What if you had the finest product line or the tastiest menu items, and no one bought them? What if your customer service was so excellent it could put a five-star hotel to shame, but no one had the chance to experience it? What if you launched a great business and no one knew about it?

Establishing an amazing business is merely the first step. Attracting customers requires marketing. While many small businesses believe marketing is similar to advertising, it’s actually much broader. Marketing spans the entire process of delivering a product or service to a customer: from choosing which products to sell and where to sell them, to how to price and promote them.

At its most basic level, the “promotion” aspect of marketing spreads the word about your business. That’s only the start, however. Marketing fulfills these five key functions:

1. Marketing informs

To attract consumers in a crowded marketplace, your target audience needs to know why they should choose your business over someone else’s. This is where marketing comes in to educate current and potential customers about your business and how it serves a need they have.

The content on your website that communicates your business’s mission, product demonstration videos you post, photos you display that show exactly what your products look like — elements like these let prospective customers know who you are and what makes you unique.

2. Marketing engages

It’s one thing to offer a superior in-person experience or an easy online shopping journey. But marketing keeps your business in people’s minds after a transaction is over — and before they need you again.

To turn first-time customers into lifelong fans who will sustain your business, you have to establish and build relationships with the people who’ve interacted with your business. Sending post-purchase follow-up emails, replying to customers on Twitter and Facebook, and mailing out postcards with special offers or information on new services are just a few of the ways that marketing can help you stay in touch with your target audience.

3. Marketing builds reputations

As a business owner or aspiring entrepreneur, you likely already understand how important your reputation is to your success. It truly can be the deciding factor in whether or not a consumer chooses to reach out to you or one of your competitors. Because marketing spreads the word about your business, it’s a major factor in the reputation your business takes on. Strong, professional marketing indicates that you’re a reputable business. The connection is undeniable.

Whether it’s a well-designed email campaign, high-quality images in all of your marketing materials, or engaging website copy that reflects your unique brand voice, marketing can help you establish credibility, build trust and engender goodwill toward your company.

4. Marketing sells

It’s simple logic — you can’t make a sale if no one knows about your products or services. And while setting up shop in your neighborhood may bring in some walk-in business, marketing extends your reach and draws attention to what you’re selling so that people can buy it.

Emails showcasing new releases, social media posts alerting customers to an upcoming sale and online business listings that help local consumers find you are a few examples of how you can use marketing to build the kind of awareness that generates revenue.

5. Marketing grows businesses

This function of marketing is partly the culmination of the first four. Strategic marketing often results in growth for your business. If you successfully educate customers, keep them engaged, create a strong reputation in their minds and smartly sell to them, your business will most likely do well. On top of that, most (if not all) businesses thrive on the acquisition of new customers. Marketing is how you attract those customers in the first place.

Not a marketer? Not a problem.

This downloadable guide covers marketing in 8 easy-to-understand sections — each filled with professional tips and advice you can put into practice right away.

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