By Any Other Name

By Any Other Name

Are marketing and selling the same thing?

Marketing is a strategy.  Selling is an activity.  Sales activity is usually a part of a marketing strategy but the two are not the same thing, even though many people use these terms interchangeably.

Given that we live in a time when low testosterone is advertised as “Low-T” and stodgy old National Geographic has been cable-christened “Nat-Geo” as an attempt to shake the dust off, I suppose some license with other elements of the language should be expected. The fact is, you can call a clerk an “Associate” or a gravedigger an “Eternal Interment Specialist” but, however they choose to recast the name, the function stays the same … it’s still, “No problem, like, I think the purple things are in aisle three” or some guy in overalls standing over a hole with a pick and shovel!

The fact is, the marketing process is broad and includes all or most of the following elements:

  1. Discovering what product, service or idea prospective customers want
  2. Producing a product with the appropriate features and quality
  3. Pricing the product correctly for the intended marketplace
  4. Promoting the product … spreading the word about why customers should buy it
  5. Selling and delivering the product into the hands of the customer

Marketing is more listening and planning whereas selling is usually centered around the act of persuading or influencing the customer to buy.  With the explosion of the Internet in recent years, an activity known as Internet Marketing has come into being.  While such an activity indeed exists, most people calling themselves Internet Marketers are actually Internet Sellers … perhaps even unknowingly, they are conducting sales activity in support of an overall marketing plan.

Unfortunately, just as in traditional sales a small number of hustlers has managed to emerge, tarnishing the image of reputable online sellers. The problem is, this sweat-suited brigade sitting at their kitchen tables with bargain basement laptops, is the group that seems to get the most publicity … sort of like the bank robber on the eleven o’clock news who steals the headlines from the guy who saved the teller!  I spoke with one fellow the other day who actually believed that people wanted to be “BS’d” while they were being sold!  His feeling was that if you didn’t “BS” them they wouldn’t buy; they expected it!  If there was anything redeeming about his misguided philosophy, it was that he did make a distinction between actually “lying” and just “slinging the bull” … although he never quite made clear what that distinction was. Sometimes the good-guy is the one faced with fighting the uphill battle!

Multi Level Marketing, which in most cases is really Multi Level Selling, is a leftover concept from the traditional world of business that has been rejuvenated and resurrected in the cyber world of the Internet.  MLM is an approach to developing a sales team that is sometimes treated as a step child or even frowned upon by people who, at some time in their past, either became victims of the “kitchen table set” or of the rumor mill.  Despite encountering a certain amount of skepticism, in truth, it is an efficient way to organize a large network of sales people, a great many of whom have made large sums of money by investing their energies with a legitimate company!

I keep hearing that the Internet is THE way of the future. It’s going to replace everything from television and radio, to magazines and sliced bread.  Is it really a significant factor?  You bet … but, at the end of the day, just another tool in the advertising and promotional tool kit! It seems to me that, right now, online sales and marketing are like “CG” was in movie making about twenty-five years ago. Producers and directors used it to excess … CG jumped out at you from the screen and was clearly something added-on to enhance the live action. Today, it’s used with more creative restraint and is so well integrated into the scene that it is frequently difficult to spot.

As businesses of all sizes continue discovering new ways to utilize the Internet, so too will the power of online selling be more frequently, more comfortably integrated into the typical marketing plan … taking its rightful place, by whatever name, alongside the usual variety of time-tested, traditional media.


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