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Marketing Is Not Advertising

Over the past six months, I’ve spent a lot of time meeting other business owners. What they keep sharing with me is their impression that marketing is just another word for advertising. When I share with them what marketing is all about, the most common sentiment is surprise. To my surprise, many business owners have little understanding of marketing beyond the ads they see and the sales pitches they endure. With this limited exposure to marketing, its no wonder they think marketing is advertising.

If I stop and recall my introduction to marketing 25 years ago, I remember how confused I was and how much I struggled to get my head around it. My mentor at the time explained marketing to me like this,

“Marketing is everything you do to grow your company.”

I’ve always liked the simplicity of that description and yet, when I first heard it, didn’t understand what he meant.

What I’ve come to understand is that marketing affects all facets of a company, because all aspects of a company affect people’s experience of it. I now see marketing as the unifying principle behind a business. Its the leadership premise or the platform companies are built upon.

Marketing starts with an idea about who you are, and whom you serve. The idea expands into how you create value for people in a way that is distinct from your competitors. Marketing is the culture of a company and the experience you routinely create for people. Its who you are, how you sell and how you build the economic relationships that drive your businesses forward.

Now let’s step back a little further and consider the core purpose of marketing.

As a business owner, you are either in startup mode, growth mode, optimising mode or in transition (dealing with change, like a downturn, new competition, succession or a pending sale). The strategic purpose of marketing is to guide your company through each stage and transition to achieve business outcomes.

Confusing marketing with advertising is tragic, and yet that’s what many people do.

Marketing is not advertising. Marketing is everything you do to grow your company and to shape the experience you create for the people you serve.

Given this expanded definition, let’s have a meaningful conversation about you, your business and what you’re trying to accomplish. I think you’ll find the broader definition of marketing exciting and a valuable opportunity to shape and grow your company, beyond what your current definition affords.

About the Author

John Watson is the president of Accrue Performance Marketing. John is a sales and marketing coach and consultant who lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He's consulted to start-ups, business owners and corporate executives since 1993. John's an active content creator with a passion for writing, photography, digital marketing and data.

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