Running a small business requires wearing a lot of different hats. While some may fit snuggly – running the day-to-day operations, working with clients, handling employees – others may seem a little oversized and leave the wearer blind to what’s going on around them.
When it comes to understanding the intricacies of marketing, it’s easy for small business owners to get the basic idea without seeing the whole picture. Terms like marketing, branding, and advertising get thrown around without any real explanation of what they really mean and how they affect your business. Mixing and misunderstanding these basic concepts can make any entrepreneur appear inexperienced and give partners and investors a reason to question your overall business strategy.
Fortunately, understanding the nuances of advertising, marketing, and branding doesn’t require years of experience, an advanced degree, or a decoder ring. Here are the basic concepts behind these three important business concepts that every entrepreneur can understand.
Marketing is the opportunity to broadcast out a message about your business to your target market.
When you explain your business to stakeholders, business partners, and consumers, you are providing a description about your company’s attributes, benefits, and most importantly, its value.
You control the perception people have of your company by controlling what message you present to the world. Marketing is your initial and ongoing impression to consumers, so it is vitally important that you devote the time necessary to craft a compelling and well-developed marketing strategy.
Think of marketing like the way you dress. What you chose to put on before leaving the house reflects how you want others to judge and view you throughout the day. You probably wouldn’t wear a chicken suit to a job interview, so don’t market your business in a way that gives customers or clients a reason not to take you seriously.
Advertising is the message you broadcast about your business that a target audience receives over and over and over.
Unlike marketing, which constantly evolves and matures as a proposition, advertising needs to be viewed as a long-term, static strategy. While you can always change and alter your business’ advertising from time to time, it becomes much more challenging to change direction once your campaigns have launched. More importantly, the wrong advertising campaign can completely undermine and destroy a well-devised marketing strategy by delivering an incorrect message to your audience.
If comparing advertising with how you dress, you probably wouldn’t bother to put on a suit when heading to the gym. When and where you dress is equally important as how.
Branding is the message you receive from others.
Branding is the value and happiness proposition consumers place on you and your business. Solid reviews, the willingness to pay for your service or product, and the general overall goodwill you create by providing exceptional value to your consumers are the very essence of what your brand is all about. You can develop your branding proposition with a well-executed marketing strategy and a well planned advertising strategy, but in the end your consumers dictate your brand.
Lets say you decide to attend a networking event in a chicken suit. If you are Warren Buffet, you have already established your value and your brand, and for the most part, wearing a chicken suit will not completely undermine the image you have crafted. For the rest of us, however, we do not posses – and most likely never will – enough established brand equity with our consumers to allow us to wear a chicken suit in a professional environment, so such a decision would drastically undermine what we are attempting to convey.
So make the effort to understand the difference between these three vital business components. Your decision to do so will provide you a great base of knowledge regarding your business and its strategy, and help prevent you from looking inexperienced and uninformed.