Are You Advertising Your Small Business or Promoting It?

by Emily Retherford

2 min read

Advertising and promoting might seem like synonyms at first glance, but that is not the case at all. Both strategies have their own place in your marketing game plan because they each serve their own purpose. The next time you’re refining your marketing strategy, weigh the benefits of advertising and promotion, and decide how to allocate your efforts and resources accordingly.

Advertising vs. Promoting

You advertise when you pay to have a message broadcast to your targeted customers, usually a message with the direct intent of getting a sale. Advertising is highly call to action-based, and can include social media ads, newspaper ads, website advertising, and physical signs.Promotion focuses on getting exposure for your brand. Your promotion has one goal, and that is to convince members of your target audience that they’re a great fit for your brand. Promotions focus on showing the products and services you offer that solve your customers’ problems and address all of their pain points. Deals are often a big part of promotions, offering another incentive for your prospective customers to come on board. Every customer loves getting a good deal, and common promotional tactics offer deals such as:

  • Free products
  • Free samples
  • Special pricing
  • Financing deals
  • Free shipping

Like advertising, promotions are also call to action-based. However, with promotions, the action is usually customer-focused: “Take advantage of this deal so we can help you solve your problem.”

Are You Building Relationships?

If you still aren’t sure whether your efforts are advertising or promoting, then ask yourself one question: Is this nurturing my customer relationships? The differences are bigger than they seem at first glance, and they primarily lie within relationship-building. Advertising, while necessary, focuses on nabbing a sale without considering the customer relationship. When done right, promoting focuses on making sales to some extent, but in a way that nurtures the customer relationship and assures each client he or she is a vital part of your brand family. After all, whatever your business accomplishes, you couldn’t have done it without your faithful customer base and its support.

Accounting for Advertising and Promotions

Some businesses prefer to keep accounting separate for advertising and promotions, while others prefer to keep it all categorized as marketing expenses. If you choose to separate your accounting, then you need to know what types of fees to put under each category. Advertising expenses often include:

  • Campaign costs
  • Ad creation costs
  • Media buy-in costs

Promotional expenses often include:

  • Giveaway costs
  • Event costs
  • Direct mail or newsletter costs
  • Customer relationship management costs

Some costs that fall under the umbrella for either advertising or promotional costs include marketing consultations, branding, and design. If you have questions about how to account for your marketing expenses, consult with your small business accountant for guidance. Don’t wait until tax time, when the heat is on and you’re inching closer to a filing deadline.

References & Resources

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