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  • Writer's pictureLindsey Burda

Branding, Marketing, Advertising, and Sales... What's the Difference?

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

branding, marketing, advertising, and sales. What's the difference? A Burda Marketing Blog by Lindsey Burda

A Common Misconception

A common misconception I often hear is that branding is the same as marketing, marketing is advertising, or marketing is the same as sales, or even as far as “we don’t need branding,” or “we don’t need marketing.” But, actually these are all very distinct areas of business with very different purposes and every business needs them all to work together in order to win customers and sell.

Over the years I would occasionally hear a business owners say that they don’t need some of these crucial areas of business and well that’s just not entirely possible.

You Don't Need Branding?

I heard someone say in passing once that “Oh no we don’t need branding.” But when you say that, what you’re actually saying is…

You don’t need to know the purpose of your business or how to share that message with your potential clients. You don’t need to know the value that your company brings to it’s clients. And you don’t want to offer a great client experience. Because all of that IS branding. Branding is not just a logo. A logo is simply the visual representation of it. Branding is the foundation of your business and who you are.

But branding isn’t the only misconception.

This comment started a conversation

I recently received a comment on a video I posted about marketing, the commenter stated, “Marketing was a waste of money for me. Referrals have been my best advertising.”

Wait a minute...Well, referrals ARE in fact marketing, word-of-mouth marketing to be exact. Not advertising. And marketing, when done right, will never be a waste of money and in fact should make you money in the long run.

Simply telling people about your business, well, that is marketing too. If you post on social media about your business that is marketing, if you direct people to your website, that is marketing. Advertising on the other hand requires creating and placing ads, which will cost money for that advertising space.

That's quite the assumption

I then continued this conversation and shared with the commenter that I had a client who’s referrals slowed over the years then stopped all together before they started working on their marketing. I simply mentioned it’s always a good idea to have a marketing plan in place so we can have better control over our own business’s growth.

The commenter then replied with, “Well, if your referrals stop, then you are doing something wrong.”

Well that's not nice to assume. And I want to say here that this is just simply not accurate to assume of another small business. That just because you don’t get enough referrals to sustain your business that you are doing something wrong. It’s just not true.

I don’t want other small businesses seeing comments like this and thinking they are doing something wrong simply because their clients are not doing the marketing work for them. Every small business is different and requires different needs, different marketing strategies. And some simply don’t get referrals as easily depending on the business they are in. Now of course you can do things to make it easier for people to refer you, you can encourage referrals, offer incentives, and more. But again every business is different. And every business requires a unique strategy and plan to bring in new business.

For example, if you are a business that sells a household service that everyone could use, let’s say, a landscaping service. Well, it’s a bit easier to get people talking if you do good honest work and are active in a few local communities. However, if you are say a therapist and run your own practice, many of your clients could be dealing with a very private and personal matter and may not be as eager to spread the word. So, referrals from clients might not come as easily.

Marketing doesn’t need to cost a lot either and you’re probably actually doing a lot of marketing already in your business but the problem arises when your marketing is not being done strategically and planned out in a way that you can measure results. When we have a plan and can actually measure results, we can do more of what’s working to reach our ideal customer and bring in more business.

So what's the difference?

It’s crucial to know the differences between branding, marketing, advertising and sales first and how they work together to impact your business.

So here is the purpose of each:


This is the foundation of your business. It is everything that your business represents. It is the why The Who the how the what. Your brand is how you are perceived by those who experience it. It is a feeling, an experience, your reputation. Your logo is simply the visual representation of your brand. But brand goes way deeper than a logo.


Marketing is how you position yourself in the minds of consumers. It is staying present and top of mind. It is building a relationship, building trust and getting people interested in your offer. It is having a website and social media. It is sending emails, it is asking clients to bring a friend.


Advertising is creating and placing ads. It is pacing ads strategically to help expand the reach of your marketing efforts, to promote your offer and to retarget to interested prospects.


Sales is that last crustal step, getting people to actually buy. Showing that you are THE solution that you are THE answer to the problem no matter how big or small. Sales closes the deal.

Marketing doesn't stop there

But marketing doesn’t stop after the sale. It picks right back up where you left off to stay present in the minds of the consumers to hopefully give you repeat business and get them spreading the word.

All of these elements are forever present and needed as long as you are running a successful business.

Try this

So I’d like to ask you go ahead and reread that last section that describes these four elements. Now within your own business try to identify your brand, who your and what you offer, what’s the value you bring to your customers or clients. Try to identify what you are currently doing for your marketing efforts even if it’s just referrals or posting to social media, also are you doing any advertising and lastly are you happy with your sales.

If you find it difficult to identify any of these areas within your own business then consider working with someone to create a solid plan and strategy for your business.


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