1. Sales & Marketing
  2. Finances
  3. Your Team
  4. Technology
  5. Social Media
  6. Security
We are here for your business - COVID-19 resources >
Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.
Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Advertising vs. Marketing: What's the Difference and Which Do I Use?

image for jacoblund / Getty Images
jacoblund / Getty Images

It's easy to get advertising and marketing confused – especially as a small business owner juggling all areas of their business. Knowing the difference between the two is imperative in setting the right strategies to help grow your business.

Promotion of your business all falls under the marketing umbrella. At its core, advertising is a subset of marketing. The other components of marketing including public relations, market research, newsletters, social media, community and more.

You're on Facebook checking out your friend's wedding photos only to notice a little something in your Facebook Newsfeed with a "Sponsored" tag. That's advertising. You're driving down the highway on the way to a concert and in big bold letters see a Billboard announcing an upcoming concert. That's advertising.

But marketing includes all the impressions people get about your business based on external forces. Advertising certainly plays a role in that impression, but it's far from the only impression.

"You walk through a grocery store and a rep from a local dairy farm offers you a free sample of their latest cheese. That's marketing," notes John Robinson, business mechanic at Purple Monkey Garage. "A jewelry store invites their top 10 customers from the past 12 months to a special in-store event showcasing a new line of products from one of their leading suppliers. That too, is marketing. In short, advertising is the exposure of your brand and marketing is providing your target audience with the experience of your product or service."


Editor's note: Looking for information on online marketing services for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.

The starting place for all advertising and marketing activities should always begin with a communications plan that outlines your:

  • Budget
  • Mission statement
  • Brand messaging
  • Objective
  • Short and long-term goals
  • Target audience

Not all advertising and marketing are created equal because all businesses and their target audiences are unique in their own way. For example, if your goal is to sell more furniture to senior citizens in Alabama, Facebook's ad data may not show that there's a market there. However, the local newspaper may have high readership in Alabama senior citizen communities, and therefore, in this case the choice is obvious. 

After you have your communications plan in place, you'll be able to make better decisions about which areas of advertising and marketing to explore.

  • Facebook advertising. Facebook's ad plaftorm is a powerful tool. Digital advertising can easily be tracked, so you'll know if your efforts are working and Facebook ads can be powerful when targeted correctly and created with engaging graphics and copy.
  • Google Ads. This is another measurable and flexible form of advertising that's highly relevant. Google Ads produce the most relevant search results and ads possible.
  • Local publications. Don't discount advertising in a church bulletin, high school football ad journal, or on a local publication's website if you're a small business trying to reach the local community.
  • Your website. Having a company website is more important than ever. Customers Google businesses and expect to learn about them on the web.
  • Email marketing. Despite the growing number of emails that flood consumers' inboxes every day, email marketing still remains one of the most effective marketing channels. An email marketing solution like Benchmark, iContact or MailChimp makes these campaigns easy and measurable.
  • Events and tradeshows. Even in the digital age, there's still nothing like getting face time with your prospects. Seek out small and large events focused on your target audience. If you sell beauty products, Beautycon is one event you'll want to check out and if you sell pet products, attending America's Family Pet Expo will get you in front of pet enthusiasts, etc.

Marketing and advertising go hand in hand. Often, businesses need to invest in an integrated approach to close the deal using several marketing and advertising channels. And commonly, content needs to run through trial and error to find out which works best.