A prescription for small business marketing and advertising

When marketing, advertising, sales and merchandising words are thrown around by marketers, most small business owners find it hard to tell the difference, and wonder if it even matters!

Here is a snapshot view, simply explained.

It’s a 3 minute read.


What you do to capture and keep your customers over time. Getting the “tangible half” of marketing right should be your first priority. That is your product/service, price, quantity, promotion, delivery, quality control, after sales service, guarantees etc.

The “tangible half” is only the tip of the iceberg though. Marketing is all about perception, the complete customer experience you provide for your client – what you say, what they see, what they can measure and how they feel about you, your product and your promotional materials. That’s all a big part of what we term “your brand”.

You want to be seen as the “best possible choice” for your client right now. And, sadly, not everyone is ready to buy on your timetable so it is important to position yourself top of mind when a prospect is ready to buy. That’s when the other “marketing half” kicks in – how you treat your customers, honour your clients, acknowledge referrals and what processes you put in place to retain new and existing customers.

If you work consistently on this “intangible half” you will achieve what I think of as a marketing benchmark – happy customers, creating great relationships, with repeat business and word of mouth referrals.

Asking your customers what they like about your business, why they come back, what more could you do for them (or do differently) etc is gold. It is the cheapest market research you will ever do and the results might surprise you. Don’t bury your head in the sand, ask unhappy customers why they don’t come back and what more could you do to win them back – that is good marketing.

Always have a fair idea about your competition. What do your competitors offer, what is their reputation like, their strengths and weaknesses so that you can position yourself somewhat or totally different in the same market. Try to judge your competitors from your customer’s perspective, and then look through your customer’s eyes at your own business to see how you can maximise your competitive edge.


The technique of making products or services well known. And favourably known by the section of the market most likely to purchase. You advertise to increase sales, make your brand name familiar, to create goodwill, to launch a product or service, to educate/inform the public or to simply attract customers to enquire.

Advertising should always have a purpose – to inform, sell, produce listings, improve your image, educate etc. Be sure that it is aimed at your target market and written from the buyer’s perspective.

A lot of advertising fails simply because it is the right message delivered to the wrong market. Don’t waste your opportunities, find where your clients are, what they read/watch/do/attend etc and structure something that will appeal.

Structure your advertising to be:

  • the right solution to an emotional trigger – what do they want, need, desire, or
  • the right solution for their pain points – ego, self-esteem, lack of time, productivity or budget concerns?

Speak to the heart of their needs if you want your advertising to work. And your ad should catch the eye, arouse interest, create desire and lead to action?

And if your ad doesn’t work and you decide to try again, just change one thing at a time so you can test and measure the results.


The “tangible half” of marketing + the “intangible half” of marketing + advertising will kickstart your success.

And remember, every day you delay your marketing is a gift to your competition.


Published by Sherryn McBride

Sherryn McBride and Marketing Talk. Consulting, marketing workshops, industry talks, workplace training and social media.

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