Marketing by definition is the act of bringing a product or service to market, meaning that it includes a lot more than just selling your products. It includes all aspects of developing them and incorporating them into your business. Advertising is a subset of marketing that we use to gain awareness for our product and service. Promotion, public relations, and social media are also all subsets of marketing, each with their own place and purpose.
What is Advertising?
For a long time, advertising has been what we are all after. We take a finished product, outline a few benefits of the product, and then get that message in front of as many people as possible. With advertising, it is all about exposure and awareness. More eyeballs equal more success.
This is the method that the big brands use. Coca-Cola®, Ivory® soap, Glade PlugIns®, and many others are all brands that have used advertising to make you aware of their products. They bought millions in TV spots, and entire pages in major publications like Redbook, Good Housekeeping and Sports Illustrated.
The key is that all of these campaigns are geared at awareness. Their job is to constantly make more people aware of their brand and remind the others that they still exist.
Coming Into Awareness
By definition, awareness is the act of being informed, having knowledge, or simply being in the know. It is the very thing that we want for our business on the first day when we open our doors. How can I get more people to know that I exist? For this, Advertising is effective, but is it really all that matters?
Again, by definition, loyalty is the state of being faithful – a feeling of allegiance. And this is what we want for our business on the second day it is open for business – loyal customers. We all know that most of business revenue from existing customers, right? That’s loyalty, and it’s built on a relationship of trust.
Which Would You Rather Have?
Here’s the thing. All too often, we look to advertising to solve our “marketing” needs and help us sell more products. What we don’t realize is that advertising isn’t really about selling. Awareness is a very different animal. There are plenty of amazing advertising campaigns out there that make us laugh, make us aware, and then don’t get us to buy a thing. And really, this is OK, because that is exactly what advertising is for. Awareness can eventually lead to sales, but it is indirect, expensive and really difficult to track.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see over and over in marketing is the tendency of small companies to emulate the tactics of the large companies. This is not a surprise, I suppose, since it is the type of advertising that we see each and every day. We watch Target® do it’s thing, and then we try to emulate that for our own brand. The problem with this method is that we don’t have the budget or the reach that Target has. This is just, out of our league.
We do, however, have one thing that these big brands don’t – a voice. Honestly, corporations stink at talking in human language and relating to their customers. Everything comes out like an advertisement or as if it was written by a PR department. Why? Because it was! The smaller the business, the stronger the voice, and the closer their connection to real people. This is a huge advantage that small businesses have, and corporations dream about. This voice builds loyalty, by the way, not awareness.
When we ignore both of these facts, we end up fighting an uphill battle. We advertise like crazy and end up with meager, if any, results. We constantly allow ourselves to be OK with these results because, well, at least we did something.
But loyalty, don’t forget about loyalty! Loyalty matters, and it matters a lot. Loyal customers are the super-customers. They are your biggest fans and your biggest advertising avenue. They are the ones that recommend your new lipstick line to their friends at parties and tell all their friends about the ‘best damn steak seasoning’ on this side of the Missouri. Put simply – these people love your product more than you do, and they speak the language of the people. They not only buy more and give it away as gifts, they tell everyone within earshot about what they love so much about your brand.
Did you just get shivers up your spine? You should have. Isn’t this the customer or donor (if you’re a nonprofit) that we should all be vying for? Loyalty is something of beauty when you can find the path to get there.
So, what would you rather have? Would you rather have someone that is simply aware of you, or would you rather have a customer that is in love with you? Keep in mind that awareness cost three times as much as loyalty, at least as far as dollars go. Loyalty does have a cost though. It’s called sweat equity.
How to Develop Customer Loyalty
Sounds great right, but how do you get there? Well, online marketing and social media is one way, and the one that I know best. It is inexpensive, it works, and it’s there for the taking for any business that wants it.
So, you might ask, why does online marketing work so well to create loyalty? Well, that’s simple. Social media marketing, in particular, is built on trust. We use blogs and social networks to develop trust relationships with other people and potential customers. Trust is something that alludes many of the big brands. Sure, we like their products, but we are fickle. We wouldn’t die for them, and we honestly can’t tell the difference between Tide® and All®.
Trust is something that takes time to develop, nurturing, and constant communication. Yes, communication! That is what makes online marketing different. Rather than being centered around blasting our message to as many people as possible, it is centered around creating one-on-one relationships with the people (virtually) around us. It’s the ultimate word-of-mouth and handshake sales tool ever invented. While it can get you awareness, what it is really good at is loyalty.
Da bears! Bill Swerkski’s is the king of super fans, need we say more?
The thing is, most of the big brands need consistent, ongoing, exposure because it is very difficult for consumers to have a trust relationship with a bottle of soda or a rose scented air freshener. This is, in part, a consequence of mass marketing. It takes a lot of awareness to create mass demand. Advertising is vital for these brands, but it is doesn’t have to be for us. For the little guys, the small and medium sized businesses that are doing the hard work each and every day – advertising is WAY too expensive and really unnecessary.
Social media is about building relationships based on trust with customers and potential leads. It is a communications platform that can be used for marketing and communication, but it stinks at advertising. It just does. Awareness using social media and online marketing takes something else called engagement and inbound marketing. But, when it works – you end up with super fans. Fans that not only buy your products, but drink your Koolaid®, and tell their friends about how sugary sweet it is.