Perhaps I’m biased, but I feel that marketing is the most misunderstood subject area of all of the business disciplines. Perhaps this is because there are a lot of terms out there that are related to marketing, that many feel are either synonymous with marketing; or represent the only part of marketing that they need to be concerned with. Either way, both opinions are misguided.
So I’ll examine 4 terms that I notice are misunderstood a lot in regards to how they relate to marketing. My goal here is not to completely define, but to explain these terms as a marketing professional might explain them to their boss or at a company meeting in an advocacy role.
Advertising – this is a very important part of the marketing mix as a core component of promotion, which is one of the famous 4 Ps of marketing. However creating and displaying advertising is not all there is to marketing. You also do not want to spend any significant amount of money on advertising without performing some research on your target market first. When advertising exists in a vacuum without a strong marketing strategy behind it, it almost always fails.
The Golden Age of advertising was really the second-half of the 20th century. This is because you had a “sellers market” with passive consumers who pretty much accepted the claims made by reputable companies. Today we have a buyer’s market, where the consumer has many more choices to choose from and is often informed via third parties as to the worthiness of the product. It is very interesting and exciting to see how advertising responds (or fails to respond) to this.
Public relations -in the past, marketing and public relations had very distinct roles. Today that line is blurring. However a better term for the combined efforts should fall under the term integrated marketing communications. But we’ll just focus on the original term. Public relations is focused on establishing and/or maintaining a good relationship between the business, and the suppliers and customers that they interact with. Marketing is focused on securing customers and enhancing the experience that surrounds the business transaction.
Social media – I debated including this term; I thought that it may be a bit too obvious. However, there are far too many instances of companies opening up social media accounts, and then thinking that they now have ‘social media marketing’ in place. Well it doesn’t quite work that way. Here’s an analogy: if you take your Ford Focus and race someone in a Chevy Aveo, does that make your car a racecar?
No…not by a long shot. Just like advertising (perhaps even more so), your social media efforts need to be a voice for your marketing strategy. Just using social media alone is not considered marketing.
Sales – while sales are closely intertwined with marketing, the terms are not synonymous. Marketing is more theoretic than sales. Interestingly enough, there are those who say that sales is a more important area to focus on if your product is an expensive, high ticket item. Why? Well because the more that the customer invests, the more one on one encouragement, guidance and advice they will need. And this advice also seeps into the cracks of a good sales pitch, which is as vital as having a good marketing strategy.
The question as to whether or not your firm focuses more on sales than marketing, or perhaps stress both equally, is something that needs to be decided on a case by case basis. Just like a family needs to decide how many cars they should own. If you choose to have a manager on hand that will oversee both sales and marketing however, you should realize that the skill set to be good in sales and the skill set to be good in marketing are different. Sales are more focused on your current products and offerings and capabilities (or those that will be available in the near future). Marketing is more forward thinking and looks at the long term. That is why you have marketing consultant firms…and not “sales consultant” firms!
So when you need to explain the role of marketing in relation to your company’s success, differentiating it from these other terms could not only help your cause, but can help get everyone on the same page to help define your role to others.