It’s common to hear “marketing” and “sales” used interchangeably. In reality, they each have distinct characteristics. Business owners need to know the difference and have a strategy.
To put it simply, marketing encompasses everything you do to reach and engage prospects. Marketing is typically a media-driven function, and eight components are often considered when creating a plan:
2. Brand and logo
5. Online directories
6. Email marketing
7. Social media
8. Print marketing
A marketing strategy answers these questions:
• What’s your business mission?
• Why should a customer choose you rather than your competitors?
• What problems do you solve for your customers?
• What goals have you set for your business?
• Who are your competitors?
• Who are your ideal customers?
When you summarize the answers to these questions in one or two sentences, this becomes your “elevator pitch,” guiding your marketing efforts to describe your business.
A business brand is the character of your business that sets it apart from all others — color scheme, logo and communication style.
Your website is a potential customer’s first impression of your business when they search the internet. Use words and pictures to tell your strengths, how you differ from your competition. Make it easy to book a reservation, purchase your products, etc.
Search engine optimization is the enhancement of your website so that search engines notice it and place it higher on the search results page. The higher up on a search results page a website appears, the more likely potential customers are to click on that link. For small businesses, location is the most crucial factor in search results. Make sure your business address is consistently posted on your website and everywhere else you show up online.
There are many online directories, but a useful, free one is Google My Business. A listing on Google My Business means you will also appear on Google Maps, and customers can post reviews of your business on Google. More reviews praising your business will more likely rank your business higher on search engines.
Email marketing is inexpensive and offers an amazing return on investment. There are many types of emails, from promotional to newsletters. Plan your email program to include ones that best meet your overall marketing plan and will most engage your audience.
Social media are a must for your marketing plan because it’s become a key driver for growth. Most businesses are connecting with their customers on social platforms. Paid social campaigns improve visibility. Promoted Posts on Facebook, LinkedIn Sponsored Posts and Promoted Tweets on Twitter are affordable ways to increase visibility. All the major social platforms have tools to measure social media effectiveness, such as engagement, impressions/reach, web traffic and market share.
Print marketing ties all your marketing plan components together. From stickers, business cards and post cards to promotional items such as pens and T-shirts, print gives your business visibility. Add your website, email address and social media accounts to these materials so customers can easily find you online. Ensure your brand headlines your print materials for maximum impact.
Sales encompasses everything you do to seal the deal with the customer. Sales is typically a people-driven function. It involves human-to-human connections to build and nurture relationships.
Sales-related activities may include:
• One-on-one, face-to-face interaction with prospects and customers;
• Careful evaluation of specific customers’ needs;
• Solutions-selling to meet specific customers’ needs;
• Proposing special pricing when situations require straying from standard pricing;
• Asking for the sale and getting a contract signed; and
• Follow-up phone calls and email messages to keep the lines of communication open.
Realize that while marketing and sales have distinct characteristics, the lines between them have become blurred to a large degree with the advent of social media. In the past, sales professionals were primarily accountable for establishing and maintaining relationships with prospects and customers. But now that responsibility also falls on the shoulders of marketers using channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and others.
Whether you are responsible for your small business’ marketing and sales or if you have employees performing those functions, you need a strategy to ensure your efforts are aligned.
Since 1964, SCORE, “Mentors to America’s Small Business,” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small-business owners through business workshops and free mentoring. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call the Colorado Springs Chapter at 719-696-3074 or visit coloradosprings.score.org.
Tom Harman is a retired small-business executive/owner and a mentor with the Colorado Springs Chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. He can be reached at email@example.com.