I’m going to make an assumption, you don’t want to open your email and see that you’ve been added to an email list that has nothing to do with you or your business needs. Frankly, it’s a waste of time and it can cause you to have a negative opinion about the company or brand sending that random email, right? Many forms of advertising can be just that, ignored or annoying unless you have a targeted audience that is already engaged with you. But how do you differentiate between cold contacts and current contacts? That’s where it helps to know the difference between advertising, marketing, and relationship marketing. So let me start you off on the right foot by giving you some definitions.

  • Advertising is communication that employs an openly sponsored non-personal message to promote or sell a product, service, or idea.
  • Marketing refers to the process an organization undertakes to engage its target audience to build strong relationships and to create value in order to capture value in return.
  • Relationship marketing is a form of marketing based on direct response campaigns that emphasize customer retention and satisfaction rather than sales transactions.

In the B2B world, sales can take three, nine, twelve months, or even more, so it makes sense to employ all three types. But I have found that relationship marketing tends to produce the greatest ROI in the long run. Think of all three of those as an ecosystem that works together. Now, let me dig in a little deeper on each one of those.


Advertising is a system to create attention and awareness. It’s designed to reach a broad audience and get your name or your brand in front of that audience. It helps create top of mind brand recognition, but not necessarily direct sales. It has a high expense with a low return on investment as a standalone system. That’s one of the places where a lot of companies fail. They go into Google ads, Facebook ads, or LinkedIn ads without having the other two parts in place.


Marketing is a system to define a brand and its benefits to your audience. It’s designed to reach a very targeted audience, not the general audience like advertising. It should help you create brand differentiation. What makes you better? What are the features and benefits that make you stand out above the competition? And finally, when done right, there is a moderate expense with a moderate and measurable ROI.

Relationship Marketing

Finally, relationship marketing is a system designed to create sales conversations. It should reach your current and past customers. Where marketing and advertising are geared much more towards cold traffic, relationship marketing is geared towards people who already know, like, and potentially trust you. It helps your sales team and individual salespeople enhance their current personal relationships with your current customers and hopefully, helps you establish relationships with past customers. And, maybe turn them into current customers again.

It generally has a low expense with a high-end, very measurable ROI. What I mean by low expense is it really is all based around the fact that you’re paying for your salespeople to be there anyway and it’s part of the sales process. So you don’t have to spend a ton of money on relationship marketing unless you’re not incorporating some kind of advertising and general marketing brand awareness systems.

Deeper Dive

So let’s dig into how each one of those works.

Advertising is generally paid traffic and it drives traffic to your website, to phone calls, or to your store. In online marketing, it’s all based on searching and social media platforms. So you can buy ads on Google, Facebook, or even LinkedIn that can drive traffic to your website. The goal is to get people into your ecosystem and hopefully keep them there.

There is measurable traffic in the form of clicks and visits to your website, but other things can muddle that, especially like organic search, people that just randomly search that aren’t seeing your advertising.

We can see a lot of this in brick and mortar stores when people say, “How did you hear about us?” And they say, “On the internet.” “Okay. Was it ads? Was it a search? What was it?” It’s hard to tell. It’s hard to track the journey from interest to sale when it comes to advertising. Marketing and relationship marketing builds upon that.

Creating Content

A marketing system relies on creating content. That content is then shared throughout various different platforms. This could include things like eBooks, blog posts, email newsletters, email drips, and social posts. And all of these can and should link back to your website and they should be trackable. It focuses on getting people to your website who have a hunger for information and ideas, and you can feed that with the content you create. Each of these parts, the eBooks, blog posts, email newsletters, social posts, all work as an ecosystem, but ultimately it should be designed to capture data. You want to try to get people to your email lists or gather some information where you can forward things to your salespeople. So if you find somebody’s name, maybe you could research them on LinkedIn and make a connection with them, and that’s where relationship marketing comes in.

Profitable Conversations

Relationship marketing is based, again, on creating sales conversations. Relationship marketing is based on encouraging your sales team and salespeople to connect and reach out to people. Now, that assumes that you can figure out their name or their email address, or what company they’re with. That’s why capturing data is so important. The goal should be to reach out and offer to answer any questions, but not just hunt for sales.

The Secret Weapon


LinkedIn has been a secret weapon in the B2B space. A lot of people focus on trying to convert cold traffic into sales, but essentially if your sales team engages with people regularly it keeps them top of mind.

And finally, you may want to utilize something like targeted LinkedIn advertising, and events or webinars, to enhance the visibility for your business and your sales team.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, advertising, marketing, and relationship marketing all work together as an ecosystem. The key thing that you have to define is, what do you want out of this? What is your end goal? And how does your sales team interact with people? The bottom line is you don’t want to be just another piece of spam in somebody’s mailbox.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about advertising, marketing, and relationship marketing. Are you successfully utilizing advertising, marketing, and relationship marketing? Which has worked and what did not live up to your expectations? Do you have any ideas or other advice you could share?

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