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Stay afloat amid the shifting tides of retail with a solid marketing strategy.
Stay afloat amid the shifting tides of retail with a solid marketing strategy.

Why marketing matters: Building the ark before it rains

BRIDGET BROWN analyses the difference between sales and marketing and explains why small businesses should invest in a strong marketing strategy.

There is a healthy competition between the two disciplines, but are sales more important than marketing?

It’s a question small business owners must consider because they frequently wear both hats, being responsible for increasing sales and developing the marketing strategy.

Sales is a clear path

Most small business owners focus on sales, and this makes sense; after all, if sales aren’t going well, you don’t make any money!

The problem is, if you don’t have a steady influx of new customers – or repeat customers – even the best sales processes and techniques can’t help you.

There is another reason small businesses tend to focus on sales strategy, and it can limit revenue.

That reason is that sales is simple – it offers a clear path forward.

It is essentially only one thing, and it is easy to measure and track success.

Plus, if you own a small business, you know sales are vital, so you push forward with an emphasis on improving your processes and techniques.

Marketing, on the other hand, is less straightforward.
Marketing is about knowing your target audience and what they want and shaping your business to provide that. This takes a lot of forms, including:

Branding – Many marketers think of this as the identity you create for your business and the personality behind your words; I consider those tools to shape your brand. Brand itself is actually the level of credibility you have in your market, and what your reputation says about you

Generating demand – Cultivating and growing the existing interest in your offer, as well as looking for new audiences

Lead generation – Attracting people who are interested in your offer, and cultivating a relationship with them

Competitive intelligence – Market research and assessing your competitors

Pricing – Determining the value of your offer, and what your audience is willing to pay

Channel strategy – Determining where, when, and how you sell your offer

Naturally, marketing takes a lot of effort. Of course, sales also take effort, but marketing does not show the immediate, tangible reward of cash in hand that sales does.

For that reason, many business owners try to pretend marketing is optional, rather than necessary.

To me, both marketing and sales are important, but marketing should come first.

Marketing as foundation

Marketing requires a clear message, carefully chosen tactics, and a strategic plan. That’s a big lift for a small business.

It seems expensive, and maybe even optional. I prefer to think of it in another way – as an investment that will increase in value over time.

My parents worked in banking and the lesson they taught us kids was the importance of saving.

I got my first job at 14 and was obligated to save a third of my paycheque. It seemed draconian at the time – I wanted to spend it all on concert tickets and black lipstick!

"Robust marketing is like building up that savings account; you are constantly generating leads which can keep your business afloat during lean times"

While I haven’t always been able to keep my savings to this level, I have done a good job of squirrelling some of my income away, and it has saved me time and again.

There is nothing more freeing than being able to walk away from a bad job because you have enough money in the bank to pay your bills until you find something better.

Think of marketing the same way – as a hedge against the tough times.

Robust marketing is like building up that savings account; you are constantly generating leads which can keep your business afloat during lean times.

By having a steady stream of incoming business, you won’t need to worry about making payroll or keeping the lights on.

You can concentrate on the day-to-day challenges of serving your customers because you know you have a plan for the future.

As the saying goes, the time to build the ark is before it rains. Creating a sustainable marketing system is a hedge against lean or difficult times ahead.

If business slows down, you have the means to return to profitability – so long as your marketing plan is running efficiently.

During boom times, building a quality customer base is a way to capitalise on your current success and store it away for the future.



Bridget Brown

Contributor • Create That Copy & Marketing

Bridget Brown is founder of Create That Copy & Marketing, a Canadian marketing firm focused on generating leads and increasing sales and revenue for small businesses. Visit:

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