Christopher Whitson

We make customers (and money) grow on trees!

Marketing Isn't Advertising Isn't Selling - Part 1

A business dictionary lesson on marketing, advertising, and selling

We hear those three words used interchangeably a lot. And the people that use them together are doing it wrong. Each of those things are different in so many ways. Larger companies have entire departments that focus on each one separately. Unfortunately, small business usually don't have the resources to split these categories, much less understand how much each one affects their bottom line.


Marketing is the aura of your business. It is the feeling that customers get from using what you've got and the energy you emit to the world. It is something that can be spun into what you want it to say. Think of it as a form of PR. With clever marketing, you can take something concrete and measurable about your business and put it out there as a sensation, a taste, or anything your customers hearts may desire. McDonald's does this all the time. They stopped trying to sell the food and the ingredients a long time ago. Now they sell you on the feeling..."I'm Lovin' it!". A house cleaning company may make a commercial about a family spending the day at the zoo and eating ice cream. It has nothing to do with cleaning houses, but they want you to get the feeling of being with your family by not having to clean your house this weekend. They are marketing the feeling instead of the cleaning!

Marketing is also your branding: from the logo design to the color of the walls on the sales floor. These things also help with the feeling that your business emotes. A nice clean logo with pleasing colors is more attractive to most people as opposed to bold-faced and black font type. How your employees dress is also a form of marketing. You could spend every dime of profit you earned on something to do with marketing and no matter how profitable you were, could still find something else to spend on marketing. And the worst part is that with all this money you're spending, it's the hardest area of your business to know what money is being best spent where. Unless you hook up with an industry's almost a guessing game until you find something that works.


Advertising is something you do to get them into your store, visiting your website, or calling your phone. It's the 'call to action' you always hear about. It's getting your customer to connect to the marketing that you provided them; sometimes together, sometimes separate. Advertising is the sign on the back of the bus bench and the commercials you see on television. They are the click ads online and the announcement on a PA system in the store letting customers know about a new sale.

Advertising is the money you spend with newspapers, radio stations, magazines, websites, television, etc. Like marketing, it's sometimes hard to track successes and failures. Most businesses we work with are terrible at advertising metrics. You'll never know if the person who bought your new thingamajig did so because they saw it on the back of a magazine cover at the dentist office unless you ask. And most business owners don't ask. Of course there is this awesome thing called internet advertising that is super easy to track as long as it's set up by a professional who knows what they are doing. The same thing goes for your website, which handles marketing, advertising, and yes...selling.

And now the catch...

Here's the part that most business owners don't take into account. Marketing and Advertising are cost centers. THEY GENERATE ZERO REVENUE! Yes, I said it. Zero, none, zilch, nothing. There is not a single marketing or advertising campaign that makes that little *ding* noise on the cash register. And this is where most businesses have the disconnect. They get all warm and fuzzy inside because they placed an ad in the phone book or got that billboard by the freeway they always wanted.

Big deal, who cares? It's great that they saw your advertising, and that your marketing triggered a reaction from them. But getting them on the phone doesn't ring the cash register. John Doe typing your website address into his browser is not a swipe of the credit card. That's where selling comes in! And it's a big bad monster. It's the big, gaping hole we see in most businesses; especially smaller ones.

Continue to: Marketing Isn't Advertising Isn't Selling - Part 2