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A website designer is not a developer, and a website developer is not a marketer – know the difference

According to Stats Canada, as of September 2021, 98% of businesses in Canada are classified as small businesses. This means, the vast majority of Canadian businesses do not have an in-house marketing department. For the typical business in Canada, there’s no PR team, no digital marketing team, and no market research department. At best, there might be one employee responsible for marketing but who is not formally trained in marketing. With these business constraints, making the best marketing decisions possible, with a limited budget, can be what makes one small business stand out from its competition. In this article, I your author and 28-year marketing veteran, will provide some insights to help small businesses get the most out of their marketing.

Website designers, website developers, and marketers – what’s the difference?

When a small business owner reaches out to look for help with marketing, they typically do a few Google searches and call the first two or three “marketing agencies.” I put marketing agencies in quotes because the small business owner has no idea who he or she is speaking with. What complicates the situation even more is, the business owner often thinks marketing starts with a website – after all, everything is about digital marketing these days.

By taking the website-first approach, the business owner is being setup for failure. A website first approach means there’s a one-in-three chance a website designer, a website developer, or a marketer will get the job.

Consider this analogy, if you had to choose and each cost the same, which of these would you hire to do your marketing (a) van Gogh (b) the company that made the canvas, paint, and brushes van Gogh painted with or (c) Christie’s, the auction house that started maximizing valuation of art in 1759 and in 2015, had sales of $9.2 billion? If you said (a) or (b) then stop reading because you are hopeless.

A website designer, or the function of website design, on primarily concerned with aesthetics, layout, and to some degree functionality of a website. It’s the developer’s role to implement these website designs into a coded form that end-users see on their web browser. Neither a web designer nor a web developer, are: content writers, photographers, videographers, marketing strategists, SEO professionals, marketing analytics specialists, conversion optimization expert, or any of the dozens of other marketing roles. Likely, the business owner isn’t an expert in any of these marketing areas either. So, who can a business owner rely on to put it all together? A marketer of course!

What does a marketer do?

The singular job of a marketer is to help a business define business and marketing goals and objectives in a way that creates the strategic (often financial) outcome the business owner wants. These goals may be short term sales maximization or long-term continual sales and customer loyalty – and an infinite number of goals in between.

Specifically, this could entail connecting a business’s goals and objectives to marketing actions. These marketing actions can mean, creating a tailored set of marketing communications based on marketing insights and best practices, such as website content, that meet the expectations of prospective customers (the target market), in a way that leads to, for example, (a) a sale, (b) repeat sales, and (c) customer referrals. Wow – that was a long sentence, but don’t worry, they get longer! To save, you, the reader, from the pain of where this article could go, suffice it to say, a marketer connects all the execution points needed to achieve your goals. A good marketer will educate you along the way and even argue with you when he or she sees you going off-track. Rarely will a website designer or developer come close to executing the services of a good marketer. 

Google is Not Your Friend

What else can a marketer do? They know what flavours of Kool-Aid are the best. Get ready for the next round of pushy Google Ads sales pitches (the Google telemarketers posing as digital marketing consultants) and why Google thinks you should spend more on their ads platform. As a Kool aid connoisseur, I often enjoy the more basic textures of an objective data driven approach. I find Google’s Kool-Aid quite revolting. In my view, anything new from Google is an attempt to fleece their customers even more and if that means building an entirely new analytics platform to do it – they will.

Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with my clients about Google’s advertising salespeople calling them with sales pitches such as taking their modest $1000 a month Google Ad budget and increasing it to $15,000. First, I was annoyed that Google was trying to poach my clients when I was the person managing the Google Ads account. Secondly, my client and I had a good chuckle about the absolute lack of marketing knowledge possessed by the Google sales rep to even know what worked and didn’t work for my client. A good marketer will save you not only from Google but the dozens of other sales calls where the telemarketer is posing as a marketing strategist. 

A Few Last Words of Wisdom on Marketing

As the owner of a Calgary marketing company for the past 14 years, I’ve come to learn, there’s no such thing as perfection – especially in marketing. Perfection is a pursuit but nowhere is that pursuit clumsier than in marketing. That Google Ads sales rep doesn’t know what he or she is doing; Google has no clue about marketing either – they created a search engine that people really liked and no doubt, its founders where shocked at how much people really liked it. For every successful business, there are 10 failed businesses. For those who succeeded at business – they won the lottery and listening to their random success stories is just as bad as listening to the stories of failed businesses. So what works?

A positive attitude, hard work, listening to your customers carefully, cashflow management, treating everyone with respect, and hopefully you create a product that people want at a price they are willing to pay, in the pace that works for them, and promoted in a way that motivates the potential customer. It’s these basics plus continual research and innovation. I hope this helps you and good luck!

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