Marketing: A Primer

Where to begin?

You have a product or service that you want to promote, and with all the jargon out there, it’s hard to make heads or tails of it. So, how do you even figure out what you’re going to do if you don’t know what your options are or what those crazy jargon words mean? I’m going to help you with that.

What most people do is read a blog post that recommends a particular tactic. A tactic is what you do. For example, you might read a post that says you HAVE to get emails for a subscription list. Getting emails for a subscription list is a tactic. Maybe, you read that you HAVE to do social media, also known as content marketing. This is another tactic. 

A tactic is something you do for promotion

Promotion is any marketing that you do. When someone else talks about your company, product, or service (like the media), this is called publicity. We’ll unpack that some more later in this post.

Most people start with the tactics without really considering the strategy

strategy is the reason for using a specific tactic. We will circle back to this at the end.

So far, we have briefly mentioned tactics that are the different kinds of things you can do to promote your product or service.  Content marketing is an example of a tactic. When you use a tactic, that’s called promotion. When someone else talks about your product or service that’s called publicity.

So, where do we start in our marketing planning?

Branding

Let’s say that you have a product that you want to sell. It’s likely that there are others who sell products like your product. So, what makes your product different?  All the things that make up your brand is what makes you different. Your brand is the keystone of your marketing strategy. What exactly is your brand, then?

Your brand is the story of how your product or service is different from others like it. A brand is a complex concept. It is a combination of a lot of things, like why you are in business, what you have to offer, what subtle things you do differently, your customer service, et cetera. It is also the story that others say about you and your business. I’ll be unpacking this concept in this post and in additional upcoming posts. 

A brand is a complex concept, some might argue an ever evolving one, so how do you let your potential customers know that you are different? 

You use tactics to let other people know about how you are different. In other words, you use tactics to promote your brand.

These tactics carry the message of your story, which is your goal. To convey your story.

Your brand is YOUR STORY, as told by you, the media, and customers.

How do you tell your story?

Promotion Tactics

Content Marketing

One tactic is to use social media to communicate your story, which is called content marketing. Content refers to the images and verbiage in posts, such as on Instagram. Content can also be videos or quizzes on social media. 

Content, in a general sense, is anything that is posted online, such as YouTube videos.  Content marketing, then, is using online content to market.  

The cost here is just the cost to create the content, which for many is just time.

Advertising

You can also use advertising, which is where you pay a platform like social media or some other venue like a newspaper, television, or radio to run something that you created to promote your product. You’re familiar with this. If you watch television, the commercials are advertisements.  The video snippet on the television was paid for by the company that is promoting its own product.  The cost is how much the company paid to produce the advertisement and how much the company paid the venue to run the advertisement.

Street Marketing

Street marketing is another tactic. It’s pretty much what it sounds like.  It’s doing something “on the streets.”  A clown wearing a billboard promoting your restaurant is street marketing.  Handing out fliers or rubber wrist bands with your logo and website is street marketing.  Having a branded van (a van with your logo and associated images painted on it) parked at an event, like a festival, handing out branded items like t-shirts and samples of your product is street marketing.  

Other Tactics

There are other kinds of tactics, like ambient marketing, where you place your brand or things associated with your brand in the environment of the customer. If you paid a bar to use colors associated with your brand of vodka. The cost is how much you pay the bar and any products you give to them and their customers for free.

How do others tell your story?

Public Relations

Public relations is all about your relationship with the public. See what I did there? Part of that is monitoring and managing messages about your business.

This includes having a communications plan to respond to negative comments on your website, negative reviews, or complaints

Community Building

Community building is another thing you can do to manage and even monitor your relationship with your customers and the public. 

If you create a fan page for your product or service, that’s community building. This is a way to foster and enhance relationships you have with your customers or clients. The cost is only how much you spend to promote the content, and the cost of someone to run it. 

Word of Mouth

Word-of-mouth advertising isn’t really advertising in that you don’t pay for it. It is a tactic that promotes your product or service through other people. It’s the recommendations of friends to friends. It is one of the most powerful forms of promotion in our arsenal, and we have little control over it. The control that we do have is the quality measures that we take and the customer service that we have in place. Beyond that, word-of-mouth has a life of its own, but so is a part of our brand. I put it in the public relations category because it is a manifestation of your relationship with the public, but it is also how people tell your story. In the end, it’s kind of a hybrid between public relations and publicity.

Having talked about word-of-mouth, what other things fall under publicity? What exactly is it?

Publicity 

Publicity is when a mass media reporter or journalist talks about your product, or when you get reviews on a website.

Because this is a big topic, I’ll just touch on it briefly.

What gets published by a news organization?

Newspapers will only publish specific topics. You can see what kinds of stories they publish in the sections of the newspaper or website and by looking at the stories themselves. They also only publish stories they see as “newsworthy.” Newsworthy is whether the story is about something that can impact their readers, is part of the geographical coverage (like a neighborhood paper), loss of life or property, or conflict of some kind. They may also tend to publish stories from a particular perspective or with a particular themes, also called angles.

The best way to know what a story deems newsworthy or what angles they tend to write is to read that paper and take notes.

Pitching a story

Pitching a story is when you try to get a reporter or a newspaper to cover something about you. Included in the pitch will be your “press kit.” 

