Branding, Marketing and Sales: A Breakdown
Not everyone is a marketing expert or a salesperson. Many of my clients are small business owners who are just getting started with pursuing their purpose and are passionate about what they do... but that doesn't mean they know the first thing about branding or marketing or sales.
I've found that many of them are confused about the difference between those three business tasks.
That's fair. Why should they be an expert in something outside of their talents, skillsets, and experience? However, as a business owner, understanding the difference is necessary to put together a solid business and marketing strategy.
Let me break it down for you so that you'll never be confused about branding, marketing, and sales again.
Before branding was a common business tactic for small companies, I remember working in the corporate world as a marketing manager. Even then I needed to frequently explain the difference between marketing and sales. While it is super clear for me, not everyone understood the different functions and the skillsets required to be successful in each role. Today we add branding efforts into that equation. Who wouldn't be confused?
If your brand is about how people feel about your company, then your branding strategy is about influencing your audience to have the emotional response you want them to experience. Spending the time gaining clarity for your brand and then incorporating that into your brand foundation will support your marketing and sales efforts tremendously. When done well, your audience is already aware of your company and their gut feeling about you is exactly what you hoped it would be. While this isn't about going out and finding people, it is about awareness and presence and making sure that all of your touchpoints are a part of a branded experience for folks that interact with your business. It's a passive business activity that impacts every single area of your work.
Marketing is about taking that brand foundation and messaging and incorporating it into campaigns that aim to reach more of your target audience. Anything your company does to spread your presence and your message with a specific intent is marketing. It means defining your ideal client, doing the research on where to find them and what they want from your business, and then building strategic campaigns to spread the word about your business, your offer, your authority or whatever you want people to know about you.
Can you do marketing without branding? Sure. Companies do it all the time. I wouldn't recommend it. Marketing without a brand foundation is an attempt to spread the message about who you are and what you do without purpose. This is where business owners begin throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. They confuse their audience. They aren't promoting brand loyalty or repeat business. It will require starting from scratch for each campaign, making it up as you go and it doesn't allow people to feel any specific way about what you do. You're getting the message out there but it won't stick long-term.
With branding, your marketing efforts are building upon the vision you want for your company. Marketing with branding is a way of sharing your brand with the world and attracting the exact right audience for what you sell.
If you think of branding as a passive activity and marketing as the groundwork necessary to finding new clients, sales are where you get a bit aggressive. This is partially why sales get such a bad rap. It is an active activity. The purpose of sales is to take those people who already know your brand and have seen or interacted with your marketing and convert them into paying customers. You can build online sales systems (funnels and email marketing and lead pages) and you can go out there and do some of that work offline (networking and cold calls and closing deals).
Sales aren't as simple as they used to be. You will be interacting with a populace that is averse to being sold. However, if you don't have a process for converting your brand advocates and marketing leads into customers, you aren't making any money.
Your branding efforts and marketing strategy will make closing sales easier. Often where business owners trip up is how they approach their own sales activities. I highly encourage you to avoid being spammy or pushy or desperate. People hate that. I encourage you to approach your sales efforts in a way that builds community, provides value, and encourages relationship development.
Branding + Marketing + Sales = Winning!
All three of these business approaches are important. You need the brand foundation to support your marketing campaigns and you need the marketing to find the leads most likely to convert using your sales methodology. Each of these (branding, marketing, and sales) has bells and whistles that you'll need to learn, work through and implement if you want to be successful.
Can you find new clients and customers without doing this? Sure. You are going to be putting in a lot more effort each time you convert and it's going to feel a bit like trying to climb the success ladder through quicksand, but it's possible. Or you can follow the well-worn path of all the corporations who know the value of branding, who appreciate great marketing, and who understand they can't skimp out on sales if they want to convert.
As a small business, you probably don't have the luxury of hiring a branding expert, marketing manager AND sales or business development person to round out your team and handle these tasks for you. At least, not yet. Just because you don't have that ideal situation, doesn't mean you can't make the most out of your business strategy. My best advice to you is to start with your brand foundation and get really clear on your purpose and messaging. After you've done that you can build your marketing strategy for the year which will pave the way to meeting your sales goals.
The better your branding foundation the less you should actually need to invest in marketing or sales. If you've established trust with your audience and can clearly communicate your brand in a clear, concise way then you won't need to convince (marketing) or convert (sales) nearly as much. Your ideal client will reach out to you. People will want to work with you and your company.