Marketing 101 - Part 1

In the course of helping clients define marketing strategy, I discover that there is confusion about what the basic tools of marketing are and what functions they serve best. This is most often true with people who are trying to start a new business. We’ve had this conversation many times at Chusid Associates. If new clients came to their first meeting already in command of these concepts, we could get to the serious work an hour sooner.

So, in the interest of relieving the confusion and improving the general understanding of marketing, I thought I might put the substance of that conversation online. Specifically, I want to present a brief overview of the relationships between Marketing (Advertising, Public Relations, Promotion) and Sales.

It’s easiest to understand with reference to the most common experience: the retail interaction. At least once in your life, you’ve undoubtedly walked into a retail establishment and been greeted by a salesperson who took you by the arm and proceeded to practice his art on you more or less without mercy. It’s a heady cocktail of education, inspiration and intimidation.

I admire salesmen, and often let them work out on me just to watch them in action. A good salesman knows every selling point of his product – he may have a dozen or more – and all the selling points of his competition that he needs to undermine or beat. Once he gets you into the store, he can work his magic on you.

And there’s his problem: getting them into the store. Sometimes, a salesman desperate for customers will stand on the sidewalk trying to attract the attention of passersby. This, however, is often not his strong suit, and often not the best use of his time. A smarter salesman will hire a guy with a sandwich board to walk up and down in front of the store with something attention-getting written on the board. This is the birth of marketing.

If sales is all about closing, marketing is about opening: opening the door to the figurative store, opening the conversation, opening the potential customer’s curiosity.

What this means is that marketing – advertising, publicity and promotion – are not supposed to sell the product; they're supposed to identify customers for the sales force to sell to. This identification process can include educating people into becoming customers, connecting an identified need with a potential solution, or inspiring a customer to reach further by adopting a different alternative to his customary one.

When I’m beginning to work with a new client, it’s very useful for the client to try to “sell” me the product. He knows all the selling points, and I learn about the product very quickly. Then I pick out the one or two I that I think most likely to grab a stranger’s attention, and I can begin.

Next time: The difference between Publicity and Advertising.