Press kit

Your “press kit” or “media kit” can include documents like,

  • A FAQ sheet or fact sheet, which is about your products and services, number of customers, followers on social media
  • History of your business
  • Biographies of significant people in your business, like the owner or founder
  • A fact sheet with quotes that would be relevant to the facts given, like a quote from the founder about why they formed the company
  • Photos or videos
  • Newsletter
  • Brochure
  • Samples
  • Contact information

News alerts you send before the story is going to happen, such as before a product launch. A press release is sent after the event. News alerts and press releases have a specific format. You will want to become familiar with the format. You can use your favorite search engine to look this up. The more you adhere to industry standards, the more professional you will look. 

It’s not just the mass media who distribute “the news”

Podcasters and sometimes bloggers are included into this category, especially since so many in the mass media produce podcasts and writing blogs. Treat podcasters and bloggers the same way you would reporters. Find out what they podcast about or blog about before you pitch them the idea to interview you or to write about you. For the most part, you don’t have to be as formal as with reporters in sending news alerts or press releases, but sending a well-crafted email and attaching your “press kit” of your fact sheet and photos is a must.

Influencer marketing is when an influencer either uses or reviews your product and posts about it on their platforms. This sometimes falls under advertising, because the influencer is being paid by you to say nice things – and sometimes it falls under publicity because they are acting separately from you. 

This means that an influencer may wear your purse to an event that they went to and as part of their post, they mentioned your purse and how much they loved it. Their audience is able to imagine themselves using that purse, which helps move the audience towards purchasing the purse. For some products, it helps to have a demonstration of using the product to help make the sale. Tupperware was one of the first companies to do this. Besides demonstrating using the product, is there anything else about influencer marketing that is persuasive?

The influencer is viewed by their audience as a peer; the influencer is just like the audience – they are not an expert or in the media. Their power is from being like their audience and being trusted by their audience.

A critic is part of the media, but an influencer is a reader or foodie just like their audience telling their audience about products and services.  They have influence because if the influencer likes something, you will probably like it too.  An influencer acts like a friend giving you a recommendation.  

The trick with publicity and influencer marketing is for them to tell your story in a positive way, so that the word-of-mouth advertising that you get is positive. But, this can go both ways. If your product is of shoddy quality, then that’s the story that they will tell. All publicity isn’t good, no matter what the adage said.

How do you make sure that the marketing tactics you use lead to your business goals?

Strategy

Our brand is the story of our product or service that we tell. It is also the story of our product or service that others tell.  In this way, our brand is both the strategy (why we tell our stories the way that we do) and a tactics (when others tell their stories about our brand).

If our brand is blend of the story that we tell and that others also tell, then our brand is both the strategy and a tactic.

Tactics work. They work best when you have a reason for using the particular one with a particular goal in mind.  This is where strategy is vital.     

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

~Sun Tzu

What I have seen with many small business owners and creative entrepreneurs is using tactics without much understanding of why they are using the tactic.  They may use content marketing, but not have an overall plan for why and how to use it. They will find themselves floundering and feeling aimless. 

Part of this is because they haven’t taken the time to really develop the story of their brand. That story is what focuses everything you do in marketing, because everything you do in marketing is telling the story of your product or service. 

Does this mean that you won’t evolve? No.  Of course, you will and so will your brand.  As you evolve, you will have to re-examine the story of your brand to make sure that it is matching up with the messages that your tactics are telling.  

Once you know the story of your brand, you can move onto your marketing strategy: what you want to accomplish with your marketing tactics.

Goals

Your marketing strategy begins with your goals:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?  
  • Are you trying to sell a product?  
  • Are you trying to get bookings for a service?  

This is where your marketing plan intersects and is even integrated into your overall business plan. 

  • What are you trying to sell?  
  • To whom are you trying to sell it?  
  • Who else offers products and services like you?  
  • What is their share in the market?  
  • Can you segment your target customers or clients into a niche where you’re the only one?  

Once you answer these questions, you have the beginnings of your marketing strategy.

Measuring Success

A vital part of your strategy is how you measure your success. Where having a clear understanding of your story and a clear vision of your brand helps you to focus your marketing strategy and use of tactics, having a way to tell you if you’re successful keeps you focused.

How do you measure marketing?  It seems a little like trying to measure love or honesty.  You can have a cup of love or honesty, but do you measure these sorts of things?  Indirectly.  I’ll try not to let my love of measurement theory make me geek out too much here.  If you’re using love as an example, you would measure behaviors associated with love, like caretaking behaviors.  For marketing, it goes back to your goals.

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

In a nutshell…

Strategy is the reason you choose a particular tactic. To whom you are telling your story determines HOW you tell it and how often that’s your strategy.

Your brand is the story of you and your product or service, as told by you, the media, and the public. 

Branding is the way you tell your story, through your visuals like logos, your content marketing, advertisement, and customer service. 

You tell your story through promotion, using different tactics like content marketing, advertising, street marketing, and ambient marketing, 

When the media tells your story, it’s called publicity.

Your relationship with the public is monitored and managed through public relations.

I hope that this has been helpful in dispelling the mystery around marketing jargon. I also hope that you were able to gain a few tips from this about the strategies and tactics used to promote your business, your product, or your service. 

Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Leave your comments below or email me. If you have expertise in this field or have a story to share, please leave a comment below.

Marketing Glossary

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©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved. You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

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Published by Michelle Raab

Branding&Marketing Strategist for the Quirky and Creative Entrepreneurs | Research Psychologist | Writer | Photographer | Dabbler in the Visual Arts

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