Owners and Marketers are Two Very Different Things

Magazines I run a business magazine called Owner magazine and I helped Jacqueline Carly cofound her magazine, BossFit, about fitness and health. As owners, the goal is “grow the business.” It’s pretty simple. And I like to think of it that simply. But this got me thinking just how much of a difference there is between owners and marketers. And I can illustrate this with one crazy and lovable dynamo of a guy.

My Chocolate Store Doesn’t Know Who Gary Vaynerchuk Is

The owner of the little chocolate store in town has no idea who Gary Vaynerchuk is. I know because I asked her. But I was being silly. She doesn’t know who I am, except that I like her iced coffee. But if I tell her what Gary says about how to sell better, she gets it and loves it. She just put her first Facebook page together. She’s not sure why she did it, but she knows that people seem to use Facebook a lot.

As an owner, she needs sales. What she doesn’t need are spreadsheets that tell her how to find the best influencers in the community. Who’s the influencer in the small town chocolate shop Klout bucket, I wonder? She doesn’t want to “join the conversation” as much as she wants to understand how it could possibly be that she’ll post pictures in Facebook and this will somehow drive people to her store.

Marketers, quite often, find themselves forced into filling out spreadsheets, trying to “stay current” with “trends.” They worry that they’re not utilizing the best SnapChat strategy (shudder). They might try to get my chocolatier to create an ebook about chocolate.

But Gary Vaynerchuk Sells

Where “marketers” (and I use the quotes to separate out those with the title versus the skill) go awry is that they forget that marketing is a function of sales. And where the best marketers come from is learning that marketing is really sales+customer service+a great story (in roughly that order). Gary knows this. Gary sold the hell out of wine. He sells the hell out of whatever he is working on. If you haven’t seen him sell the crap out of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook (affiliate), you ain’t seen nothin’ like real selling in action.

If you tell Gary you bought the book, he might ask you why you didn’t buy five copies. (Kind of joking, kind of not.) He believes in it. He KNOWS it’s the answer to some of your challenges. He’s nearly religious about it. That’s not marketing. It’s pure force of will. There’s no trend analysis at play. Gary wants you to buy the damned book, read it, love it, do the work, and reap the rewards.

Marketing is Sales+Customer Service+And a Story

I mean, if I had to pay someone to market for me, for Owner magazine, I would want them to tell me how they’d help me get more business, get more subscribers, while maintaining the value. I’d want them to tell me the story of the Owner community, of how the people I’ve got the pleasure to serve will use what we do. And then I’d want them to sell and service those same people with outright love and passion.

Sometimes, people tell me they’re afraid of sales, and that’s why they’re marketers. That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever heard. The question would have to be: If I hire you, how will the money I spend on you add to the money I make by selling my product or service? If you answer that with “I’ll help you join the conversation,” that might not cut it.

I’ll admit this is a somewhat “in progress” thought. I mean, I know what I think. I’m trying to make my output of it more useful. What’s your take on this?

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  • Cris Hay-Merchant

    Nice post, Chris. The part that rang most true was the marketers who are afraid of sales. If you’re afraid of sales you’ll never be able to understand why people do it – and how to help them do it better. Also, I wholeheartedly agree that most small business owners just want marketing to help them – they don’t necessarily want or have the appetite to understand it to the nth degree.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      That’s exactly it, Cris. When people say I’m a good marketer, I correct them. I am not. I’m good at understanding human nature.

      • PERK

        Haha. Can we say marketers are good at social psychology? Understanding human nature? I believe it is a yes. I think it is important to also look at building genuine business relationship, win win situation.

  • David

    Chris – I think a major point to consider in the “I help you join the conversation” answer is that people were/are afraid of committing to the “I will get you followers, then leads, then sales in X amount” answer. I should know. I run a social media marketing company (tell me about it). And for the longest time I was afraid of making a point to sell the fact that our company will help their company, well, sell. Instead, we went a long time boasting increased engagement levels and exposing them as thought leaders…. And on the front, this felt good because it mattered to companies who just don’t/didn’t get social media. But now. Guess what? They want sales results. And guess what? We have to deliver. Welcome to 2014.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Fun. So in a way, you’re REALLY validating my post, yes? Love that.

