I’ve recently noticed that many entrepreneurs hire a “marketing person” and then end up with someone who doesn’t do what they expect. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t realize what “marketing” means. Other times, it’s because the person they hired didn’t know what marketing means. Here is a quick guide to understanding the difference between professions that are distinct, separate fields, but get confused, because the titles are so often misused:

Marketer. A marketer decides what market a product will be sold to, how the product will be described to make it stand out from its competitors (called “positioning”), and how it will be priced. A market is a broad set of people who might want to buy the product that can be reached by the company. “Every adult over the age of 25” is not a market, because there’s no way to reach every adult over the age of 25. “Single women between 18 and 35” is a better market because there are magazines, TV shows, web sites, and other venues where members of that group hang out. Those places—often called “channels”—are how a company can reach that market.

A marketer also chooses the message to send to a market. Whether to say “We’re the lowest cost pony rental service in town” or “We have the only purple pony east of the Mississippi” is a marketing decision. The first message will appeal to members of the market who care about price. The second message will appeal to customers who care about … purple.

Salesperson. Marketers deal with defining the product. Once the market is identified, the salespeople actually go out and convince people to buy. The marketer decides, “We’re selling private jet memberships to corporate CEOs.” The salesperson drives out to the country club, finds a CEO, and says, “Would you like to buy a private jet membership?”

Note: the “junk mail” and “spam” professions are often called “direct marketing.” Those professions are rarely marketing; what they are is sales-at-a-distance. Very few people I’ve met who do direct marketing spend much time defining their market and competitive strategy. They spend their time selling.

Copywriter. A copywriter writes the text that will appear on a web site or in an advertisement. Text must accurately represent what makes a product unique and appealing to its target market. Knowing takes a marketing perspective. If it’s ad copy, it must also persuade. That’s a sales perspective. The text must also be clear and well-written. That’s a writing skill. You’ll do best with a copy writer who has good writing skill, and the perspective appropriate to the piece being written. A website “about us” page may require a marketing perspective, while a product sales landing page might require a sales perspective. Don’t assume the same person can write both kinds of copy. Also, don’t assume that a good salesperson or marketer can write good copy. They’re separate skills.

Designer. A designer makes things look good, and creates a certain feel using visual design. The designer will choose your website layout, your fonts, and so on. Designers need to know enough about your site to create the mood you want. That mood, however, is usually decided by the marketers, and it should send the right signals to the target market. Marketing would decide “We want a cartoony, happy feeling because we believe that will appeal to single women between 18 and 35” or they would decide “We want a professional, elegant feel to appeal to single women between 18 and 35.” The graphic designer would then create a look, feel, illustrations, etc. to make that impression.

These are different skills, and they often require different people to get them right. But when you get the right marketing, powerful salespeople, killer copy, and a great design, you’ll build a much stronger, more powerful business than you would otherwise.

Marketing vs. Sales vs. Copywriting vs. Design

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