What’s the difference between advertising, sales, and marketing?
This is a really common question, but it’s one without a consistent answer. In fact, most people conflate marketing and advertising to the point that they can’t see any difference between the two.
Others delve into marketing in a way that disconnects it from sales altogether, resulting in nebulous tactics that rarely drive results.
So let’s develop a framework that shows how each of these concepts contributes to your success.
Here are working definitions of each of these terms.
Sales is the act of completing a profit-generating event. It’s the transaction where you receive payment for the product or service you provide.
Advertising is content you create
An advertisement will have a call to action. The ad details an offer or value proposition meant to entice this action.
Advertisements are concise and targeted. They tend to use the imperative voice; you tell someone what you want them to do in an advertisement.
Marketing is any communication or material you create that connects to your business or brand. Everything from a tagline to a white paper can be considered marketing.
While a lot of marketing today is not overtly persuasive like a direct response advertisement, all marketing is created to influence the way people think.
Digital marketing today takes on the form of informational articles, how-to videos, or spontaneous social media posts. But throughout marketing content, there is an underlying theme that connects to the change you’re trying make in people’s minds.
If that theme is not present, it’s not marketing material.
It’s All About Sales
One thing that will help you clarify this is realizing that both marketing and advertising are subsets of sales.
That means any type of content you create that connects to your business supports your sales process.
Most people get this with something like a direct-response ad, but things often get muddled with content marketing.
The problem stems from the explosion of content on the internet. It’s become possible for any business to publish a virtually endless amount of content such as a blog, videos, and social media posts.
Most of this content falls under the marketing umbrella, but with so much creative latitude it’s easy to lose sight of one important fact.
If your content isn’t trying to impact the audience’s thinking in a way favorable to your business goals, then it isn’t marketing.
That’s because marketing is a subset of sales.
You’re not just providing information, you’re providing it so people will appreciate your expertise and better understand the value of your offering.
You’re not just telling a story, you’re telling one that lets people see your product as part of their lifestyle.
You’re not just entertaining people, you’re putting your brand in front of them with a plan about how to follow-up and hit them with more marketing and advertising.
Marketing is open to broad interpretation, but don’t make the mistake of creating content for its own sake.
You’re a business, not a non-profit publisher. If your content isn’t a