  • jwsteiert

    If I may ask you a question, Chris, as someone who I’m sure asks that question quite often of marketers – ‘How do marketers become less afraid of sales?’ Admittedly, I’m someone who fell into marketing through the Social Media rabbit hole and sales is not something I’m directly comfortable with. But I want to confront that and I take strides in trying to augment my knowledge and abilities (Dan Pink’s work, as well as Gary V’s is certainly helpful). Where would you point this storytelling sailboat?

    As always, thank you – you’re the man.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Work on selling. Even if it’s not your main project. Sell something. Hell, a bunch of little girls got me to buy Girl Scout cookies, even though I’m not eating a lick of sugar these days. Why? Because they had the sale down to a quick and fast sentence: “Girl Scout cookies! Four dollars a box!”

  • http://www.blog.marketo.com/ Jason Miller

    I wrote a short eBook a year ago or so and someone accused me of trying to “sell” with my content marketing strategy. This person literally called me out in a blog and said they were “disappointed”. Some marketers are so caught up in “joining the conversation” they become terrified of “selling” anything at any point of the buyers journey. They become oblivious to the fact that marketing is indeed a function of sales.

    I guess the question for the chocolate store owner is, how many more sales do they want and/ or need? I would like to think that a Facebook page about a chocolate store would be a lot of fun put together.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      What a jerk. You selling seller. And yes, the page might be fun, but how will it help her move product? Obvious answer: we covet what we see. But without ads to grab locals, that’ll be an issue, right?

      • http://www.blog.marketo.com/ Jason Miller

        I look at this in two ways: 1 – Build and nurture the fans that come into the store already and upsell them through the page. 2 – Run a few highly targeted ads and bring them into the store that way. Either way is going to take budget and bandwidth. I would hope she has a nice email list that could complement the efforts.

  • http://houseofrumzi.com/ SL Clark

    Owner of Company = Sales = every Quotient; meaning culture, products, marketing, head of HR (at least early), everything associates do must align, Vision of the Owner.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Quite agree, sir.

  • Mark Arnold


    Thanks for sharing the post & formula. Belief and sales are directly tied together. If you truly believe in something (as Gary does with his books & you do with Owner Magazine), you are not really selling. You are sharing your beliefs. That is where the story comes in. Every great passion (and belief) has a great story.


    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Precisely, Mark. Great rephrasing. :)

  • http://www.hanifinloyalty.com/ billhanifin

    Chris, This is timeless counsel for those of us in the business of providing advice to business owners. I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, to keep my eye on the elements of recommendations that serve the core objectives of the business owner / stakeholders.

    In plain English, this normally boils down to the things you mention; sales & profits. In the course of providing “brilliant” strategic advice to clients, it’s important to remember to give them a clear path to make more money!

  • Tom Larsen

    Everybody sells…it’s how you answer the phone (or don’t)…it’s how you end a conversation…it’s sending out a thank you card after the sale…or sending your newsletter when no sale made…or having a referral reward program, even if no sale results….it’s how you ask for more business from current clients. If someone is afraid to sell, they don’t belong in my organization!

  • Tom Martin

    Chris – Excellent blog post, and one that resonates with me in a very powerful way, given the fact that I’m in the public relations business. My clients look to me to help them, yes, sell … whether it’s books, products or themselves, in the form of speaking opportunities. I continue to be amazed at how many of my colleagues in the PR field distance themselves from that responsibility, and instead claim that their role is to do no more than “raise awareness” and, yes, “join the conversation.” Sorry, that doesn’t cut it. I do believe in the value of content and conversation, but — at the end of the day — if it doesn’t “move the needle” when it comes to sales, the client has been let down.

