What does the word “marketing” make you think of? Most people say advertising. And it’s true, that’s one important part.
But there are lots of additional strategies you can use right now to create the right services for the right people, and to make sure those customers can find you. Marketing may not be your day job, but it’s certainly something you can master.
In this post, we’ll go over some common marketing terms and strategies, so you can choose what’s right for you—and go forth and get customers with confidence!
What is marketing?
Marketing means spreading the word about what you do. It’s an umbrella term for all the promotional activities a company might do. It’s about learning who your audience is, attracting new customers, crafting the right messages for them, developing the right products, then thinking about the best way to distribute them. Marketing is what you do to show your value and attract the right customers, and to eventually increase your sales or client base.
Design a logo that makes your business stand out.
Why is there such a variety of marketing definitions?
Marketing used to be a pretty limited field. You’d depend on word of mouth, or you’d run an ad in the local paper. But since the 1950s, the number of ways to reach customers has exploded—from radio to TV, and now from Facebook to TikTok. And with the increasing number of platforms, there are also many more marketing strategies: print, internet, social media, video, email, search engines, etc. (Hubspot keeps a running list and has defined 41 different types so far).
But don’t worry. Just because there are so many types of marketing doesn’t mean you need to do all of them. Big companies spend a lot of time and money creating major campaigns across different channels. For an independent business, the process will be different, but the general approach is the same: find out where your customers are, and get their attention.
Why is marketing important?
The obvious answer is that marketing helps you make sales or get customers, which is (theoretically) the goal of most companies. But marketing is important in other ways too. Think of it as a way to save you time, because marketing will help you get the right product to the right people. Instead of doing the equivalent of throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded, marketing helps you target people who will like what you’re selling, and craft the right messages so they’ll know why they should buy from you.
Marketing is like matchmaking. It helps you find the right people who are looking for what you have to offer.
What’s the difference between marketing and advertising?
Sometimes marketing and advertising are used interchangeably, but advertising is just one part of marketing, like one step on a staircase, or one tool in your toolbox.
Advertising is an effort, usually paid, to spread the word about your product and get people interested. It’s typically (though not always) towards the end of the process, when you have an item to sell, and a customer you want to reach. And even then, it’s only one tool you could use to reach them.
Marketing, on the other hand, is the entire process you would use to research your customers, adjust your product to meet their needs, come up with the right selling points to convince them, and build brand loyalty so they come back again and again.
The 4 Ps of Marketing
The 4Ps of Marketing were developed in the 1960’s by E. Jerome McCarthy. They’re the key elements involved in any marketing strategy, and are sometimes referred to as your marketing mix:
Product – Before you start selling something, you need to know: Does anyone want to buy this? Does it meet people’s needs? In marketing, you would use focus groups, user interviews, or even your own observations to see if your product fits your customers. If there are common questions people have, you might answer them on a FAQ page or do an explainer video, for example.
Price – Part of marketing is setting the right price for your product. How much are people willing to pay for what you’re selling? What do your competitors charge? Pricing isn’t always about having the lowest price out there, since higher prices can suggest quality or exclusivity in a way that’s more attractive to potential customers. (Think of the old adage that people typically order the second-cheapest bottle of wine on a restaurant wine list.) This is where user interviews or competitor analysis can help you find the pricing sweet spot.
Place – Think of this as “meeting the customer where they are.” In the 1960’s, place would mean considering whether you were selling your products in the right store, in the right location. Nowadays, “place” can really be anywhere. Do your customers prefer to browse in-person, shop in an online store, or buy products while scrolling on Facebook or Instagram?
Promotion – Now that you have the right product, price, and place, promotion is where it all comes together. How will customers find out about you? Promotion includes all the marketing techniques you’re probably familiar with to get people’s attention, from the traditional (ads, events, PR), to the more recent (social media, video, etc.).
You don’t need to memorize The 4Ps, but if you understand the basics they are a useful marketing checklist. Here’s a quick way to apply them to your own business:
- Do I have the right product?
- Is it at the right price?
- Am I selling it in the right place?
- And am I promoting it in the right way?
How do I choose the right marketing strategy for my business?
If you run your own business, marketing might not be at the top of your to-do list. That’s why it’s important to find an approach that works for you.
Stick with what you like: Do you enjoy writing? Then content marketing is a good option. If you have no interest in video, then marketing your business on YouTube isn’t a good choice, even if everyone’s doing it. Marketing involves putting yourself out there and keeping it up. So going with your natural interests will always lead to better results.
Think about the time investment: There’s a reason large companies have such big marketing teams. Keeping up with every trend on every channel is a time-consuming process. Maybe marketing isn’t something that you can dedicate a lot of time to. If so, choose some of the more automated approaches, like SEO, rather than the more time-intensive ones, like event planning.
