What is “Marketing”? Hint: It’s NOT SALES!

What is “Marketing”?  Hint:  It’s NOT SALES!

What is Marketing?  Is It More than Selling?

Hint:  Start With A Deep Dive on Why Your Company Exists!


Somebody on LinkedIn recently asked me for advice for a startup.  I took a look at their company page and it appeared to me that they specialized in sales, although the word “marketing” comes up in the company profile as well.  A lot of companies and even entire industries (Such as MLM dominated industries) make the mistake of confusing “Marketing with “Sales.”

Marketing is NOT the Same as Sales

I started by saying I have been a CEO, a Manager, a Task Team Leader, and a Serial Entrepreneur as well as a Salesperson. However, at heart, I am a “Marketing Man” who has worked in and had success in management and in sales.  I can manage, and I can sell!  But I much prefer working in the deeper practice of the actual discipline of “Marketing” – which means something different to me than it means to organizations focused on Personal Selling, Relationship Building, or Networking and Rapport Building as their primary drivers for acquiring clients or sales.

I am a solopreneur at present, with clients seeing me more or less as an SEO guy or webmaster working in digital marketing as a freelancer or consultant who works from a foundation of marketing skills.  I have strong direct marketing experience in sectors like manufacturing, personal service, and creative services.

It is crucial to lay out a foundational understanding of “Marketing” as a philosophy and practice that addresses a company’s entire “raison d’etre” or purpose of being.  All sustainable businesses require incorporation of these practices.

The practice of “Marketing” means understanding and acting on the realizations that the purpose for a company to exist is to discover and satisfy needs of people who want to solve a problem or relieve a pain point by creating a value exchange where the customer receives a solution to a problem while the company makes a profit and builds a ‘tribe’ of loyal repeat customers. Thus, “Marketing” is the driving force to govern all organizational activities and processes – top to bottom, including management of freelancers, employees, and training programs as well as production and service after the sale.

Personal Selling is PART of Marketing

Overall, Personal Selling is only one part of “Marketing.” Marketing is best thought of as a values-driven practice of determining customer’s felt needs and then meeting them using the “5 P’s” of marketing. You may have learned “4 P’s” as Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.  Newer models add the all important “People” consideration.

The Goal of Marketing is to

• Find out what the market wants that is not presently available

• Then make desirable products and services to meet those needs

• Fine tune your market segmentation to make sure you can reach out to prospects who actually have Desire and Need for Action (DNA)

• Then select communication channels and strategies to share messages about your value proposition and invite engagement

• Employ brand building and engagement tactics based on creating Attention, Interest, Desire and Action (AIDA)

• Craft and present an offer that is appealing, including offering a price that encourages value exchange and customer loyalty.  They get a need met or problem solved, you get their money, and everybody lives happily ever after!

So What Is Marketing?

Marketing starts with determining market needs, establishing strategies governing new product or service development to meet those needs, then determining branding, value proposition, messaging, channel usage, channel segmentation, relationship-building strategies and tactics, pricing and distribution – as part of overall organizational performance. Marketing starts before the sales process, creates strategies and collateral to support that process, manages that process, and extends through order taking, delivery, follow up, and customer service.

A Note About Engaging Employees in Your Marketing Strategies

Everybody in the organization needs to be engaged in the Marketing Philosophy that drives your business.  Proper training and coaching are crucial.  I would say vision casting, goal alignment, and managing by objectives provide a good outline for training as an ongoing process in the company.  This means supervisor and employee discuss the reason the company exits, develop short and long term goals together that align with that marketing vision.  As much as is possible, the short term goals, strategies, and tactics should come from the employee after having been led to water by the manager.  This technique creates “ownership” on part of the employee.

Then the manager empowers the employee with authority or tools or both, to accomplish the short term goals. Weekly one on one 360 degree meetings are held to review what’s working, what’s not, and what could be better. Discussions center on progress, accomplishments, obstacles, and opportunities – followed by short term goal setting by the employee – with the manager’s help.  Agreement is then reached about the date, time, and agenda for the next meeting.  In all of this, I highly recommend Kanban, Agile or SCRUM style project management because it works better to allow faster time to market than traditional waterfall methods.

Hire Talent, Train Skills

All of the 5th P or “People” in marketing starts with recruiting values-driven people – which is a whole other topic that can be summed up in the saying, “Hire Talent, Train Skills.” It’s a simple fact that most successful companies accomplish more sales from products created in the last 5 years than from older products. This means that whatever skills serve well today may be obsolete in 5 years – but raw talent (for learning and execution) is always useful.  Anyway, once hiring is done correctly, we need to proceed to “Onboarding.”

Onboarding Is Crucial

These days, “Onboarding” is widely recognized as one of the most crucial stages of engaging and training a new hire as to the company history, values, mission, department relationships, and preferred communication methods and styles.  Of course it is also the best time to provide educational training about products, and services.  In larger businesses, much of the basic onboarding is usually done by an HR department or even an employee manual… But for most small businesses, especially startups, I think it should be done by the CEO. The CEO’s vision can be directly communicated this way rather than watered-down via assignment of training to subordinates. Alternatively, the employee’s direct supervisor can do the onboarding training. Either way, establishing collaborative relationships with clearly defined lanes or roles is the best pattern.  Following onboarding, skills training is crucial. Again, every company should focus on hiring talent and training skills because skillsets needed will change over time but raw talent is useful always in creating and maintaining an end to end drive throughout the company to create satisfied customers.

Don’t Reinvent The Wheel ~ Provide Best in Class Training

Putting it all together now… After imparting a vision of the company’s purpose for being, there is no need to “re-invent the wheel” when it comes to skills training. Rather than do it in house, I would recommend using a service like Linkedin Learning or Coursera where management selects the courses and establishes timelines for completion.

This has been a long answer to a short question: “What advice do you have for a startup?”  I hope you found it helpful.

First, make sure you are doing something unique that is in demand. Then hire people who will buy into your vision.  Finally, do it well.  Then rinse, wash, repeat!

Here’s wishing you all the best in your Marketing efforts!  If you need help with any of this, hit me up!