  • http://relate.ly/ Matt Kress

    Chris, I love this post. I do see it changing as owners realize every dollar spent needs to somehow generate at least a dollar earned. The marketers they hire (employees or outside contracts) have to produce a positive, measurable ROI or they are gone.

    For a huge company like Coca Cola, spending money on a PR campaign like the recent SuperBowl ad is alright because they have the dollars to do it and one of the top brands in the World.

    For smaller businesses, if marketers can’t tie positive revenue or sales results into their work, they are doing it wrong.

  • fabiocarvalho

    Chris, if I may and (as Michael Port is used to saying), that marketing also creates awareness. And together with the items you’ve mentioned we have the pretty perfect picture of what has to be done. I do believe that selling is the most important part. In the past, I used to think to “joining the conversation” was enough. No! Live if hard and talking customers into this without “showing them the money” it will NEVER happen. So, today I believe that a good mix of those elements aiming at selling will provide the best results, especially when we focus on transforming services into products, making in tangible for the clients to see. That’s my take on that. Would like to know your thoughts. Best, Fábio. Greetings from Rio.

  • laineyd7

    Great story and it illustrates exactly how I feel about marketing. I’m selling heavy duty barrier packaging, rather than chocolates, but still…using the available tools, as needed, to get more sales. It can be a challenge for a small-business owner to filter the noise and figure out which media to care about, and that’s where you come in, Chris – thanks for the guidance.

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  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    Do some really not equate marketing to being a salesman??

  • http://milostopic.com Milos

    A sale was once an end product of a business transaction (or a personal transaction, but we won’t get into those here)…now, it is a part of the “circle of business evolution” (to call it that at this moment)…you have a product or a service; you develop a story around them which you live, eat and breathe and eventually you make a sale…and then, you repeat it all over again. You want new clients (exposure) and you want your current clients to come back again (retention) and stay with you as that proves that you have quality and are “relatable” to them.

    Finally, one must market to survive in today’s noisy world as I am sure we all know great products which didn’t do well as no one knew about them. Conversely, we have all seen products that sold a lot due to great marketing campaigns, not quality.

  • Varadharajan K

    This looks like just a play of words. Marketers(real ones) always think of sales+customer service+ great stories of customers to get more Sales. They are often blamed for such a single minded pursuit by those who do not understand business. Owners get mired into so many things at work. That’s why the marketers are pricey and owners put them on top of hierarchy. That’s why everyone claims that they are marketers. You must be referring to those who claim. If owners are marketers biz grows faster. My pov.

    • PERK

      “If owners are marketers biz grows faster” Those are into freelance work, they themselves are the owner at the same time they are the marketer. When demands rise, they might need to hire more experience marketers to help grow the business. When workload is rising, and the owner have not enough hands to handle it, i believe marketers comes into the picture. (OWNER Alone will not survive, OWNER + MARKETER – Go the long way)

  • Dan G

    nutty thing. I clicked the link to your Owners magazine and was blocked by my work’s internet blocker thingy (cant remember what they call it. I call it something ruder). Categorized your magazine as phishing. True story. The link to bossfit however worked fine… crazy.

  • David Mooring

    Another major issue I see in today’s world of sales and marketing is the large number of uneducated and/or inexperienced marketers who use “Marketing” and “Promotion” or “Advertising” interchangeably. What good is a promotional campaign if what you’re selling is poorly designed and improperly priced?

  • http://brightideas.co/ Trent Dyrsmid

    Hey Chris…Long before I ever learned a damn thing about marketing, I’d made thousands of cold calls and been in at least 1000 face to face meetings. (It only took me 15 years or so). As a result of all this direct selling time, I think (hope) I’m a much better marketer.

    I loved your article, have ordered Gary’s book, and have shared this post with my tribe. Thanks so much.

  • PERK

    Thanks for sharing with us this post on the difference between an “owner” and “Marketer”. I agree with you often we are too tied up with spreadsheets and trends, we forget the basics of marketing which is to get more business tell a story and not to forget SERVICE which i myself thing it is important.

