Marketing and advertising are often used interchangeably to describe the process of growing a business. At least, that’s what the business owners we’ve worked with have done. Both terms are used within the same breath to explain what we do for them, and they’re right about that part.
Those two concepts are not the same thing, though. In fact, one is way more important than the other. Here’s an explanation of the difference between marketing and advertising, and how you should treat each in your division of labor.
Marketing: The Way You Position Your Business
You’ll notice that marketing begins with the word “market.” That’s because marketing is all about where you are in the market.
Marketing is the all-encompassing phrase that can describe any step in your sales process, literally from beginning to end. It’s how you position yourself, who you want to sell to, what the results have been, how your products or services are received and where you want to go with your company.
For many companies, this is clear. We’re all selling something. Yet for many, it’s still very nuanced. That’s because business can sell the same thing to different people using different methods and values to make their case. This is where a marketing strategy really comes into play.
Taking Digital Pudding as an example, we sell standard marketing and advertising services. Why choose us over any of the thousands of competitors out there? Our speed, commitment to ethical, transparent operation and obsession with data and results help us define what makes us different. Why? Because we believe that there’s no one out there offering this combination of values to businesses that really need a marketing partner.
Our marketing helps us define who we are as a company, acquire clients and measure results. That’s the strategy to which we’re adhering, from initial branding all the way through to service execution.
Advertising: How You Attract People to Your Business
Advertising, by contrast, is what you do to increase your sales funnel beyond people who are already your customers. How are people finding out about your business? Where do your most likely customers exist? What are you saying to reach out to them?
You may notice that in this definition, you could safely place advertising as a subset of marketing. That’s accurate. Advertising does fall under marketing and should always yield to marketing. It’s more in line with the execution of the message, after marketing comes up with the strategy.
Oftentimes, this is paid media placements, like TV spots or digital ads. Sometimes, though, it’s also messaging to existing customers trying to get them to buy more. Or you may have a long lead time between when a customer becomes a prospect and when a sale is made. Whatever supporting evidence you provide would fall in your advertising strategy. Things like brochures, emails and articles like this one, for example.
Granted, advertising is still a very large piece of the total business puzzle. In fact, when you factor in media spend, it might be your greatest cost line item every month. Still, if your marketing strategy is rudderless, you’re probably wasting at least some of your time and money putting advertising above all.
Side note: an ethical marketer will stop you from doing this. Media companies will happily take your money, though, even if you aren’t spending it as part of a bigger strategy. For this reason, we’re a marketing company first that manages advertising as part of what we do.
Marketing and Advertising Work Hand in Hand
There are tons of explanations of how marketing and advertising differ out there. This is how we explain it when clients ask us about it, as happens frequently. For additional takes, take a look at what other experts have to say.
To us and our clients, marketing has to come first, with advertising playing a supporting role. We need to get straight what we’re selling and who we’re selling it to before we advise any client to spend money advertising. Since so many of our clients are new to advertising online, or don’t fully understand all the ways to market a business there, that’s why we aim to get digital marketing right, each and every time.