B2B Marketing vs Advertising: Is There a Difference?

Judging by the number of people who use the terms interchangeably in conversation, many folks are still confused by the terms ‘marketing’ and ‘advertising.’ Some seem to think advertising refers to anything that helps promote their business. Others lump ‘sales’ together with ‘marketing,’ simply because the terms so often appear together (as in ‘sales and marketing’). And while ‘marketing’ and ‘advertising’ may still get used synonymously, we’re here to tell you they are most certainly not the same activity.

Sure, the two words are closely related, and there’s even some overlap between the two disciplines. There are also many key differences. Of course, in order to effectively both market AND advertise your business, it’s important to understand the distinctions. We’ll start off with a quick review of both concepts then look at the key differences.

What is B2B Marketing?

At its most basic, marketing in B2B is simply defined as the processes and activities that make your B2B products and services appealing and interesting to potential buyers. These often involve communicating with potential buyers on their preferred channels, developing and maintaining relationships with these prospects, and keeping existing customers happy, as well as pre- and post-sales support. Audience analysis, market research and segmentation, strategic pricing, branding, and promotions all fall under marketing.

What is B2B Advertising?

Advertising, for its part, is a paid means of communication with potential buyers of your B2B products and services. Simply put, if you have to spend money on promotion, it’s advertising. The main goal of advertising is to get potential buyers to specifically choose your products and services over your competitors’.

Advertising is also an important component OF marketing. Think of it this way: if ‘marketing’ were a football team, ‘advertising’ would be the quarterback, ‘branding’ would be the wide receiver, ‘market research’ would be the fullback, and so on.

What Differentiates Them?

You can probably get away with not advertising all the time, but you won’t get very far toward any of your business’ key performance indicators without a sound, continually evolving marketing strategy in place at all times. Understanding the differences will allow you to be able to plan and strategize for both accordingly and effectively. Let’s take a closer look at how both differ along three important categories.

Marketing and advertising are related, one is instrumental to the success of the other. But they are not the same thing.
Marketing and advertising are related, one is instrumental to the success of the other. But they are not the same thing.

Specific Responsibilities

The main responsibility of marketing is to ensure a business is profitable. Marketing achieves this through several activities. First, it creates and maintains—and, if necessary, adapts and evolves—your brand. Your brand, quite simply, is what makes you stand out. Good branding will encourage your target market to select you over the competition. Great branding will help your prospects see you as the provider of a solution to their unique problem or need.

Second, marketing handles the planning and development of a long-term strategy to communicate and engage your customers and potential buyers, as well as generating new opportunities for your sales team to convert into new clients. This also includes tracking existing trends you can capitalize on to keep your business ahead of the competition, as well as deploying tools that streamline these processes and make them more efficient.

Marketing also develops most of the creative work involved in your promotional efforts (which will include advertising). Finally, marketing is also tasked with planning and managing marketing budgets to ensure your ROI stays firmly in the black by analyzing which initiatives, projects, and channels are profitable enough to keep using.

The main responsibility of advertising is to sway potential buyers and existing customers toward purchasing your products and services through paid promotion. To do this successfully requires your advertising team to conduct analysis of consumer behavior in general, and your target audience specifically. They then need to develop and pitch campaign plans—including budgets—which, when approved, will guide the production of creative. Other key activities include media buying, liaising between key teams and groups, and gathering performance data after the ad has run.

Goals to Reach For

To ensure your marketing and advertising efforts continue to produce quality outcomes, you need to set goals you can measure and track. The goals you choose to focus on and to what extent they determine success is up to you, but these are the most common:


  • Lead generation
  • New customer acquisition
  • Existing customer retention
  • Customer satisfaction management
  • Product research and development
  • Identification of upselling and cross-selling opportunities
  • Planning of key marketing initiatives


  • Influence and sway purchasing decisions
  • Brand promotion, reinforcement, and maintenance
  • Reputation and image management
  • Increase brand loyalty
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Attract new potential buyers
  • Encourage better customer retention
  • Identify the best B2B advertising platforms to use for campaigns

The overlap of goals between marketing and advertising only serves to highlight advertising’s position and role within a larger marketing strategy.

If you have to spend money to promote your brand, product, or service, that's advertising.
If you have to spend money to promote your brand, product, or service, that’s advertising.

Everyday Practices

Another category in which there are clear differences are the standard practices and strategies marketing and advertising can use to achieve their goals. Marketing commonly puts out a range of content in different mediums to address customer pain points revealed by research. These content assets are then shared on multiple channels and platforms—including email and social media—which paves the way for engagement and interaction. When applicable, marketing can incorporate user-generated content—like feedback, reviews, and comments—into the overall strategy.

By and large, especially when it comes to B2B, marketing tends to focus on presenting facts and data that prove the viability and usability of your products and services. Blogs, for instance, help to establish your authority when you discuss and address common issues in the industries you serve. Case studies explore real-world usage of your products and services and how they have helped other companies achieve success. White papers break down the features of your products or services in practical terms.

Advertising, depending on the platform, can leverage existing marketing material for paid promotions, which is common on social media where you can pay to boost posts. Occasionally, B2B advertising will require its own content—and its own creative—in shorter, eye-catching, more compact, and more cost-effective formats to quickly draw attention to what you have to offer. While facts still hold an important place in advertising, most of the time their inclusion is to evoke and appeal to the emotions of your potential buyers.

Leveraging B2B Marketing and Advertising for Success

Neither marketing nor advertising can work independently of one another. To succeed, you must use both together toward the goals you currently prioritize. Most likely, you’re going to start with developing your marketing strategy before you delve into advertising—especially if you’re just starting out—which is ideal because it ensures total alignment between the two. Of course, you can also get a leg-up if you begin with qualified leads that boast a strong intent to purchase. Your job then would be to nurture them toward a buying decision. It’s a powerful advantage to have. Curiosity piqued? Talk to us today, DemandScience can give you that head start.