Marketing vs. Advertising vs. Sales: What’s the Difference Between These Business Strategies?

Are you familiar with the nuances between marketing, advertising, and sales? Contrary to what many entrepreneurs believe, they aren’t the same. Marketing, advertising, and sales are three different business strategies with unique purposes. By understanding how these business strategies differ, you can apply them more effectively in your business’s operations.

What Is Marketing?

Marketing encompasses market research and promotional activities. Before attempting to sell a product or service, you should typically conduct market research. A form of marketing, market research consists of identifying and learning about a target audience. You can learn the demographics of the audience to whom you are selling the product or service, and you can learn their pain points or needs.

With this market research information, you’ll have an easier time persuading your target audience to make a purchase. You can create ads and other messages that resonate with your target audience.

In addition to market research, marketing includes all promotional activities. Raising brand awareness is a promotional activity. You may want to spread the word about your business’s brand name so that more users recognize and remember it. Advertising is also a promotional activity. You can advertise products or services offered by your business. Marketing is a broad business strategy that revolves around market research and promotional activities such as these.

What Is Advertising?

Advertising is the process of explicitly promoting products, services, or brands using paid creatives known as ads. You can create ads for a product or service. Assuming they target the right audience, they can lead to sales. Users who see your ads may purchase the product or service.

Because it involves promotional activities, advertising falls under the general umbrella of marketing. Advertising focuses on the use of paid creatives. Paid creatives or ads are promotional. They showcase products, services, or brands while encouraging users to take action.

Common forms of advertising include:

  • Search engine ads
  • Display ads
  • Social media ads
  • Mobile ads
  • Native ads
  • TV ads
  • Online video ads
  • Radio ads
  • Billboard ads
  • Email ads
  • Direct mail ads

Advertising activities can be categorized by their ad format or the channel on which they occur. Search engine ads occur on search engines, for example, while display ads are visual ads that appear on websites or in print.

What Is Sales?

The concept of sales is all about closing the deal. It occurs near the bottom of the conversion funnel. Conversion funnels are visual representations of a business’s efforts to sell a product or service. The top of a conversion funnel may include steps like identifying a target audience or raising brand awareness, whereas the bottom may include sales activities.

Some businesses have a dedicated sales department consisting of sales reps. Sales departments are common in the business-to-business (B2B) industry. B2B buyers are far more cautious when choosing products or services than consumers. Consumers may make impulse purchases, but B2B buyers will typically perform their due diligence before making a purchase. Sales reps seek to convince B2B buyers that their businesses’ products or services are a smart investment.

Sales isn’t limited to the B2B industry. Whether your business operates in the B2B or business-to-consumer (B2C) industry, it can benefit from sales. Sales is simply a business strategy for persuading users to make a purchase. Some businesses have a dedicated sales department. Other businesses have marketers or other professionals who are responsible for closing deals.

Differences Between Marketing, Advertising, and Sales

They may share the same end goal of generating sales revenue, but marketing, advertising, and sales aren’t the same. Of those three business strategies, marketing is the broadest. Any activity that directly or indirectly promotes a product, service, or brand is a marketing activity. Sales, on the other hand, is the narrowest business strategy. It focuses strictly on persuading users to make a purchase.

Marketing, advertising, and sales occur in different areas of the conversion funnel. Marketing occurs at the top. Advertising occurs in the middle of the conversion funnel, and sales occurs at the bottom. Persuading a user to make a purchase is the final step in the conversion funnel. Therefore, sales is a bottom-of-the-funnel business strategy.

Marketing includes inbound and outbound promotional activities. Inbound promotional activities include social media marketing, blogging, video marketing, and similar content marketing activities. They are distinguished from outbound promotional activities by their ability to attract users.

Outbound promotional activities, such as advertising and sales activities, involve thrusting ads or other messages in front of users. Users may be forced to watch a TV commercial, listen to a radio ad, or view a banner ad on a website. Inbound promotional activities essentially revolve around content bait that attracts users. Regardless, inbound promotional activities are included in marketing. Advertising and sales, conversely, typically only include outbound promotional activities.

Advertising typically consists of paid activities, whereas marketing and sales consist of free and paid activities. You can advertise products or services by creating ads. Regardless of the ad format, ads are paid creatives. They are available to purchase through advertising networks. You can perform some marketing and sales activities for free, but you’ll have to spend money on advertising.

Sales is often performed one-on-one between a qualified user and a sales rep. Marketers may identify these qualified users, after which they’ll pass the users’ information to sales reps. Sales reps will then contact these users to see if they are interested in making a purchase.

Sales is easy to measure. You can measure the effectiveness of a sales strategy by tracking quantifiable metrics like total sales and conversion rate. An effective sales strategy will have a high number of total sales and a high conversion rate.

Marketing may or may not be easy to measure. Different marketing activities have different goals. If you’re creating ads — advertising is a form of marketing — you can measure the effectiveness of marketing by tracking similar metrics like sales and conversion rate. If you’re trying to raise brand awareness, though, you may struggle to measure the effectiveness of marketing. Raising brand awareness doesn’t support the same quantifiable metrics as advertising.

Marketing, advertising, and sales are three different business strategies. While there are some key differences between them, they converge while striving to achieve the same goal: to generate sales revenue.