Marketing Versus Advertising – What’s the difference?

Sharon Koehler

Stone Industry Consultant

Truthfully, can you answer that question? On the surface it sounds easy but once you start thinking about it, the lines become rather blurred.       

I have the answer in my head, but when I tried to write it down it came out as MARKETING is the action or business of blah, blah, blah, and ADVERTISING is the activity or profession of calling public blah, blah, blah. I know as a reader that once I hit the blah, blah, blah, I start skipping over stuff and not paying attention! 

I needed different words to give Slippery Rock readers this information. So, I took a very informal survey of some of my friends and relatives. 

One person started telling me about business strategy and branding with tag lines and logos. I tuned him out after about 15 seconds. No good. Another person said they were the same things. That’s not true either. 

Someone else said that advertising was for the masses and marketing was for the upper echelon. I knew I was just spinning my wheels with this approach, after hearing that response.

And then it happened – pay dirt! I was standing in line at the drug store and there was a young woman in front of me, talking on her cell phone about THIS EXACT THING! 

I tapped her on the shoulder, introduced myself and explained my problem. She introduced herself as Kayla Adcock and said she would help and then she uttered the most succinct, genius thing I ever heard: “Marketing is the pie and advertising is a slice of the pie.” 

This young woman hit the nail on the head better than I or any of my friends or relatives could. I asked her how she did that and she informed me that she was going to VCU (a large, local, well-renowned university in this town) and her major is Mass Communication with an emphasis in creative advertising. I had accidentally found an expert!

All that being said, the college kid expressed it better than I ever could, and she got it right. So let me repeat it: “Marketing is the pie and advertising is a slice of the pie.” 

Now, I can say that Marketing is the strategy a business uses to promote itself to the public to gain market share and increase its customer base. Advertising is one way to do that. Don’t get scared. Advertising doesn’t have to be the multi-million dollar 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl. Advertising can be a billboard in a strategic place near your business or an ad in a local circular. 

You can try a radio ad on a local station during drive time or an every-door, neighborhood-saturation direct mail piece. Or be bold and run a commercial on a local cable show. 

I once appeared on a local TV talk show to give my viewpoint about bathroom remodeling, but as it also promoted the company I worked for, it was a win on all fronts. Advertising is wrapping all your company vehicles with your company info and putting magnetic signs on the ones you can’t wrap. It can also be donating your product or services for a charity auction. We donate 40 installed square feet of Ubatuba or Wheatfields to a church auction every year.

Advertising does not have to cost a fortune. I have a friend that owns a painting company. Once or twice a week he goes through a toll booth and pays for the car behind him. He pays the toll agent a dollar or two tip (shhhh) to hand his business card to the driver of the car he just paid for. He got 3 jobs like that last year. 

I know a local interior designer that puts a sign in the yard when she is doing a project in a home (get the homeowner’s consent, first). The whole neighborhood knows she is there. These are all low-cost, high-return strategies.

Another inexpensive way to get your word out is business cards. All of our marketing and sales employees have the nice, expensive, embossed, double-sided business cards that we give out to our customers. My advice is to get some of the cheaper ones also –I saw 500 cards offered for $10.00, in a recent TV ad. 

There are plenty of public forums for business cards. Look for bulletin boards in businesses, gas stations and local restaurants – they all reach a lot of people (not to mention toll takers, as well). Pass your cards out during local festivals, local football games and parades. 

Give them to your friends and family to pass out when someone they know (or don’t know for that matter) mentions they are looking for the service that you provide. Give them to your installers to leave at jobsites and give some to customers so they can hand them out when their friends go nuts over the great job you did. 

If you put countertop in any kind of display house for Homearama, or Parade of Homes, put a tag with your name on it and leave business cards or other information. 

Branded pens are another inexpensive way to get your message out. You can order 1,000 nice pens with all your info on the barrel, plus set up for less than $400. What do you do with them?  Give them away. People are always searching their pockets and pocketbooks for pens.  