How much money can you spend: New types of marketing have opened doors for small companies and democratized the business world in many ways. You no longer need a huge advertising budget to break through. Some marketing techniques, like SEO and social media, are essentially free (read more on these below). Others, like SEA (pay-per-click ads) and print advertising, will cost more money.
What are the different types of marketing?
Depending on your business, marketing might be a huge part of what you do. Or it might be something you think about every once in a while. Below, we define the types of marketing that are most relevant to small businesses. And of course, you can choose more than one approach!
Traditional marketing includes strategies that were popular before the internet: TV ads, print ads, direct mail, radio, billboards, Yellow Pages, etc. The cost of traditional advertising is one reason why other types of marketing have evolved. Small businesses and startups needed new ways to get their message across, when they couldn’t compete with the advertising budgets of the big players. Though some traditional methods still work well for local businesses, online marketing (see below) is becoming a more effective way to reach people.
Online marketing means using internet tools and channels to promote your business and find customers. It’s a broad term that includes all web-based channels: email, social media, SEO, pay-per-click advertising, and YouTube. It typically uses your business website as a hub. Online marketing is differentiated from “traditional marketing” but it’s quickly becoming the default. Especially since it opens doors for so many new businesses.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the process of making your website easier for search engines like Google to understand. This makes it more likely to appear in search results. The more you appear in Google search results, the more traffic you’ll get to your website. And more traffic typically leads to more business. One huge benefit of SEO is that it’s free and not very time-consuming. By putting up-front effort into your website text and content, you’ll make it easier for potential customers to find you. The benefits will continue over time. Read more in our SEO Basics.
Search Engine Advertising (SEA)
Search Engine Advertising is the process of advertising directly on Google (or other search engines) using pay-per-click ads. What’s a pay-per-click ad? These are the links you’ll see at the top and to the right of any Google search, labelled with the “Ad” icon. You might hear SEA and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) used interchangeably—they both refer to paid search engine ads.
How does it work? Think of it as SEO’s more expensive sibling. You set a budget, then choose the topics and keywords you’d like to target. Each time someone searches for your topic or keyword and clicks on your ad, you’ll pay a fee to Google. The more you’re willing to pay for a click (your “bid”), the more prominently your ad will be displayed. Because SEA can be expensive and time-consuming, you might try it in small doses, like around special promotions or very targeted keywords. Learn more about how to find keywords in our Keyword Research Guide.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing includes everything you do on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. to promote your business. The important thing to remember is that social media requires more than telling people about sales. It’s a two-way street where you share your brand qualities and interact with customers. In other words, it’s a place where you craft a brand personality and engage, rather than a place to just post announcements. Learn more in our Social Media Guide.
Email marketing means using email to develop relationships with customers and promote your business. Traditionally, businesses might have used direct mail to send flyers and discounts to people’s mailboxes. Now, that practice has gone online. Many businesses use email to send newsletters, tell customers about new products, promote sales and discounts, or share updates.
Content marketing is the practice of creating valuable and helpful content (text, videos, podcasts, blogs, etc.) to bring in customers. The idea behind content marketing is that instead of ads, you provide something of value instead. The bait on the end of the fishing hook, so to speak. Your engaging content will make people more interested in your business than if you sent them a coupon or a sales pitch. Get more content marketing ideas in our post 8 Free Ways to Promote Your Business.
Video marketing is a way to reach and engage your customers using video. TV ads are the traditional version. But now the genre has expanded to YouTube channels, Explainer Videos and How-To’s, Instagram Stories, and more. A video ad typically promotes a company or product. Video marketing can teach new skills, make people laugh, show your latest TEDTalk, stream an online event, and be more interactive. Learn more about how to use video on your website.
Dialogue marketing is all about building a friendly and lasting connection with your customers over time. Everything you do to keep the conversation flowing—from comment cards to good customer service—is a form of dialogue marketing. It covers a lot of elements you’ll know from other types of marketing (e.g. email, loyalty programs, social media), and includes a response element so that people can tell you what they think. That way you can feed this knowledge back into your own product and strategy.
Guerilla Marketing means using unconventional methods to get attention for your business. Most of the time it involves catching people by surprise, upending their expectations, and making a memorable impression. (Though the word “guerilla” implies conflict, guerilla marketing is meant to make customers like your business, not run from it). It’s typically low-cost, only requiring the creativity and the guts to pull it off, and it can take place online or off.
Find the best way to promote your business
If these definitions are making your head spin, don’t worry. The point isn’t to overload you with terminology. The main takeaway is that there are many different approaches to marketing your business, and so it’s very possible to find the technique that works best for you. Just keep in mind these questions:
- What channels do my customers use?
- What am I interested in?
- What do I have time for?
- What can I afford?
Then do some more research through our blog and other resources to get started on marketing your website and your business. We’re here to help.