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Marketing Is Not Selling – It’s Different

A market cryer in Hamburg.  The confusion about marketing came with its close relationship to market sellers. Marketing and selling became the one and same meaning. However, marketing is not selling. It’s different to selling.

A market crier in Hamburg.
The confusion about marketing came with its close relationship to market sellers. Marketing and selling became the one and same meaning. However, marketing is not selling. It’s different.

Fresh bananas! I’ve got 2 kilos of bananas. Only for 2 Euros! Fresh bananas! Who wants a bunch of bananas for only 2 Euros?

I believe the confusion between marketing and sales came with its close relationship to market sellers and markets. Marketing and selling became the one and same meaning. I know, because I hear the confusion when my colleagues in the English language teaching business say:

Marketing? I can’t do that because I’m not that sort of person!”

So what is the difference between marketing and sales?

Why freelancers often confuse marketing with selling

It’s true sales people have earned a bad reputation. The historical picture of a salesman with a foot in the door conjures up memories of unwanted, pushy sellers. Today, sellers come disguised as telephone enquiries of products or surveys of products or services. Ditto the enquiries flooding your incoming e-mail box. The only thing in common is that they’re all unwanted because they intrude into your working day or free time.

Marketing, however, is quite different to sales and does an entirely different job. Unfortunately, it has become tarnished by sales’ pushy reputation which has, in turn, been exaggerated by the feudal rivalry existing between the two departments in corporate businesses. After all, in a corporate environment where reasons to lay off expensive personnel are ever present, it’s a question of proving your monetary’s worth or risk losing your job .

Rivalry between Marketing and Sales departments

The battle on monetary worth is carried out and based on this question:

  • Which department brings the most ROI (return on investment)?

In marketing, it’s difficult to measure a monetary value – the ROI – for your work in finding new students or in finding new outlets to sell your teaching products or services.

In sales, however, the ROI is easily measured:
nn (number of lessons or products) at nn (rate) equals nn (income)

Why do marketing if you cannot work out its importance to your teaching business?

Why should you sell if you don’t like selling?

Well, you’re not alone. 🙂

Yet all entrepreneurial freelance teachers have to find time to do both jobs – marketing and sales – or go out of business! You’ve no choice if you want to ensure your financial security as a freelance teacher.

Knowing the difference between marketing and sales will put into perspective…

  • why marketing is such an important business tool for your business
  • why both sales and marketing must be part of your daily entrepreneurial life

The simplified marketing and sales definitions below should help clarify the difference between them.

DEFINITION:  What is marketing?

Marketing is raising an awareness about what you do and the kind of teaching service you offer.

Marketing is getting your offer in front of the right students who are interested in what you teach

Marketing is getting your offer in front of the right students who are interested in what you teach

How will students know if you don’t tell them?

  • How do you inform prospective students about your teaching services?
  • How do you describe your teaching work so your students or business customers can decide if your teaching service is right for them?
  • Where are you located? How do they contact you?
  • How do you describe your teaching methods, the equipment, materials? Do you have teaching products or equipment? Are these used or new? Are they freely available for student lessons or for a fee?

Marketing is also about getting your message out to the right kind of students interested in what you teach.

How will students find you if you’re invisible on the teaching market? Do they even know you exist?

  • Are you easy to find on the teaching market? What methods are you using so students can find you?
  • Which strategies do you use to help students in their decisions whether they should hire you?
  • How do you make your teaching service stand out and be different from others on the market?
  • How do you set the foundations for repeat business?

And let’s not forget something equally important… You!

  • How do you find the right student or business customer? How do you avoid time wasting enquiries from unsuitable students?

DEFINITION: What is selling?

Selling is getting students to part with their money.

  • Meets and talks to prospective students and business customers
  • Negotiations (expected results and price to be charged)
  • Determines when, how often, and by how much prices are raised
  • Invoicing, collecting monies due (receivables), etc
    which is strictly speaking work for an accounting department, but as freelancers mostly work alone, these accounting jobs falls under the responsibility of ‘sales’.


Marketing is not selling. Its job is different.

So the next time you hear “Marketing? I can’t do that because I’m not that sort of person!” you’ll know better.

If you want, you can explain to your protesting colleague the difference between the two.

You might even tell them why both marketing and selling are irreplaceable, important business tools every working freelance teacher must do when they want to secure their financial existence. 🙂

What Do You Think?

Is marketing a waste of time? Will you do more marketing in future? Or are you already doing marketing or where do you plan to start your marketing efforts?

Leave a comment in the Add Your Comment box below. 🙂 or send me an email.

It would be great if you could send me a quick email to let me know your thoughts and ideas on this.


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Thank you!


2 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. Teaching is a very different game to marketing & selling but, as freelancers, we have to wear several hats, even if our expertise is only in one area. Adapt or go under!

    • Hi Dave, of course you are right. 🙂
      As a freelance teacher you are also running a business and the hats (marketing and selling) come with running a teaching business.
      Adapt or go under sounds hard but nontheless true. If freelance teachers do not come to grips with marketing (e.g., the acquisition of new students), they will fall into what I call the “3-year death cycle of a teaching service”. 🙁

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