Marketing and Advertising. Is there a difference?

October 18, 2022

Paul Sterett

You need to grow your business and you are trying to decide whether or not to engage some outside help or go it alone.  Generally you’ll find two general types of creative firms: Marketing and Advertising. Is there a difference? 

The answer is YES! 

Too often the two are combined under one or the other names, but there is a distinction between Marketing and Advertising. Marketing is rooted in strategic work and advertising is rooted in tactical work. 

First, let’s define the broad landscape of developing new business as “marketing” with a lowercase “m” – a global definition of new business development.  Within the industry of marketing, specialties fall under the disciplines of Marketing and Advertising.  

To be rightly ordered, Marketing should precede Advertising.  An architect is to Marketing as the builder is to Advertising.  Before site prep and construction can begin, a crew needs to know what they are building, who they are building it for, and how the end product needs to serve the user.  

Sound Marketing strategy is informed by the different attributes of a business: industry, marketplace, size, etc.  Marketing relates directly to a customer’s buying cycle as well as business operating cycles.  The stages within these two cycles are where disciplines within Marketing are applied.     

The output of the work done by a Marketing firm needs to be language that clearly articulates what you do and who you serve.  This cannot be broad and ambiguous language.  Without clarity on who your best target customers are and an understanding of what motivates them to become your customer, your Advertising efforts will be ineffective and wasteful.  

Informed by the work done in the Marketing phase of your new business development, your Advertising strategy is ready to begin.  The clarifying language you’ve created needs to be the inspiration for all your content and assets.  It also serves to help you better choose which platforms to place your message.  

A deeper understanding of your customer’s buying cycle gained from your Marketing strategy prevents you from delivering the right message at the wrong time.  One of the biggest pitfalls of a weak Advertising strategy is delivering your content to a potential customer at a point in their buying cycle where they are not in a position to receive the information.  

An example is a phone number on a billboard.  No one pulls over to write a number down.  It is wasted real estate on your message. 

Placing advertising can be a costly endeavor.  Like any investment, the money you spend needs to be put in the highest yield places and backed by a well thought out strategy.  This is where an expert Advertising firm can make a big difference.  Investing in high quality creative and knowing where to place it has a tremendous impact on the return on your investment.   An additional benefit of engaging outside is the buffer it can create between you and the onslaught of sales people who will be knocking on your door.  Once you become more visible they will come out of the woodwork. 

There is much more to this topic than we’ve covered here.  Books upon books have been written about Marketing and Advertising.  My hope is that this can help give you direction as you continue to pursue growing your business.  If you’d like to have a deeper conversation I’d be happy to help with a phone call or by Zoom. 

I am the founder and owner of White Hart Insight. We specialize in marketing for small to medium-sized businesses in Georgia and the Carolinas. Get in Touch if you’d like to connect or email me at


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