QUESTION: I am in the process of developing a business plan. What is the difference between marketing and sales?

ANSWER: You often hear the terms used interchangeably. While they both have the same goal, each have different characteristics and in order for a business to be successful, you must understand the differences.

Marketing is essentially the act of promoting and creating awareness of your company or its products and services. There are many ways to do this, so let’s explore a few:

  • Branding – It’s important to have a company name, logo, colors, imagery and other graphic elements that help communicate your message to customers. Consider hiring a good freelancer who is not as costly as an agency.
  • Press releases – Any time your company participates in a civic event and you receive recognition, write a press release and send it to the business editor of your local newspaper with pictures. They are more likely to publish items of local interest.
  • Trade shows & publications – If you cater to businesses represented by an association, join and advertise in their trade publications. Also consider a booth at their trade shows.
  • Target market – If possible try to differentiate yourself by catering to a niche. By definition, a niche is an underserved segment of a larger market. Become expert and the go-to people for the particular product or service.
  • Internet Marketing – Develop an attractive “selling” website and update it on a regular basis to give prospective buyers a reason to come back. Be sure to optimize the site to ensure yours is on page one of the internet browsers. Don’t pinch pennies, hire an expert.
  • Join a Networking Site – This is a site where you place links to group member sites and they, in turn, place your link on theirs; a free way to reach potential customers. Ideally, seek web sites with businesses that complement but don’t compete with you.

Sales is the follow up to the marketing process. Sales related activities may include:

  • Developing a targeted prospect list
  • One on one, face to face interaction with the customer.
  • Evaluation and solution selling to meet specific customer needs.
  • Asking for the sale and obtaining a signed contract.
  • Follow up phone calls and email messages to keep the lines of communication open.

If you need help in developing a sales and marketing strategy, local SCORE counselors stand ready to lend assistance.

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Gray Poehler is a volunteer with SCORE Naples. Business counseling on this and other business matters is available, without charge, from the Naples Chapter of SCORE. Call (239) 430-0081 or visit https://naples.score.org/content/find-mentor-165 .The SCORE business office is located at 900 Goodlette Road North, in the Fifth Third branch bank building. Office hours are 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.