If I were to ask 100 people to define “marketing” I’d probably get 100 different answers. The problem is “marketing” has become a nice little euphemism for dirty words like “advertising,” “sales,” and “direct mail.”

I’ve also noticed that all a sudden everyone is a Marketer: I met a guy the other day who makes signs—he introduced himself as a “marketer.” Then I met a woman who sells online ads, she also identified as a “marketer.” Everywhere I go I run into people who at first- glance do what I do, but when I dig a little deeper I learn they’re really selling some marketing tool; not actually engaging in the bigger picture—or the process and planning of marketing.

I’ve been able to forgive sellers of marketing tools for calling themselves marketers—I mean, everyone is doing it. But then I read an article by the CEO of a very well-known company that is a provider of marketing tools (they call themselves “marketers” too).

In his article he addressed the question, “Isn’t marketing and advertising the same thing?”

His response was, “Well, not really. Let me explain the differences. Advertising includes: commercials, billboards, radio, and newspapers. Marketing includes: emails, letters, postcards, and fax.”

What?! (O.K., in all fairness, he wrote marketing “includes” not marketing “is,” but still, he used this example to answer the question, “How are marketing and advertising different?” which leads me to believe that’s the basis on which he differentiates them.)

O.K.—clearly there is a lot of confusion out there. Marketing and advertising are not the same. Advertising is not marketing. Post cards are not marketing. Signs are not marketing. Emails are not marketing. These are tools used in the process of marketing. They are not, in of themselves “marketing.”

So then, what is marketing?

WikipediaMarketing is the process by which companies create customer interest in goods or services. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business development.[1] It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.[1]

American Marketing Association: Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Notice that neither of these definitions includes the words “email,” “advertising,” or “post cards”? That’s because those things are merely the tools used to create customer interest, engage them and get them to want to buy from us. Take a look at the AMA definition, they state that marketing is more than the activity of marketing (i.e.: emailing)—it is the set of institutions and the processes for generating interest.

I want you to be aware. We all know we need marketing, but be smart; learn what that really means and don’t just trust any salesperson who calls themselves a marketer and walks into your shop selling the marketing idea of the week. Marketing is a process—it’s not a one-time deal. Buying an ad or a sign or an email campaign without an overall strategy or plan is simply a waste of time and money. Educate yourself—take the time to learn and invest in your business wisely.

Bottom line: Marketing is strategy. It’s an all-encompassing, planning, scheduling, studying, figuring-stuff-out, researching, testing, and practicing strategy. And I don’t mean a strategy for getting a 20 percent response rate on an email campaign, 100 coupons from a print ad, or 20 referrals from your referral group. Marketing is bigger than that—much bigger. And when done right it will give you bigger results than you’ve ever imagined!

AvatarCarolyn Higgins

Carolyn Higgins is the President and founder of Fortune Marketing Company. Her personal mission is to help small businesses stop wasting money on advertising and promotions that don’t deliver and help business owners implement an effective marketing system that will bring in more customers—consistently. For more information about Fortune Marketing Company visit the Fortune Marketing Company website or blog.