Marketing v Selling



By Distinguished Professor Robert M. Donnelly


Entrepreneurs are great salesmen because they are selling their own solution. However, there are only so many hours in every day and so many prospects that can be contacted. While the internet has increased the number of prospects that can be reached it’s impossible for the individual entrepreneur to determine how many of those on any internet list have the propensity or interest to react to their internet sales pitch, which may also be caught in many prospects spam blockers.


So at some point in the evolution of every entrepreneurial start up the entrepreneur has to abandon selling and embrace marketing. Let’s be clear on the difference between marketing and selling. Selling is asking for the order, while marketing is creating a demand in the mind of the customer so that they seek you out.


Every entrepreneur spends the early embryonic years of their business running around trying to convince prospective customers to try their solution. Much of this tiring effort falls on deaf ears because the prospects typically are not ready to adopt their new way of doing things. This is a historical fact.


Steve Jobs and his partner Wozniak spent the first ten years of Apple’s existence doing just that – trying to explain that people would need a personal computer. Bill Gates did the same thing and so did Jeff Bezos, and many others. Technology is always ahead of the customer adoption cycle.

Once a new way of doing things is accepted by innovators and many early adopters, the technology reaches what is called the “tipping point” where the concept begins to resonate and creates a “buzz” in the marketplace.


This is where marketing takes over from selling. Innovators and early adopters are making noise about the product and spouting its features and benefits. These testimonials need to be captured and converted into a clear explanation of the unique value proposition of the product. This UVP has to be promoted effectively on social media platforms and continuously embellished, much like Apple has done with all their cool devices.


The ultimate goal of marketing is to have customers declare that they “love it”. I love my iPhone. McDonalds claims that their customers are “lovin it”. Nike has thrived on their logo and “do it” message. Walmart has “live better, spend less”. And, Amazon has the “everything store”. These marketing messages resonate and build brand equity for these marketing organizations.

Marketing is about perception, not reality. Everything works. So the challenge for marketers is to convince the customer that their products that work are better than their competitor’s products that work, too. A car is a car, a phone is a phone, and toothpaste is toothpaste. However, Mercedes has convinced their customers that their brand is better than a BMW. Apple has convinced their loyal customer that their iPhone is better than Samsung’s, and Crest has convinced their customers that their toothpaste is better than Colgate’s.

Are you marketing or selling?

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