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Marketing vs. Advertising: Which do you really need?

(Photo by ShashiBellamkonda - Flickr)

One of the most asked questions I get is, “What’s the difference between advertising and marketing?” To answer this question I use a very simple example. My business card is advertising; deciding who to give my business card to is marketing. In other words I need to have a valid, qualified customer before I spend my advertising dollar reaching them.

But an additional and perhaps bigger question should be, “Which of the two is more critical to my particular business?” To answer both questions we need to call on our military training. Let’s substitute “intelligence reports” for marketing; and “battlefield strategies” for advertising. Here’s the process.

In a military exercise we start by knowing two things. Our opponent, that in the case of business would be our competition, and our allies, which in business, would be our customers and suppliers.

Good intelligence is critical for our success in business, just as it is for our success in battle. We must know as much as we can about our competition before we can prepare any kind of successful assault.

Strengths and Weaknesses

What are their strengths and weaknesses compared to ours? How much market share do they have? How much market share can we take from them? What is their marketing message and what is there USP (Universal Selling Position)? Who is their ideal customer and does that customer differ from ours?

With good intelligence we can now form a plan to reach our allies with a message that will bring them to our business rather than to our competition. Now we have to use internal intelligence. Who are we really? What exactly do we do? What are the benefits to our customers of the products or services we provide?

Who are the people most likely to have a need for our product? How old are they, what TV shows do they watch, what newspapers do they read, what radio shows do they listen to? What common customer behaviors make the benefits of our products and services valuable to them?

Once we are confident in our intelligence we can begin to formulate our battle plan to win the “hearts and minds” of our target market with a powerful advertising message.

Put The Message To Work

To create a strong adverting message we have to assemble our internal and external intelligence and interpret what they both mean to our customers. First, what are the major differences between the competition and our business? Which of these differences are going to be a benefit to our customers? Ask the same question about your products or services? Where are the clear definable differences between you and your competitors and what are the benefits to your customers of those differences?

Once you have your intelligence in place it’s time to formulate your battle strategy. Here is where major advertising mistakes are made. In many cases the company becomes the message not the products or services. How many times have I used the word benefits in this article? Customer buy benefits period. They don’t care how long you’ve been in business. They don’t care how great your service is. All they care about is, “Can you solve my problem affordably?” If you can do that better than your competitor you are going to get the sale.

Your advertising message should talk to one person. You are not trying to sell them; you are helping them buy. You are informing them of the best options for them. You don’t slam the competition, but rather, point out differences that are beneficial to your customer.

Some Final Thoughts

Last but not least, don’t assume your customers are like you. Don’t assume that just because you listen to a certain radio station, or read a certain magazine that all your customers read and listen to the same thing. Most money is wasted on advertising in the wrong place. Let your advertising rep know who your ideal customer is. The more demographics you know, the more productive and economical your advertising will be. Follow this plan and you can win the profit battle.

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