What is the difference between marketing and branding for a small business?

Many business owners and professional service companies don’t realize that marketing and branding for the small business is a special thing. They assume it’s the same for every size organization. I’m here to tell you it’s not.

When I poll a room of small business owners I get lots of different answers, most, more or less, pointing to advertising, taglines, logos or tactical activities.

Here’s the difference:

Small Business Marketing is everything you do or say that your ideal target customer sees and hears.Now, when you have a marketing process in place this expands to – getting ideal customers, who see and hear you, to know, like, trust, contact and refer you.

Awareness and trust are it for the real world small business and unless you’ve got tons of cash laying around to buy that through heart warming TV spots repetitiously, you better get down in the trenches and figure out how to educate, give and build trust.

Small Business Branding is the art of becoming knowable, likable and trustable.

Taken in that context it’s easy to see how the two are related, yet separate. Every small business has a brand – either by accident or (as we like) on purpose, because it’s a lot like a personality – everyone has one, like it or not. So, the question then becomes, what should you do to create a brand that enhances your marketing efforts and rings true for you?

With this definition in mind marketing then becomes the act of taking the elements of that personality and exposing them to the ideal target customer at the ideal time in the ideal setting. Elements like a:

  • company name,
  • logo,
  • images,
  • metaphors,
  • colors,
  • words,
  • look and feel,
  • dress,
  • attitude,
  • networks,
  • consistency and
  • vision.

If marketing is doing then branding is being. Often the two are so integrated strategically and tactically that it’s hard to say one comes before or is more important than the other.

A small business that understands the difference between marketing and branding will find that attracting and retaining customers is not really that hard.

So, do a small business owner a favor and share this simple definition with them. It just might make marketing and branding a little easier.

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