  • http://credible-content.com/blog/ Amrit Hallan

    Very valid points Chris – marketing isn’t just dumping your promotional messages on the unsuspecting viewers, at least not in the contemporary times when there are zillions of ways to connect with your target audience. Every customer has a unique story and unless he or she can see his or her story in your marketing effort, there isn’t much impact. Marketing is your overall presence and the sum total of the interactions you have with people you want to sell to.

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  • Patricia Mayo-Luz

    Good question. I’ll have to think on that and come up with a response.

  • Jingcong Zhao

    This is a great reminder for marketers- it’s really true that marketing is really about sales, customer service and telling a great brand story. Thanks for sharing Chris.

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  • http://raulcolon.net/ Raul Colon

    Coming from a very metrics driven (but not productive or effective background) in Big 4 CPA firms I see that not only does it happen in Marketing it happens pretty much in every industry.

    Which creates huge opportunities for those that are willing to help grow a customer base, grow business, and maintain quality.

    Finding people with degrees and “experience” is easier than finding people that have that and our passionate at what they want to accomplish.

  • http://tkwriterinme.wordpress.com/ Tim King

    Yes, sales and marketing are two very different things, but as you said, Chris, effective marketing (and for that matter all customer-facing communications) MUST always lead the prospect closer to a purchase.

    Every good salesperson I know learned and uses their ABC’s every day. Always Be Closing. And good marketers should remember this mantra too.

    An owner’s responsibility is to service existing customers well – with good products, pricing, availability and delivery – to encourage them to come back. A marketers view should primarily be on the horizon looking (and listening) for the NEXT prospect that NEEDS to be a customer.

    A great salesperson will be able to to sell ‘ice to Eskimos’ but that tends to be a one-time sale in the vein of “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

    However, great marketing BRINGS THE ESKIMO to you, with the knowledge and confidence that YOUR harpoon, igloo maker or polar bear repellent is exactly what EVERYONE in their village needs.

    I call this the “Faberge Effect” – If you tell two friends about Faberge Shampoo, then they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on…”

    Good marketing greases the skids and makes the salespersons job easier by proactively addressing a customer’s (often unspoken) objections. The ultimate goal then of any marketing piece should be then to try and get the sale WITHOUT involving the salesperson at all.

    Deliver pre-sold prospects to your company’s door (or website) and you will be the most popular guy/gal in your sales department – maybe even the company! What’s more, if you can do this well, it frees up the owner(s) of the company to focus their time on customers, developing new products, managing the budget and looking for new opportunities for growth.


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  • Mike Rizzo

    I completely agree. At my employer I have an initiative called the “support initiative” where I (as the marketing coordinator) want to improve our support funnel. I want to build our relationships from the inside as well as from the outside. I want to know how our customers feel and i want to help our prospects understand the value in feeling that way too!

    I am so happy to see a post like this. Marketers should remember that it takes a lot of skills to truly service a customer / prospect. The sale doesn’t end once they sign up. It’s a relationship. When was the last time you asked someone out on a date, took them out once and expected them to just stay with you forever…

    Thanks Chris!

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  • http://blog.momekh.com/ Momekh

    Ya but, I think that eBook on chocolate really can help build trust :)
    I think the mistake is made when I try to make the eBook before the website, make the brochure before the damn product, or make the product before understanding the solution.
    If only “marketers” would think in years instead of weeks.

  • Shawn Yu

    Yes, I completely agree with you. The Marketing is long-term sale. It is engine for sales people. If sales does not run very well. We need to check this marketing engine first.

    • Mark

      Yes, relationship is the long time sale. Keep good relationship, which make good trade discount from the supplies and postive cash flows from the customers.

  • Izhar

    Hey Chris, I just love your post as in my MBA class of 1st semester, we discussed that difference of Sales and Marketing a lot and some of us couldn’t understand. I was very clear but I was not known to customer service was included in marketing, As I always thought its job of sales people and not marketing guy! Thanks for update!

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