Ask 100 marketing professionals about what they "do" and you'll get 100 different answers. Compound advertising & sales professionals and you end up with a big nebulous cloud of ambiguity. In my post 101 Ways to Market Your Small Business, I make a reference to the difference between marketing, advertising & sales. Many people have asked me to expound - so here it is.
Imagine you're a single person and you're looking to meet that special someone. You go to your local pub since you know that there are many other eligible singles that you could get to know. The process of dating is very similar to the process of converting a cold lead into a client.
In the pub you order your favorite beverage. You notice that an eligible single next to you has done the same. You ask a pithy question to get their attention. If all goes well, you'll begin to engage them in a conversation. This is advertising - the goal is to get someone's attention and engage them to learn more about your product. It's the pick-up line. If you are asking for the sale at this point it can be perceived that your pick-up line is to the effect of "Will you marry me?" In this age of consumer-driven marketing it's important to allow your potential clients to come to the conclusion that they chose you on their own. Nobody likes to be "sold."
Keeping with the metaphor - you've engaged in a conversation and now you're ready to date. Chances are you will have to go on several dates before you feel comfortable enough to make a commitment. This is marketing - a series of activities that leads to the sale. On the dates you'll probably:
- Go to different places and do different activities. Your marketing mix should include diverse activities as well - grassroots/guerrilla marketing, traditional media, Public Relations, direct-mail, web & pay-per-click....the list goes on and on.
- Ask for another date. Your marketing materials must contain a call to action - how do you want your "date" to see you again? Make sure they have your pertinent information - phone number and website is a must.
- Be yourself. By demonstrating your true value you're ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship where you'll both be rewarded.
So after a few (probably many) dates you're both ready to seal the deal and make a commitment. This is the sales process. Asking for the sale is like the proposal - it's a critical question to ask if you want to progress to the next stage of the relationship. I once had a friend who dated a great guy for eight years and then left because he never asked her to marry him. Don't let your prospects walk away because you didn't ask the question. Many sales people rely on tactics to close the sale and I simply don't believe in them - if you put your time and effort into your marketing the sale should come easy. (When's the last time you saw a marriage proposal that had an alternative close? "So would you like to get married on April 18th or 21st?")
If you start "dating" your prospects you will find that you form more genuine relationships and customer loyalty. From that you can start to see the added benefits of referrals and word-of-mouth advertising which is ultimately what you want. Above all, be yourself and have fun in the process. Happy marketing.