What is the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing?

What is the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing?

Small business owners and startups are increasingly using advertising and marketing to boost their visibility and sales. Starting out, you may think they are the same thing. However, they actually represent two distinct aspects of business strategy, each with its own role in driving success. Our guide, “What is the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing?” is here to clear things up and help you start a successful campaign. Reading it will give you the insight to make smart choices for your business’s growth.

The Main Differences Between Advertising and Marketing

While the terms advertising & marketing terms are often confused with one another, they actually stand for different things. Marketing is all about figuring out what customers need and how to meet those needs.

On the other hand, advertising is specifically about promoting the business and its products or services through paid spots. That fact means advertising is just one part of marketing, but there’s more to the difference between them.

Understanding today’s market means coming to grips with the distinct roles that advertising and marketing play. Advertising involves buying space or airtime to promote your business, such as online banners or TV commercials.

Meanwhile, marketing is a broader concept that encompasses not only advertising but also other strategies like social media, SEO, email campaigns, and much more. This wide-ranging approach aims to meet customer needs comprehensively, with advertising serving as a crucial tool within this mix to enhance visibility.

Recognizing the differences between these strategies is essential, as marketing plans are designed to engage with the audience on various levels, guiding how and where to advertise effectively.

Advertising vs. Marketing: The Specifics

The difference between advertising and marketing comes to life through practical examples in business:

  • Advertising: When you make and pay for an ad, you have total control over what it says and where it goes, offering a clear path to promote your product.
  • PR and Publicity: With PR, you might get media coverage, but you can’t control what is said or where it’s published, unlike direct advertising.
  • Sales Events: Advertising is essential for promoting sales events, making them more noticeable and successful by informing potential customers about the deals.
  • Social Media: Social media lets you connect with your audience, but its reach is usually limited to your followers unless it’s boosted by paid advertising.
  • Content Marketing: This involves creating and sharing content to engage with your audience, supporting your overall marketing goals beyond just advertising.

When crafting a marketing strategy, it’s vital to consider the business’s orientation, the marketing mix, the environment, and the target market to ensure a well-rounded approach. Whether focusing on B2C or B2B, these aspects help tailor your efforts to effectively reach and connect with your intended audience, positioning advertising as a crucial element of your wider marketing strategy.

ScenarioAdvertisingPR and PublicityA Sales EventSocial MediaContent Marketing
Control Over MessageComplete control over the message and its placement.No control over where or whether the story will appear.Control over creating ads to promote the event.Limited reach; only followers and some others see it.Control over content creation for thought leadership.
Control Over PlacementControl over where the ad appears.No control over where the story will be covered.Control over where ads are placed to drive results.Limited audience reach within your social channels.Choice of platforms for publishing content.
MediumPaid media placement, e.g., TV, radio, internet ads.Earned media coverage through a media outlet.Advertising to promote the sales event.Posting on social platforms.Publishing content on blogs or other sites.
Results-Driven ApproachFocused on driving specific results through paid ads.Outcomes depend on media outlet's coverage and response.Aims to enhance event attendance and product sales.Limited reach, primarily engaging existing followers.Focus on building thought leadership and engagement.

What is the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing?

Marketing in Small Business

The above five scenarios are all part of marketing in small business.

Often it’s not a case of advertising OR marketing. Rather, you can get better results by combining advertising and other types of marketing for a one-two punch.

Here’s an example of how content marketing and social media, combined with advertising, will bring a bigger impact.  You write an awesome blog post. You share it on social media to get visibility there. But sadly, only a handful see your social media update or blog post. So you decide to promote your social media post.  You boost or promote your update (i.e., place a social media ad) to get your message more widely seen by thousands, get more social shares and drive more sales.

Small Business Advertising

Some refer to combining advertising with other content marketing techniques as a “POEM.” POEM stands for Paid, Owned and Earned Media.  In a content marketing setting, owned media is the blog post you write. Paid media boosts social media posts. Earned media refers to the sharing others do after seeing your social media share more widely.  See more examples of using Paid, Earned and Owned Media.

Do you now see the difference between advertising and marketing in small business?  And do you see how small business advertising can amplify other marketing techniques?

What is the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing?

Measuring the Effectiveness of Advertising and Marketing

Understanding the difference between advertising and marketing is crucial, but it’s equally important to measure their effectiveness. Here’s how you can assess the impact of your advertising and marketing efforts:

Advertising Metrics:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): For online ads, track the CTR to measure how many users clicked on your ad, indicating their interest.
  • Conversion Rate: Measure the percentage of users who took the desired action after clicking on your ad, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.
  • Impressions: Monitor the number of times your ad was displayed to users. High impressions can indicate increased brand visibility.
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): Calculate the revenue generated from advertising relative to the cost of the ad campaign.
  • Ad Engagement: Analyze user interactions with your ad, such as likes, shares, and comments on social media ads.

Marketing Metrics:

