The difference between marketing and communications

Illustration of people communicating using difference devices

The big, burning questions: is there a difference between marketing and communications? Where does communications end and marketing begin?

Photo graph of four people in a row holding speech and thought bubbles to show communication

This is a query many a professional marketeer or communicator has grappled with and it’s certainly true that over the years, these different fields have increasingly overlapped.

In a classic GCSE essay tactic, I turned to the dictionary:

Marketing n. the action or business of promoting and selling products or services.

Okay, so that seems fairly clear…

Communication n. the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.

That makes sense to me,too.

The truth

As a small business or not-for-profit, if you want to grow your reputation and business you can’t really have one without the other.

No doubt, one of your goals as a business is to sell your product or service.

However, the success of this depends on understanding your business, your ideal audience and strategic goals.

There are some brilliant marketeers who appreciate this and think beyond the scope of selling and see the sales funnel to be more than just putting an ad in front of someone.

Just want to give a shout out to Knowlton Marketing who are awesome communicators – it doesn’t even feel like selling!

There are also some brilliant communicators who appreciate that a compelling story and great reputation won’t always convert to sales without a little nudge here and there.

Red flags

If you are working with someone who calls themselves a marketeer but doesn’t take the time to understand your business or makes assumptions about your ideal customer, this is a red flag.

In a similar vein, an experienced communicator should start with analysis and strategy because your reputation will flow from that.

If you’re working with either a professional communicator or marketeer and they get straight into the ‘doing’, you might need to adjust your expectations to suit short-term vanity metrics.

Taking your ideal audience from awareness through to sales and even advocacy is about more than selling a product.

It’s about your mission, values, credibility and reputation – this is where professional communicators come in.

Communications people are storytellers of an organisation, and their work should complement the marketing strategy.

Avoid cookie-cutter marketing and communications.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to successfully communicating and marketing a small business or not-for-profit.

That kind of approach undermines the uniqueness of your business and serves the conveyor-belt marketeers or communicators more than you.


With the right strategy, marketing and communications can enhance each other.

More importantly for you as a business owner, together they can bring clarity, efficiency and a better return on investment than if you apply them on their own.

Growing your business purely through a marketing approach can sometimes backfire.

This is especially true if you don’t have the values and reputation to back it up or your potential customer gets tired of pushy tactics.

In this situation, communications strategy offers a conscience that can enhance your marketing so that it has purpose and proof.

It feels counter-productive to slow down marketing tactics but nothing turns off a potential customer than the whiff of BS.

Reputations are built on genuine, two-way communication.

Successful sales start with awareness.

So the truth is they’re not the same but they are better together.

If you want to discuss how a Communications Strategy can enhance the way you market your business, get in touch today.

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