It is easy to understand why many people think that marketing is just another word for advertising. After all, the primary goal of both advertising and marketing is to generate sales by promoting the products or services that the company offers. However, although advertising and marketing share a few similarities, they are very different activities.
Advertising Is a Subset of Marketing
Marketing encompasses everything that you do to promote your business. It is a strategy that includes planning, executing, and controlling a variety of activities that will encourage buyers to make a purchase from your company. Advertising is just one of the activities to include in your marketing strategy.
Imagine marketing as a playlist and advertising as a song added to the playlist. Suppose you decided to make a playlist of your favorite songs. If you had just one favorite song, there would really be no need to make a playlist. However, you have many songs that you consider your favorites. To keep your playlist manageable, you carefully consider each song that you want to add. You choose your songs as well as their order. Perhaps you place all songs by the same artist in consecutive order, or perhaps you list the songs alphabetically by title. Regardless of your choices, when completed, your playlist can provide you with many hours of enjoyment as you listen to your favorite songs without having to spend the extra time to find and play individual songs.
Similarly, when you create a comprehensive marketing strategy, you maximize your results and minimize your effort. If your entire marketing focus is simply to place ads, you are not maximizing your return on your investment.
What Does a Marketing Strategy Involve?
An effective marketing strategy requires gaining insights about your potential and current customers. If you lack sufficient data, you can ask for the information when customers choose to sign up for something you offer. For example, you might collect the information when they register for your newsletter, sign up to receive emails announcing members-only sales or discounts, or register for a drawing that you are sponsoring. Social media sites are also excellent places to conduct some market research. You might post images of three different logos you are considering, for example, and ask people to vote for their favorite. You could also sponsor polls to help you collect information on the demographics of the people who visit your page and what matters the most to them.
Even if your information is lacking, you can still proceed with the development of a marketing strategy. Put yourself in the buyer’s position as you examine the products or services you offer.
1. What type of person might need or want what my company offers? Depending on what you offer, you can make certain assumptions about your target audience. If you install asphalt shingles, for instance, your customers will likely be homeowners. If you manufacture products that you only sell by the pallet, your customers will likely be other businesses. If you provide virtual business address and virtual mailbox services, then many of your customers are likely to be small business owners or travelers.
2. Where will the customer probably use the product? Some products are easier to classify than others. Ice scrapers are normally used on and kept in vehicles, kitchen curtains are usually sold for residential use, and fireproof metal filing cabinets are more common in businesses than in homes. However, other products can be problematic when it comes to classifying the location. For example, bookshelves, inkjet printers, wall art, computer desks, microwaves, and coffee makers could be used in a rented apartment, a business, or an upscale home.
3. What are people willing to pay? There is an old saying that an item is only worth what someone is willing to spend to acquire it. Part of your marketing strategy should include convincing people that what you are selling is worth what you are charging. If there are competitors who sell similar products or services, you can research their prices. However, you should also be looking for ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. Can you offer faster delivery, free shipping, extended warranties, no-questions-asked refunds, superior workmanship, or a better product at a lower price?
Once you have a basic idea of who your customers are or will be, you can work on the other parts of your marketing plan. Not every business will need all of the elements on the following list, but you should consider each item separately to determine whether it would work for your business.
1. Press releases can be a great way to get your company in front of the public. However, you will need a well-written piece that conveys interesting information. Furthermore, local newspapers and online media sites are often barraged with press releases from companies looking for a little free advertising, so it can be a difficult proposition. You are more likely to achieve success if you are announcing something truly newsworthy, timely, or relevant to the audience served by the media outlet.
2. Social media sites are good places to connect with potential or current customers. Your goal should be to build or strengthen relationships rather than overwhelm your visitors with sales messages. A good rule is to post one announcement of a sale or new product for every eight messages you post about other topics. If your employees are planning to participate in a charity run, post about it; include pictures taken at the event if possible. If you promote an employee, announce it. If your company wins an award, post about it. Ask people questions that can spark a conversation. Questions about their ideal destination for a dream vacation, the first thing they would buy if they won the lottery, what irritates them the most when shopping for groceries, or which season is their favorite and why are a few examples. Avoid questions that could be perceived as political, racial, religious, or otherwise politically incorrect. Be sure to monitor your page so that you can respond to questions or complaints promptly.
3. Manage your website. You need a high-quality site that displays properly on mobile devices as well as desktops. Include your business hours, contact information, and other relevant information. A blog is an excellent way to engage customers and present yourself as an expert in your field. Add new content to your blog regularly, but make sure that it is relevant to your visitors. Informational videos, guides, and other helpful content can also be nice to include.
4. Keep in mind that every part of your marketing strategy must convey a consistent persona. If you have a logo, make sure that you use the same logo on all marketing materials. If your website emphasizes your company’s commitment to diversity, do not post jokes on your social media page that could be considered offensive by some. Your persona should also be evident in your advertising.
What Does Advertising Involve?
Depending on your business, your advertising could include display ads in newspapers and magazines, classified ads in local newspapers, television and radio spots, online ads, billboards, direct mail campaigns, door hangers or flyers, printed catalogs, or vehicle wraps or signs. Ideally, you should choose more than one method of advertising, but you should avoid taking a scattershot approach. It is far better to devote most of your advertising budget to a single channel and run frequent ads than it is to place a one-time ad on a dozen channels.
Part of your marketing strategy was to determine your target customers. Part of your advertising strategy will be to determine which media sources will have the best chance of reaching these target customers. Most media outlets can provide you with demographics as well as circulation or broadcast ratings. This can help you determine whether the outlet is right for you.
When it comes to door hangers and other types of traditional advertising, it can be more difficult to determine whether to try them. Often, it depends on your primary objective. For example, if you are opening a new restaurant, distributing flyers and door hangers in the neighborhood to announce your grand opening might be a good way to promote your business without spending a great deal of money. However, if you specifically want to reach chief technology officers throughout your metropolitan areas, these methods are not worth even their modest cost. Instead, you would probably have better results if you purchased an ad in a magazine to which many CTOs subscribe.
Developing an effective marketing strategy will require some time and effort, but a good marketing plan can help your business grow. Although you can launch advertising campaigns without a marketing strategy, you will have better results if you treat advertising as just one part of your marketing plan. Never be afraid to engage the services of a marketing consultant to provide you with assistance; many consultants do not require lengthy contracts and can tailor their services to meet your budget and specific needs.