  • Website Traffic: Monitor the volume and sources of traffic to your website. Identify how visitors find your site and which marketing channels drive the most traffic.
  • Lead Generation: Measure the number of leads generated through marketing efforts, such as email sign-ups or form submissions.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): Calculate how much it costs to acquire a new customer through your marketing activities.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Determine the long-term value of a customer to your business. This helps assess the return on investment from marketing efforts.
  • Social Media Reach: Track the size of your social media audience and the growth of your follower base across platforms.
  • Content Engagement: Evaluate the performance of your content marketing by analyzing metrics like the time spent on-page, bounce rates, and social shares.
  • Search Engine Ranking: Monitor your website’s ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) for targeted keywords to assess the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.
  • Email Metrics: Analyze email marketing performance, including open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates.
  • Referral Traffic: Identify which websites or sources refer traffic to your site, helping you understand the impact of content syndication and partnerships.
  • Social Shares and Mentions: Keep track of how often your brand is mentioned or shared on social media and other online platforms.
  • Brand Awareness: Conduct surveys or use tools to measure changes in brand awareness and perception among your target audience.
Advertising Metrics
Click-Through Rate (CTR)Measures the percentage of users who clicked on your online ad.Indicates user interest in the ad.
Conversion RateTracks the percentage of users who completed a desired action after clicking on the ad.Measures the effectiveness of ad campaigns in achieving specific goals.
ImpressionsMonitors how many times your ad was displayed to users.Reflects the level of brand visibility.
Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)Calculates the revenue generated from advertising relative to the cost of the ad campaign.Evaluates the financial efficiency of advertising.
Ad EngagementAnalyzes user interactions with the ad, such as likes, shares, and comments on social media ads.Indicates the level of engagement and user response.
Marketing Metrics
Website TrafficTracks the volume and sources of website traffic to understand visitor behavior.Identifies effective marketing channels and traffic generation strategies.
Lead GenerationMeasures the number of leads generated through marketing efforts, such as email sign-ups or form submissions.Evaluates the effectiveness of lead generation strategies.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)Calculates the cost of acquiring a new customer through marketing activities.Helps in optimizing marketing expenses and assessing acquisition efficiency.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)Determines the long-term value of a customer to the business.Assesses the return on investment from marketing efforts over time.
Social Media ReachTracks the size and growth of the social media audience across platforms.Measures the reach and impact of social media marketing strategies.
Content EngagementEvaluates content marketing performance by analyzing metrics like time spent on-page, bounce rates, and social shares.Assesses the engagement and effectiveness of content.
Search Engine RankingMonitors website ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) for targeted keywords.Gauges the success of SEO efforts in improving visibility on search engines.
Email MetricsAnalyzes email marketing performance, including open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates.Measures the effectiveness of email campaigns.
Referral TrafficIdentifies sources referring traffic to the website, helping understand the impact of content syndication and partnerships.Evaluates the effectiveness of referral strategies.
Social Shares and MentionsTracks brand mentions and shares on social media and online platforms.Measures brand visibility and engagement in the online community.
Brand AwarenessConducts surveys or uses tools to measure changes in brand awareness and perception among the target audience.Assesses the impact of marketing efforts on brand recognition.

What is the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing?

The Synergy of Advertising and Marketing for Small Businesses

In the world of small business, advertising and marketing are two sides of the same coin. While they serve distinct purposes, they can be much more powerful when used together. Here’s how the synergy of advertising and marketing can propel your small business forward:

  • Integrated Messaging: Combining advertising and marketing ensures consistent messaging across all channels. When customers see your ad and then encounter similar content on your website or social media, it reinforces your brand message.
  • Boosting Brand Visibility: Marketing efforts like content creation and social media engagement may not always reach a broad audience organically. Advertising can amplify these efforts by putting your content in front of a larger and targeted audience.
  • Expanding Reach: Advertising helps you reach new audiences quickly. Marketing, on the other hand, nurtures relationships with existing customers and engages them over time. Together, they cover both acquisition and retention.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Advertising and marketing generate valuable data. By analyzing the performance metrics from both, you gain insights into what works and what doesn’t. This data-driven approach allows you to fine-tune your strategies for maximum impact.
  • Multi-Platform Presence: In today’s digital age, your audience interacts with your brand across various platforms and devices. Utilizing advertising and marketing together ensures you’re present wherever your customers are, from social media to search engines and email.
  • Enhanced Customer Journey: A potential customer may first encounter your ad but needs nurturing through marketing content before making a purchase decision. The combination of advertising’s initial attention-grabbing and marketing’s educational content can guide them through the buying journey.
  • Building Trust: Marketing builds trust over time, while advertising can initiate trust-building by showcasing your brand’s professionalism and value. Together, they create a holistic approach to gaining and maintaining customer trust.
  • Maximizing Budget: Small businesses often operate with limited budgets. By strategically integrating advertising and marketing efforts, you can make the most of your resources. Allocate budget to ads for quick visibility and marketing for long-term relationship-building.
  • Adapting to Customer Behavior: Customer behavior is dynamic. The synergy of advertising and marketing enables you to adapt to changing customer preferences and market trends more effectively.
  • Measurable Impact: When advertising and marketing work hand in hand, it’s easier to measure the overall impact of your efforts. You can attribute conversions, customer acquisition, and ROI to specific campaigns and strategies.

What is the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing?


The dynamic interplay between advertising and marketing emerges as a potent strategy. While this article has shed light on the distinctions between the two, it’s essential to grasp their unifying potential.

Small business owners should view advertising and marketing not as competing forces but as collaborative allies. By harnessing their combined power, you can craft a cohesive and compelling narrative that resonates with your target audience. The ability to captivate your audience’s attention with advertising and then engage them deeply through marketing content is where true magic happens.

Furthermore, this synergy enables you to navigate the digital age, where consumers are inundated with information from various sources. With the integrated messaging and consistent brand presence achieved by aligning advertising and marketing efforts, your business can stand out amidst the noise.

As you delve into the world of small business promotion, remember that it’s not merely a choice between advertising or marketing. It’s about recognizing the immense value in harmonizing these strategies to achieve a broader reach, foster meaningful customer relationships, and drive your business toward sustained growth. In the realm of small business, the synergy of advertising and marketing is the key to unlocking success in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Photo via Shutterstock

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Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Executive Editor for Small Business Trends and has been with the team for 17 years. He is a professional journalist with more than 20 years experience in traditional and digital media for trade publications and news sites. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and has served as a beat reporter, columnist, editorial writer, bureau chief and managing editor for the Berks Mont Newspapers.