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There's something in the air headed into November this year - and I don't mean the rustle of all the candy we've eaten that we shouldn't have (I had a toothache Saturday for the first time in years, wonder why...).

No, nothing quite so sweet (or scary).  I'm actually thinking of all the prospective and current clients I've spoken to in the past few months who feel frustrated by the task of trying to market their business to find new leads online.

Digital marketing. 

Boo!

It's a pretty daunting idea, when you think about it, package your product or service in such a way that it will appeal to "some" person that you hope to convert to a future customer, all via virtual, online means.  Meaning you don't have a chance to make that "real" connection that we're so used to.  That conversational touch that allows us to relay our intentions, express our passions and convince the other party that we are worth their investment.

Most of us are fairly savvy at this in real life, as long as we're not donning a salesman's suit.  But virtually?  Not so much. (of course, buyer personas can assist you here but I've not found any small business owners working that angle, and that's ok, baby steps!)

If you feel like you have NO clue where to begin, what to focus on or how to boost yourself online - trust me when I say you are NOT alone.  Every client, past, present or future that I speak to has that disquieting fear of the unknown. Whether they're running Google or Facebook ads with no idea how to track their success - or lack thereof.  Or they've invested in SEO or social media, and met the brick wall of "where are my sales."  Or they heard of The List, but they have no idea how to create one.  Or they know they should be doing something, but haven't the foggiest notion what really works.  By the way, I'll let you in on a little secret - THE list is rumored to be a magical place where everyone will want to buy from you each and every day.  That rumor is FALSE.  You do need a list, but it doesn't work quite like that.

In the meantime, you're left scratching your head.  What to do, what to do...

It's frustrating.  I get it.

But here's the thing.  Digital marketing should work like real world marketing.  And Marketing (with a capital M) is not Sales (with a capital S).

Repeat after me.  Marketing is not sales. Marketing is not sales.  Lions and tigers and bears .... you get my drift.

When I started out in the business, many many moons ago, I worked in the Marketing and Sales department of a regional health company.  Marketing was one subdivision, sales was another.  The Sales Reps were the ones tasked with the "hit the ground running" work of converting prospects into pay customers.  Marketing was the department that created brand strategy and messaging to create that list of prospects in the first place.

Just do it.  How simple and catchy is that?  And the phrase could really be applied to a variety of activities and businesses.  But it's not.

When you hear the message "Just do it." - you equate that message with fitness, and running, and exercise and such.  In that moment, you've met the marketing arm of Sales and Marketing for Nike, the brand.  The feeling that inspires athletes to give their all for their passion, their sport, that feeling stems in part from a brand marketing message.  Evoking those emotions is not a straightforward sales tactic.  Those emotions will be evoked in plenty of folks who will never hit a gym this year (or next).  But it sets Nike apart from Reebok and other fitness brands, in a very unique way.  As big and as successful as Nike is and has been, that message will not convert 100% of the people who hear it into paying customers.  It will not convert even 50% of the people who hear it into paying customers. What it will do though is keep the Nike brand front and center of folks minds when they think of fitness, or sports.

It's a message that works, very very well. 

Imagine if someone at Nike had said, yes, but how many sales will we get?  That person would have been pointed in the direction of Sales, and a very different conversation would have occurred (and he/she may have found themselves in a business class, post haste).

Just kidding.

But here's the reality.  Sales is not marketing and marketing is not sales.  And you must be willing to invest time, energy and resources into both.  Hands down. End of story.  Your required resources may or may not include extra staff and more money, depending on your situation and your ability to really think outside of the box.  But if you want your business brand to succeed for the long haul, you must craft a mindset that focuses not on one or the other, but on both!  A mindset that says "yes, I am ready and willing to invest in my business."  It is business after all.

Digital sales.  Another topic for another day.  Digital marketing?  That's crafting an online strategy to send engage your world (no matter how big or small) with your message.  What does your business mean to me or to anyone?  When I see your brand online, what do you stand for, why should I care?  If you start this process with a sale in mind, you'll likely get it wrong.  Start from your passions, start from the heart, and work out from there.

Take a moment and remove yourself from the need to sell something.  Take that moment and write down six things that matter to you most in sharing what you do with others.

Put that list aside.  Let it percolate.  Pick it back up a few days later.  Which of those six things jumps out at you first.  There's your AHA moment.  That's where you begin.  And when you're ready, share it with me and drop me a line!

In the meantime, happy haunting and keep the sugar rush to a minimum (candy brands are very, very good at marketing, doncha know!).