Today, I respectfully offer you a tutorial. Our inquiry will focus on the essence of doing business: selling. The purpose of starting a business is to generate sales, produce revenues and earn a profit. If a business cannot generate a certain threshold of sales, business expenses cannot be paid and the owner’s investment will be negatively impacted. To curtail mounting debts, the business must close.
Over the past 10 years or so I’ve noticed, sometimes with amusement and other times with dismay, that the word selling seems to make people feel uncomfortable. I noticed that frequently, aspiring business owners and Freelance solopreneurs, who must find customers and earn money that is derived from the exchange of money for the products or services that their ventures would produce and provide, avoided the word sell. Instead, the word market was substituted.
Many self-employed professionals are uncomfortable with the process of selling, so they’ve decided to banish the very word. It’s as if selling is now perceived as crass or pushy. That is a shame. The sales profession is one of the oldest on earth and honorable. Selling is one of the foundations of civilization and selling skills are among the most useful anyone can have; it is the ultimate transferable skill. Selling makes the world go round, because we wouldn’t have much of a world without it. The ability to sell is far more valuable than the ability to code (yes, really!).
So we can agree that the success of a business is dependent upon sales? Now, let’s go back to the process of marketing. The American Marketing Association defines marketing as:
The activities and processes for creating, communicating and delivering information about products and services that have value for customers. Marketing is a set of processes that are interconnected and interdependent with other business functions aimed at achieving the interest of (prospective) customers.
Marketing consists of using information, in words or pictures, to promote products and services and persuade potential customers to make purchases. Customers have an array of motives that drive their purchases. Marketing campaigns are designed to appeal to the motives of selected customer groups (e.g., parents, young professionals, adolescent males) that research has shown are potential customers for the product or service in question. The purpose of marketing is to communicate with and appeal to targeted customer groups and persuade them that (your) products and services will satisfy one or more of their needs or desires.
So we can agree that generating sales is dependent upon marketing campaign promotion that is directed at the most promising customers for your products and services? I hope we can also agree that marketing and sales, while on the same continuum, are not one and the same. Let’s move forward on the path and consider branding.
Branding campaigns are designed to enhance and expand marketing messages by differentiating and distinguishing the reputation of products and services available in the marketplace. Products, services and individuals can, through an effective branding campaign, acquire a powerful reputation, recognition and loyalty among customers, fans and the general public. That reputation is known as the brand.
A company logo is usually associated with products that have acquired sufficient popularity and sales to be considered a brand. That logo is instantly recognized and conveys the essence of the brand to its loyal fans, as well as those who may not use the product. The product name itself will come to symbolize a powerful brand, as does Coca-Cola.
Now let’s take your marketing and branding messages to the public and that brings us to the next stop along the marketing continuum, advertising. There are more ways to advertise than ever before, thanks to the digital age, but do not underestimate the value of traditional methods. The century-old medium that is radio remains a highly effective advertising tool, as do billboards. Taxi cabs and city buses (and bus stops) announce local events, such as the circus coming to town. Newspapers and magazines continue to be packed with eye-catching ads.
Content marketing, which many call the new advertising, continues to grow in influence. It’s approach is indirect and it is presented as relevant information. Content marketing is stealth advertising that uses primarily written information conveyed in blogs and newsletters to provide information about topics that would be of interest to prospective users of the products or services sold by the company. The purpose of content marketing is to build an audience of regular readers who trust the source (you) and would feel confident enough to do business with you.
Then there are the social media platforms that are now in the mix. Regardless of the name social media marketing, when used for business purposes it is advertising: the Instagram photos of your wedding venue, the video clip of you accepting an award at the Rotary Club, the webinar posted to your website and LinkedIn profile.
If your marketing strategy and campaigns have been effective and enabled the development of a trustworthy brand and memorable advertising campaigns, your business will attract paying customers. Your business venture will generate sales and you can declare yourself a winner. Let’s sum up our tutorial:
MARKETING: How you envision and describe your company. The verbal, voice and visual messages used to promote your products or services. The business owner identifies the market positioning strategy for the company, based on populations predicted to become customers: mid-market, luxury, or bargain, hipsters, seniors, adventure travelers. Product positioning impacts all marketing campaigns and messages, the branding strategy and advertising choices.
BRAND: The company reputation, what it is known for. How others perceive your company.
ADVERTISING: How and where you portray and describe your company to the public: in print or digital, visual or audio formats placed in Popular Mechanics, Harper’s Bazaar, subway stations, flyers tucked onto car windshields, or Twitter. Advertising usually costs money.
SALE: The ultimate goal and final step of the marketing process. The exchange of money (or another valuable item or service) for the purchase of a product or service.
Thanks for reading,
Photograph of Cher by Richard Avedon (1986) Courtesy of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, LA