“an aggregate of functions involved in moving goods from producer to consumer” – Webster’s Dictionary, definition of “marketing”

“to give up property to another for money or other valuable consideration”
Webster’s Dictionary, definition of “selling”

Many new entrepreneurs do not understand the difference between selling and marketing. In mature businesses, sales and marketing departments often are competitive with each other. The marketing department creates advertising, sales promotion, sales collateral, display and branding strategies applicable to a product. The sales team is charged with utilizing the tools created by the marketing department and executing the strategy to generate sales turnover.

When marketing strategy and tools are effective the marketing department often claims responsibility for the campaigns success. Conversely, when the strategy fails, the sales group blames the poor results on the deficient plan provided by marketing. This is natural, and actually a wholesome, byproduct of the internecine warfare that goes on within organizations. This competition for power, budgets and creative control often, when managed properly, can result in a more innovative, entrepreneurial enterprise.

Few entrepreneurs face the inevitable inter-departmental sales/marketing collisions inherent in developed businesses. They must be able to address, create and execute sales and marketing programs themselves, unless they can secure professional consultants for assistance in moving their products and services to market. It is crucial that the new business owner understand the relationship and importance of a successful marketing plan and sales execution of that plan.

Marketing, being “an aggregate of functions” as described in Webster’s, includes all of the sales promotional and branding elements utilized to build consumer awareness and desire to purchase a specific product. Advertising (in it’s many forms: print, electronic, media, billboard, inter-net, etc.) is the most obvious and successful strategy utilized when budgets allow. Direct mail is another. Still another is discount-coupons. Many items are promoted with sampling. Extra portion offers (“33% More!”) are popular in bulk packaged products. “Buy one get one Free” (and dozens of variations of the same) and “Buy now Pay Later” (popular for capital goods, furniture, appliances) are industry specific examples of marketing promotion techniques that have proven successful.

In addition, successful marketers create branding engines around their product and business. The famous Nike “swoosh” and the branding epithet “Just do it”, have become absolute identifiers for Nike products, the corporation and Nike’s superstar endorsers. The Geico gekko is another popular, unforgettable branding tool. Intel’s ubiquitous single note chime and the phrase “Intel Inside” reinforce the chipmaker’s story in a subtle, reassuring way.

The task of creating a marketing strategy for a brand new enterprise is not always easy. But it is always essential and eminently achievable. For entrepreneurs the process seems complicated by the fact that they do not have monies for traditional, high impact advertising campaigns. Neither did MicroSoft, WalMart, Coca-Cola, or Wendy’s when they were little, startup businesses. They were not always giants.

The lack of a large media budget should be looked upon as an opportunity not a handicap. This will force the entrepreneur to rely on stressing product features, and especially benefits. This is what will make a product successful, not just the first sale, but the second when a customer repeat purchases because initial exposure was pleasant, value for money was received and product benefits performed as promised.

Word of mouth and customer referral is the greatest form of sales promotion. How many times have you bought a new product because a friend raved about their experience with a new gadget, salad dressing or tool? Advertising cost for a referral purchase is nothing.

Selling is the execution of the marketing strategy, typically occurring when the product is physically presented to a customer. The marketing tools (discounts, sampling, banners, advertising, etc.) are created to influence the purchaser to make the proper decision, to purchase your product and not the competitions. The seller presents the product enveloped in a group of promotional tools designed to maximize market acceptance and ultimate sell through.
Selling is a form of a contact sport. Marketing is more esoteric. Marketing is an assembly of theorems with appropriate assumptions as to the markets potential acceptance of the validity of the total strategy. The selling, or execution of the marketing strategy, is almost never linear, as the marketer’s suppose. The marketplace is frenetic. The best marketing plans are regularly revised, often at the point of sale. I have, more often than not, been asked for a new element, or a different selling tool, in order to make a buyer sign a purchase order. If I did not have the requested vehicle, I had to improvise on the spot.

This requires the entrepreneur to be fully immersed into every last aspect of their business. Commit too much, and you will suffer losses, sometimes crippling a new enterprise. If you decide to hold back, a major opportunity could be lost. In my own startup businesses, I would go to a presentation with a well vetted marketing plan, and hold in abeyance a percentage of the purchase amount that I knew I could cover if necessary. If not needed, then great, I had maintained my margins. If, however, the buyer was not inclined to buy with my on table offer: I had flexibility to enhance one area or another and make a deal.

This is as much art as science. The numbers are hard in any business. You must know the costs of running your business, your margins and not jeopardize your firm by “buying business”. You will not make it up later.

First time entrepreneurs can be overwhelmed by the dual requirements of assembling a marketing plan and then, the actual execution of the strategy by selling the product. Separate skills are required for each. The most important thing to remember is to keep going, do not stop: do not give in to fear. You are selling/marketing a product that you have passion in: that you have researched, know the market needs, and will provide important benefits to the ultimate user.

The more you market and sell the easier it will become. However, you can’t learn these skills by simply reading. You have to get out there and make presentations. Learn from your mistakes. If turned down, ask the buyer for a favor: “What could I have done better to have you decide differently on my item”? You will be surprised how many times this advice makes a positive difference at your next presentation.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. (www.duquesamarketing.com) has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.