Advertising vs. Marketing

By Oliver Wu
July 2007

While most business owners would like to reduce the number of hours they work or become entirely absentee, few can afford to.  Reducing the number of your work hours probably involves hiring help, which means you will need to increase the amount of sales and profits before you can afford to hire help. 

This month, I will address the differences between advertising and marketing.  Many business owners believe that advertising and marketing are the same.  If you think this way, you are dramatically limiting yourself in the amount of sales you can bring in.  Let me explain…

Advertising and marketing are very different things. There are many ways to market your business, and advertising is only one way to do it. In fact, advertising is often the most expensive way to market your business. If you think advertising is the same thing as marketing, you have just limited yourself to only using the most expensive way to market your business. There are lots of ways to market your business that are cheaper than advertising, and often times more effective. We teach these methods in detail throughout our consulting program. In fact, let me give you one method right now. Talk to 3 of your customers and ask them about their overall experience. What is the most dissatisfying thing about your service? Their answers will tell you exactly what you need to do to improve.
“If you think advertising is the same thing as marketing, you have just limited yourself to only using the most expensive way to market your business.”

Marketing is how customers perceive your business. This perception is influenced by the advertising materials you send out, but it’s much more than that. How customers perceive you is also influenced by how courteous your employees are, how they answer the phone, how clean or messy your store is, how quickly you respond to customers’ concerns, the quality of the work you do for your customers…Everything that affects the customers’ perception of you is marketing.

As you can see, advertising is only one component of marketing. Successful advertising brings customers to your door, but whether customers stay with you is another matter. You can make big claims in your advertising and bring lots of customers to your door, but if you cannot service them well, your marketing is not successful.

I cannot emphasize enough that marketing is a lot more than advertising or selling. It’s about providing an excellent customer experience, which involves putting systems in place so that customers get a consistent, high-quality experience no matter which employee is working that day. Think about the systems that McDonald’s has set up.  No matter who is working there that day, you will always get the same experience. They always put X amount of salt into the fries, you always get your food within X number of minutes, and the employees always greet you the same way.

That’s how you want your business to be. The key to marketing is offering an excellent customer experience. You can’t just offer excellent service one day and crappy service another day. No matter how busy you are, no matter who is working that day – every customer must get the same customer experience every single time. How do you do that? You must implement systems and procedures, and make every employee follow them. This is how we do things around here. They either follow it, or they are out the door.

You see, since marketing is how customers perceive you, there are lots of ways to improve how you are perceived. Buying a bigger ad might increase your visibility when people open up the Yellow Pages, but do you see how there are a lot cheaper and more effective ways to improve how you are perceived? It might be as simple as training your employees on how to answer the phone. This is what you say when you pick up the phone, this is what you say when a customer asks for this, this is what you say when a customer shouts at you…so on and so forth.

You begin to set rules that your employees must follow. Rules like never letting the phone ring more than 3 times, never put a customer on hold for more than 2 minutes… The exact rules and procedures will depend on your business, but you must have some kind of rules that everybody follows. And guess how much it costs to write down a couple of rules and make every employee follow them? It costs nothing. And guess how much better you’ll be perceived in the eyes of your customers? A lot. Is this effective marketing? You bet it is.

I am not saying advertising is not important. Advertising is one important way to attract new customers. In fact, we dedicate a large portion of our consulting program to the subject of advertising. But you should always remember that marketing is how you’re perceived by your customers, and advertising is only one way (and often the most expensive way) to improve that perception.

For more information on how you can become the absentee owner of a profitable business, check out our consulting program

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Copyright © 2007 Aaron Muller and Oliver Wu