“It should be simple,” he lamented, “just help me sell more.” Ultimately, that is what most small- to medium-sized business owners want: increased sales. However, increasing sales over a longer period in a sustainable manner to help a business grow to the next level is anything but simple. It requires an understanding of branding, marketing, advertising and sales; and how they work together. The following is a brief overview of how I see it working at the top level, without delving into the nitty gritty of conducting and applying research, tactics, etc.
Overall, your marketing communications strategy should represent the philosophy of your corporate culture, it’s raison d’etre. Starting at your brand level, marketing guides your organization’s communications, behaviour and actions of all staff — it is the essence of your organization. This may seem rather esoteric, but it is fundamental to truly understanding the role of marketing and of branding; which are often mistakenly lumped in with advertising and sales. And, that’s understandable, they weave together rather intimately.
Branding is focused on creating an appropriate image for, and experience with, your organization and positively positioning your organization in your audience’s mind.
Marketing is primarily concerned with strategically communicating your service/product features and benefits, in a strategic manner that amplifies your brand. Marketing should ultimately be focused on satisfying customer needs (and addressing pain points), which should lead to greater sales. But it is not necessarily a linear relation.
Advertising, however, has a direct relationship with sales. If you run an effective ad campaign in your local paper or on Facebook, you can typically rely on an immediate and commensurate bump in sales. Advertising involves using broadcast media to persuasively inform your targeted audience of your product/service’s features and benefits, giving them a reason to buy… now.
Sales is more than the end result. It incorporates the frontline, efforts (human or digital) to assist your audience in making the buying decision. Whether you have counter staff and retail clerks on-site, or stylish infographics and pop-up incentives online, a strategic frontline is a major factor in nurturing and closing sales.
Clear? If it is, consider that branding guidelines should inform your marketing, advertising and sales initiatives to ensure that every touchpoint helps to properly position your organization. An aspect of marketing should be involved in advertising and sales to hone your message appropriately for your targeted audience (and segments therein). Facets of advertising can, and often should, be included in marketing initiatives. The ultimate sale is often envisioned and sometimes explicitly included early in the marketing process (remember your ABCs: Always Be Closing).
Analytics can help to see through the confusion and determine the success of specific initiatives. Especially online, you can track all manner of marketing and sales initiatives to better understand how and when your audience engaged, or didn’t. And automated marketing solutions can help you use this information to nurture prospects through to a sale and even customer loyalty. However, part of marketing relies on an intuitive understanding of the rather convoluted marketing process.
Back to our lamenting business owner: he’s right that the underlying objective of the marketing and sales process is simple: to differentiate your organization and position it positively to your main audience. The implementation is the tricky part — just communicate the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, to the right people. It’s not easy being right all of the time, but the alternative is relying on luck, and we all know that luck runs out.
Your target audience is not forced to do business with you, people have choice — often abundant choice. This makes marketing crucial to any organization seeking to be successful. Strategic marketing differentiates your organization from others and effectively communicates the features and benefits you offer. A good marketing plan, effectively implemented will get it right most of the time.