What really are advertising and marketing, how are they different, and why are they important to your small business?
According to Wikipedia, “Advertising is a form of communication that typically attempts to persuade potential customers to purchase or to consume more of a particular brand of product or service.” And Wikipedia says about Marketing, “Marketing theory and practice is justified in the belief that customers use a product or service because they have a need, or because it provides a perceived benefit.” Ok, so there is an official, net definition.
We know Advertising, as all the interruptions that string together our favourite TV shows, and what we hear mostly if we listen to commercial radio while driving around in our cars. Marketing for many of us is a bit more of a mystery, done in the back rooms and secret labs by used car salesman types, who actually went to college. Simply, Advertising is a shotgun approach, or, lets throw the spaghetti up on the wall and see what sticks. Marketing, hopes to introduce you to a product or service you know about and enroll you in your need for that product or service.
I’ll assert that most consumers today are victims of advertising, wandering around blindly not really knowing why they purchase and use the brands and products they have in their possession. Consumers or your customers, wander into the grocery store and are faced with 240 different types and kinds of Salad Dressing and a 16-20′ food wall of Bread or Milk. I’ll also assert that much of what the majority of products we purchase have simply become commodities, and have no distinction to us.
I was recently employed in a small business, less than 10 employees, that has been around for seven years. The family owned business has seen a 30-50% drop in their business in the past year. Instead of looking at how to stand head and shoulders above the other 300 businesses in this market, this owner was intent on looking like and becoming more and more like all the other businesses. Not only in the local market, but also looking like and doing business like all the other same business operators throughout the country. The business owner then wonders aloud to his employees, why things aren’t getting any better.
So what’s a Small Business owner to do? As a small business owner, you know your clients almost intimately. You know their likes and dislikes, birthday’s, anniversary’s, soda and radio station preferences. I’d assert you don’t need to advertise to your core clients, save that for those who aren’t aware of what you do, or what you have to offer. Instead, begin a conversation with your clients. Yes, talk to them and find out what is working and what isn’t working in your business relationship with them. You might be surprised at the response to your conversation.
I hope that as a small business owner you’ll look to your network and your social networking tools to grow your business. Yes, you can survive and thrive in these current times.
Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions, and enter into the conversation I’ve started.
Paul resides in Denver with his wife and 2 cats. Paul is a former, Radio DJ, and Program Director, Television Program Director, Public Affairs Officer, Speech Writer, Award Winning Radio Spot writer, Computer Tech, Event Producer, and Customer Service Guru. He can also be found on many of the social networking sites as : paulswansen.
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Andy Gregory says
Paul – Your post is not lost on me. I work at an insurance brokerage owned by a family member who is securely welded to the old business model of cold calls, and then more cold calls. Coming from a marketing background, I have tried for years to get him to turn his attention to the future and update the way we do business. First the website, which took several years. Then CRM, which was a long fight. Present day, we are in a crunch just like everyone else. We have a perfect opportunity to use social media and SEO and be ahead of the curse in our industry. But the bottom line with him, and many other business owners/managers is that the unknown is a very scary direction to head in. Chris Brogan’s post this morning talks about how most people don’t even know what social media is. I guarantee you that you can include SEO and most other internet related marketing strategies as well. They are afraid not only to admit they don’t know what “it” is, but afraid of the consequences if “it” doesn’t work.
So when we have our sales meetings and he tells the troops that we just have to make more cold calls, I can barely hold my laughter. “Changing times takes changing strategies” he tells us. So go ahead, just do a lot more of what isn’t working.
Robin Houghton says
Nice post Paul. I agree there’s far too much ‘me too’ advertising and most of it is a waste of money. Although I lay the blame partly on the local media ad-sales folk who are relentlessly calling up and using their cod-psychology to persuade frazzled business owners they MUST advertise. Here’s a related rant btw –
Paul W. Swansen says
Andy-Thanks for the response. As a Broker can you individually make use of the social networking tools available to you to grow your own book of business? Since I don’t follow the industry, what are other independent agents doing? Please not I’m not suggesting or recommending that you run out and copy everyone else.
Paul W. Swansen says
Robin- Thanks for the reply and the link. So if the “frazzled business owners” don’t advertise, what do you see them doing?
Paul Merrill says
“Begin a conversation with your clients.”
Great advice for nearly anyone in nearly any biz.
Paul W. Swansen says
Thanks Paul – (an easy name to remember) Unfortunately I don’t see that much in the current business environment. I bet business owners would be amazed at the distinction of having a conversation versus, talking too their clients.
Andy Gregory says
Hi Paul. The funny thing about my industry is that we are firmly stuck in old business developement methods. Yes, we have embraced CRM, like many others in our indsutry. But social media is something that I haven’t seen any of our competitors using. That’s what gets me excited, as it would appear that we COULD be ahead of the curve. But the uphill battle starts with management. Another issue is the liability we expose ourselves to in discussing insurance coverage in a blog. If we are not careful, we can set ourselves up for legal problems associated with the inference of giving advice. The results of that are either someone doing something based on their perception of advice provided and suffering financial loss because of it, or even a current client that has a claim that is uncovered and suggests that we discussed that specific coverage in a blog, but failed to advise them that the coverage existed.
It’s a fine line that I balance carefully on my insurance blog, which, incidently, is my own and I am not allowed to reference the company other than the fact that I am an employee. If I could get more specific and provide some value, I know that the blog would be far more successful. But value has a way of turning to liability in my business. Hey, I blog anyway because I love to communicate with interesting people – like you Paul! Hey, I’m an ex- radio guy myself. WFNX in Lynn/Boston doing production and talent. Ah, the jobs that don’t pay in life are the most fulfilling, aren’t they?
Paul W. Swansen says
Andy-I wonder if just in the participation of any of the social networks could be of a benefit to you. Not dispensing advice but rather just participating in the conversation that goes on. I’d bet that establishing a presence over the long term might draw some benefits to your business.
Ah yes, before AM Radio became corporate, it was an open arena for talent and opportunity. It is always exciting to work with creative and forward thinking people.
Postcard Printing | PrintPlace says
I think of advertising as part of marketing. Marketing is the bigger picture – your logo, brand, product – basically everything about your business that you want people to know. Advertising is then one of the marketing to-do’s – marketing is planning a sale, and advertising is running a commercial to let people know about the sale. However you look at it – I see many small businesses (and even some major companies – 0% financing anyone?) copying others. Maybe it has to do with how we acted when we were young – imitating adults and other “good kids” was rewarded, so why aren’t we getting rewarded for imitating as adults? Because we should be smarter now, able to think on our own.