If you use the words advertising and promotion interchangeably, you’re not alone. Many people think they’re exactly the same thing. But while there are similarities between them—both fall under the marketing umbrella—there are some differences you’ll want to keep in mind when creating a marketing strategy for your business.
The Goals for Promotion vs. Advertising
Advertising is usually targeted at someone specific, such as a potential consumer. Traditionally, advertising refers to paid messages distributed via the media, including television, radio and print. Now, due to the rise of the Internet and social media, advertising is disseminated through these online means as well.
Although it’s often intended to sell a good or service, advertising can also be about raising awareness or developing loyalty to your brand. In advertising, you control the message, the content and the graphics. You can also control the audience who sees your message, to some degree. For example, if you want to target a certain type of client for your accounting business, you can buy advertising space in magazines or on websites that cater to that type of client.
A promotion is directly linked to increasing sales over a short period of time and includes efforts such as offering rebates, sending out coupons and offering free samples. With promotions, you have less control over who sees your message. When you promote your accounting business on Facebook, any demographic can see your message and “like” it—not just people in a certain group or demographic. Likewise, if you were to offer 10% off accounting services, you would have to honor the coupon even if people outside your target clientele wanted to use it.
There are three other key points to consider when differentiating between the two:
The Type of Communication
Advertising tends to be one-way. You send your message out to the intended audience and they see or hear it. A promotion can be two-way. You can ask people to “like” you on Facebook or offer coupons they can redeem in your store. With promotions, your audience often has to take some sort of action, which also allows you to see how successful your promotional campaign has been. Advertising has its own set of KPIs to track, including sales revenue, cost per leads, and customer lifetime values.
Advertising is usually more expensive and often—though not always—involves hiring an agency to develop and execute that campaign. Promotion can be done more easily and on a smaller scale. Small businesses might have difficulty funding an advertising campaign but can run business promotions. Setting up a Facebook page, for example, takes less time and expertise than running a television ad campaign.
The Time Commitment
In terms of length, advertising is generally long-term and will produce sales at a slower rate. This contrasts promotions, which are usually more short-term with the sole purpose of boosting sales during a short period of time.
Despite their differences, advertising and promotion can work together and benefit your business in myriad ways. Consider the goals you want to meet and whether or not they are time-sensitive, and then think about how much you are willing to spend. These will impact your decision to go with an advertising campaign, a promotional initiative, or perhaps even both.
Alex is VP of Marketing for Connectivity.