (still with the golf?). If you ask, "What club should I use from here?" Guess what answer you'll get? "Well, I would use a wedge." NO, you'll get, "" I would use a six iron. "- I think I'm done with the golf analogy now.

So Marketing is the whole process of bringing your business, product or service to the people that will use / buy it. Advertising is one piece of that pie (Mmm, an analogy we can sink our teeth into). So, the place to really start is the beginning – even if you've been in business for a while. And it all begins with one question, one word – WHO? Who uses or wants what you are selling?

You must answer this question before you can move on to the other parts of marketing. You may need to do market research (the first step in marketing) to get this answer. If you try to be all things to all people it will not work (and it will drive you crazy). If you own a pizza place and a guy walks in wanting a burrito, do not try to sell him something he does not want, tell him where he can get a good burrito. When he wants pizza hopefully the burrito guy will tell him where you are (because he obviously can not read).

Other aspects of your marketing pie include media planning, product presentation and pricing, distribution and (one of if not the most important) customer service. Marketing is really all encompassing, from the color and design of your logo, to how customers are greeted on the phone or in person to the advertising that reaches them through whatever medium you choose.

So, that's the difference between advertising and marketing. Now – why should you care? Because it's your business! Marketing can make the difference between limping along, barely surviving and having a strong, thriving business. During the depression and consequent recessions, the companies that not only survived, but thrived and grew were the ones that continued to advertise and market themselves perfectly. The notice that you can not afford to advertise is short sighted and a recipe for disaster. If you own a small business you need to understand the importance of marketing, learn how to do it or hire someone to help you. It can mean a world of difference to you and your business – and that is why you should care.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it,

Steve Wathen

Look for future articles that will (hopefully) clear up this picture.

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