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  • Writer's pictureKim Kogane

What marketing do you actually need?

The difference between Branding, Marketing, PR, Advertising + Sales

We know firsthand that being a business owner means wearing many hats. Whether you are a small business who’s ready to invest in marketing for the first time or a seasoned company who is ready to take things to the next level, knowing what kind of help you need is the first step.

Marketing can feel like a vague term that encompasses many different services, and it might feel overwhelming when you’re trying to find someone to work with. We’re sharing the differences between branding, marketing, PR, advertising and sales so you have a better understanding of what you need and can take your business to the next level.

What is Branding?

A brand is how your customers identify your company: what it stands for, what it does, and how it does it. As a company, you can help shape your brand and the way you tell your story. This is done by creating a consistent visual identity that evokes certain emotions or thoughts. More importantly, it is done through developing brand values, and a brand story (what we like to call your “messaging”) which is a clear and consistent message about why your company matters, why you exist, and what you stand for. Above it all, your brand represents the actions you take as a company. You can have a logo with a blue color that evokes trust, and develop a brand story about the high-quality relationships you make with customers but those will fall flat unless you back them up with meaningful actions.

The visual identity and brand story must be created from the intersection of your customers, what you do, and the culture of what is happening in the world. If you need help uncovering your story and adapting it to reach various audiences, then you might consider working with an agency to create your branding and messaging. If you have your branding and messaging nailed down and you’re not sure what to do with it, then working with someone to create a marketing strategy might be helpful.

What is Marketing?

Marketing is a conversation. Marketing is how you tell your story and get it out into the world. This is your opportunity to share who you are, what you do, and why it matters. At Brilliant, it all starts with your customer. We focus on telling your story in a way that is going to resonate with your audience. You wouldn’t go to a dinner party and walk up to each person saying the same memorized speech, and you don’t want to do that with your business either. If you want to learn more about how to get to know your target audience, you can read more in this blog post.

Once you know who you’re talking to, you find the parts of your story that really resonate with them. This is essentially what marketing is all about. A strategic marketing plan outlines all of this and develops the best strategies for how to share your story through various channels. It will include the best strategies and tactics based on your target audience and budget and may include things like content marketing (educational, entertaining or useful content), social media, email marketing, paid advertising, PR or other channels. The strategic marketing plan can also give recommendations on pricing, distribution, and the actual product/service in order to make it more desirable. We believe that marketing is a way to increase your brand awareness and build trust with your audience and lead them further down the sales funnel, which will eventually lead to sales. (Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on the sales funnel)

Within the general umbrella of marketing there are many strategies that you can use. The ones we use most often are content marketing, PR, and paid advertising.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is where you get to really show your audience what you know and leverage yourself as an expert in your field. The most important part of content marketing is adding value in some way to your audience. This can look like educating them (like we are in this blog!), creating community, inspiring them, or entertaining them in some way. This is most often done through social media, emails, newsletters, blogs, videos, articles, guides, quizzes or other forms. Content marketing is the way you stay top of mind so that when a potential customer is ready for what you offer, they think of you. Having a strategic marketing plan in place can help you decide which channels would be most beneficial for you to engage with, and how you will share your content. If you are looking to share your company with a broader audience and want to engage with media outlets, then public relations might be what you’re looking for.


Public relations or PR is a strategy that focuses on brand awareness and the reputation of your brand. If you are looking for ways to share your story with a different audience, connect and network in your industry more, or want to be interviewed in any capacity, then you will want to work with a PR agency.

The role of PR is to tell your story in the media and connect you to media outlets. They can also handle influencer marketing, which leverages social media influencers and their audiences to talk about your product or service A PR agency spends time building relationships with media outlets and influencers, staying up to date on what kinds of stories they are looking for, and then matching their clients to the outlets that might be a good fit. It is their job to set you up for success when speaking with the media and to make sure your story is shared in a way that is successful for you.

This is a great option if you have something exciting happening in your business like a new product or service, grand opening, a rebrand or want to become a thought leader on an interesting topic. In order for PR to work, you have to have a “hook” or something interesting to say in order for media outlets to want to pick up your story. If you’ve ever thought about being in the news, on the radio, or a magazine, then PR is what you’re looking for. PR may eventually turn into sales but is often a “top of the funnel” awareness strategy so that more people know about your company.

Paid Advertising

Advertising is a paid strategy. It can be used in a few different ways. It can help to increase brand awareness and reach a wider audience at the “top of the funnel”; it can be used for garnering engagement like getting their email address in exchange for a piece of content, called a “mid-funnel strategy”; and it can be used to drive sales by getting people to directly buy online for a “bottom funnel” strategy.

Digital paid advertising allows you to also target ads to your audience to get them to buy your service. This includes things like paid Google ads or social ads. There are also more traditional advertising opportunities like magazine ads, commercials, or event sponsorships.

It is important to have a solid marketing strategy in place before implementing paid advertising to ensure the campaign is successful. If you don’t know who you’re targeting or what your message is, your campaign will fall flat. Often, paid advertising can come off as salesy. If you’re ready to heavily promote your service, then you might want to consider working with an expert to create an advertising sales campaign.

While you can promote your product/service through your organic marketing channels – social, email, web, etc.– those channels are really meant to share your story, build trust and add value for your audience, plus they have limited reach. Your organic marketing efforts set the stage for your advertising (paid) efforts to really shine. You need a strong foundation in order for your efforts to be effective.

Sales + Business Development

Sales is vital to every business, especially if you are a B2B business. It is the one-on-one personal selling that you need to turn an engaged potential customer into an actual customer. Once a customer is engaged (like giving their email address or reaching out to you directly) what is the next step?

This is where sales comes in by sending them information on your services, setting up a discovery call to understand their needs, sending a proposal, and then following-up regularly to see if your services are needed. You could have amazing marketing but once a potential customer arrives in your inbox, you need to steward them through the sales process to convert them to a new customer.

Sales and marketing work together closely. Marketing supports sales by keeping you top of mind through various organic marketing like consistent social content, email newsletters, or blogs. Then Sales can take over and connect with potential customers who are already engaged and excited about your brand.

They work together

Marketing, branding, sales, and PR all work together to support your business through sharing who you are, what you do, and why it matters. Knowing your desired outcome will help you find the best fit for your business needs and ultimately make the outcome more successful. We recommend starting with your branding to ensure you have the right look, feel and messaging. Next, create a strategic marketing plan that outlines who your audience is, where to reach them and how to bring them through the sales funnel. This plan is where you can then start deciding whether different channels like social media, paid ads, or PR are right for you. Within this plan, you can also ensure that your process for handing off leads to the sales team is seamless.

What do you do?

At Brilliant Marketing, we understand the importance of each of these areas. However, we specialize in providing branding, marketing strategy, and organic content. Within our strategic marketing plans, we’ll outline the best channels to use based on your budget and target audience. Most often our efforts focus on organic marketing strategies like social, email marketing, and thought leadership or educational content. However, we’ll also outline recommendations for PR, paid advertising, and sales and business development. When it comes to implementation, we’ll pair you with our amazing partners for the parts we don’t specialize in such as PR, paid advertising, and sales.

If you’d like to learn more about how we’re helping brands reimagine the world, you can check out the services we offer.


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