Q: We're a growing small business, and wondering if marketing and prospecting are the same thing?

A: Simply put, marketing is your messaging to your clients, while prospecting is the business of looking for leads to develop. Messaging is the content you use to tell your company's story, and it serves to build "community" between you and the audiences you wish to attract. When audiences see/hear continuity in your messages, and they receive them consistently, trust starts to build. Consistent messages assure your clients and prospects that this work is your career.

Activities (to-dos) in marketing and prospecting do convene, as each builds upon the other. The objective in all this is to create trust. If there isn't an "infrastructure" of trust between you and your intended prospects, nothing meaningful will happen. If people don't trust you, they won't buy from you.

You are marketing to an audience virtually anytime you communicate with them, by any means: personal notecards, e-mails and e-mail blasts, texting and the various channels of social media. Keep the content pertinent to your industry. Be informative.

You are prospecting when you are actively seeking leads and when you are inviting people into your communication activities. Prospecting also includes asking past customers for referrals, giving talks at industry gatherings (this is marketing and prospecting convening), and citing experiences you've had with successful outcomes.

A marketing campaign could consist of a combination of advertising, public relations, sales promotions, direct/personal selling and direct marketing. It is most effective if your messages are consistent; for example, if you're going to make contacts monthly then be certain to stay with the pattern of monthly. The consistency of repetition is the foundation of trust building. Trust emanates from combining honesty, integrity and transparency. No "agendas," please.

Selling weaves itself into all of this. Famed management author Peter Drucker has been known for this comment: "The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits them and sells itself."

Michael Hoffman is a participating adjunct instructor at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.