The Moose Lodge, the VFW and other organizations like that are always putting together goody bags for different events. We recently donated 100 of our branded pens to our local Kiwanis Club, for just this reason. 

If you sign for a letter or package, give your pen back to the delivery person. If he says, “Hey, this is your pen.” Tell him to keep it.  Sign a charge slip? Leave it with the clerk. Use a pen at the bank? Leave it on the counter. Again, these can be passed out at parades, festivals, football games or anywhere you sign something. 

When the customer signs a contract, let them keep the pen. Give them to your plumber or any other sub you have. They can pass them to customers as well. If you leave paperwork on a jobsite, leave a pen or two with it. 

If you have a slightly bigger budget, you can branch out into direct mail or flyers. The post office has a great program called Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). Go to and let the postal service know that you are interested in EDDM. They will send you a sample packet of what you can do. 

They will assign you a project manager to answer your questions and they will even help you find a local printer to produce your flyer. They have a mapping tool online that will help you pick the zip codes you want to mail to. 

It will give you the number of pieces you need for mailing and the total cost. You drop your printed bundles off at the post office and away they go to your potential customers. The cost is generally between 14 and 20 cents per piece for mailing. 

Or, if you’re lucky, your area might have a courier service that hits predetermined neighborhoods. It’s generally a little less expensive than EDDM but the flexibility to hit specific areas is a lot less. 

One tip about direct to consumer ads is that you generally have to send out the same ad in the same area 3 times for it to have an effect. There are two pretty good schedules. One is once a week for three weeks or once a month for 3 months. If you stretch it out more than that, the campaign loses its punch.

You can also place ads in local circulars that get mailed out to a specific geographic location. In my area we have the Chesterfield Observer, the Henrico Bulletin, the Powhatan Shopper and the Goochland Shopper. These are delivered to counties in our area where we would like to do business. These circulars are basically ads with a story or two stuffed in between. But they go out to thousands of people! 

Newspaper ads used to be the big thing but now most people get their news online. BUT, beware of the “golf magazine.” These people call all the time and want you to advertise with them and they supposedly send this magazine to all the members of a local country club. SCAM! 

A contractor I used to work for did this and it was a nightmare getting the money back. We had to get the Florida State Attorney General’s office to intervene, as well as the local BBB. The company didn’t answer any warrants or subpoenas. Nor did they respond to the BBB complaints. One day about 6 months later a check arrived in the mail from an attorney. I laugh when I get those calls now and advise them not to call back.

If you want to spend bigger bucks, there are billboard ads, radio commercials or TV commercials. TV commercials are really targeted now. Your local cable provider can help you put together and shoot a commercial, and a lot of times you can pinpoint the channel and time you want it to run. 

Or, sponsor the weather, traffic or the Picture of the Day on your local news. Our local NBC affiliate here offers the Channel 12 Pros. These are just companies around town that pay big bucks to be plugged by our local news station. They have companies that sponsor the weather, the traffic and the Picture of the Day. 

The key to advertising is to “track” what works and what doesn’t. Ask your customers how they found you. If several of them say they heard your radio commercial, then keep it going. If no one responds to the radio spot but says they saw your print ad, cancel the radio ad and beef up your print ad budget. 

If customers are flocking through your door with your direct mail piece but don’t mention your billboard, bye-bye billboard. Tracking your results prevents you from wasting your advertising budget and making sure your money does the most good. Not every approach works for everyone. 

Stick with whatever seems to do you the most good. However, be open to trying new things as well. But remember, advertising is just a slice, not the whole pie. If all you are doing is “advertising,” you are selling yourself short. Can you really afford to do that?

Sharon Koehler is a 10-year veteran of the stone industry. Currently she is the head of marketing for Artistic Stone Design in Richmond, Virginia and has been a regular contributor to various trade magazines for several years. Any thoughts or comments may be sent to .