Marketing vs Communications – What’s the Difference?

by Maximilian Claessens
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Marketing vs Communications – What’s the Difference?

Businesses rely on positive customer relationships for their success. These can be achieved through a range of methods and strategies, but primarily involve their buyers being happy with the products and services they receive. Vital to this outcome is the hard work of Marketing and Communications teams. However, while these two business terms are often perceived as interchangeable, the tasks completed by the two functions are fundamentally different. In this guide, we’ll not only be breaking down what Marketing and Communications do and where they differ, but we’ll also be discussing what you should do if you’re hoping to pursue a career in these lucrative and exciting industries. Marketing vs Communications – read on to understand the differences.

What Is Marketing?

Let’s first define Marketing before contrasting Marketing vs Communications.
Marketing is used by businesses around the world to promote their brand and bring in new customers, while retaining existing ones. Teams who work in Marketing focus on the entire journey that a product will take, from the initial idea to customer delivery, and this can involve extensive market research and competitor analysis.

The primary focus of any marketing campaign lies in how well the product or service delivers value to a customer. To do this, marketing teams will identify the target customer, understand what their wants and needs are, adapt a product to them, and then eventually sell that product with thoughtful aftersales practices. This means that the customer is accounted for at every stage of the process, and tests can be done to ensure its suitability and continued popularity.

Different Types Of Marketing

There are a number of different marketing styles that you might be familiar with as a consumer. These include:

  • Outbound Marketing, comprised of advertisements that promote a specific product or service, by reaching out to customers directly.  
  • Inbound Marketing, which works to bring customers valuable content around a brand’s identity, to encourage customers to reach out to the business.
  • Digital Marketing, which uses online platforms like websites and social media to drive a business’ brand identity and product offering.

Many marketing campaigns even use social media to discuss potential products with an existing customer base before they even launch the item, to test whether they would be well-received.

What Is Communications?

Communications teams take a unique approach, and the main function of their work is to provide a different perspective to both businesses and their customers. It centers around the messaging of a brand or product, by directly speaking to a brand’s audience and analyzing their reactions to it.

So, Communications is primarily the distribution of material that promotes a specific brand message to a wider audience, even one that isn’t comprised of existing customers, before deciding whether that audience is positively receiving and understanding the message. Teams who work in the communications space think about why a customer might need to hear a particular message to identify with a product, and how they can effectively convey a solution.

It’s important to remember that Communications doesn’t rely on a particular product or service to be successful – Communications teams work to tell the story of a brand, rather than of a product, so they can communicate with customers in an authentic, genuine way even if they’re not trying to sell something at the end of a discussion.

With that in mind, let’s now contrast Marketing vs Communications to explore the similarities and differences.

Similarities Between Marketing And Communications

While Marketing and Communications are different, they do share some similarities, which is why some people find it tough to differentiate between them. Some of the most common similarities between Marketing and Communications that cause this confusion include:

  • Overall Aim

Both Marketing and Communications teams aim to increase sales and brand awareness as a result of their actions. This could be through a Marketing team creating an outbound marketing strategy through which to advertise a service, or through a Communications team that speaks to customers after they’ve purchased a new product to discuss their experience.

  • Brand Perception

Both functions work closely together to understand and improve how a brand or business is perceived and understood by its customers. This often involves multi-disciplinary discussions across departments within an organization, to make sure that customers are always receiving the best service, and are aligned with the brand’s values.

  • Success Metrics

Another similarity between Marketing and Communications is the metrics through which teams will track their success. The outcome of both marketing and communications strategies can be assessed through data analysis, customer feedback and sales figures, so it’s easy to see the two functions as closely, if not entirely, intertwined.

However, despite the number of similarities between Marketing and Communications, it’s vital to remember that the two functions are not the same, especially if you’re looking to implement new strategies into your own business in these areas. Therefore, in the following we’ll compare Marketing vs Communications to identify critical differences. 

Marketing vs Communications: What’s the Difference?

Because of the close similarities between the two business functions, it can be difficult to tell them apart. Considering Marketing vs Communications through the lens of their differences is therefore one of the most effective ways to do this – both functionalities have their own nuances through which we can gain a clear idea of what makes them unique.

  • Customer Interaction

Marketing and Communications differ primarily in the way teams will interact with customers. Marketing teams spend most of their customer interactions trying to understand who their audience is, and what they’re looking for. This can involve a range of different tactics and techniques like extensive customer research, surveying and after-sales review periods.

Communications teams, on the other hand, use their interactions with customers to promote a specific message or cause. This typically surrounds the product being sold, but can also include the overall brand message or identity. Unlike Marketing, which aims to bring more customers to a product, Communications aims to bring a unique message to the customer.

  • Business Journey

For Marketing and Communications strategies, the journey that work will take through a business can be very different. Marketing work typically involves market research and competitor analysis, followed by advertising methods that promote a product or service.

Communications work usually begins after a product or service is advertised or sold, to assess and understand whether customers receive it in a positive light.

  • Employee Journeys

Employees who work within Marketing and Communications also experience different journeys throughout their career. Marketing teams will become highly skilled at research methods to identify and reach out to target audiences, whereas Communications teams become persuasive in the art of brand identity promotion and after sales surveying.

The differences between marketing and communications mean that for businesses, nailing a strong strategy around both functions is vital, especially in the digital age where first impressions matter more than ever. Perhaps more important is the way businesses recruit highly knowledgeable professionals across both the marketing and communications spaces, to drive growth, build positive customer relationships and see increased revenue.

Interested In Pursuing A Career In Marketing or Communications?

If you’re interested in diving into the world of marketing or communications, this is an exciting career opportunity, and you can take a number of different paths to get started. However, marketing and communications require different skill sets and qualifications from their professionals. So if you’re considering marketing vs communications from a career standpoint, it’s important that you understand the best route into your new role.

Salaries In Marketing And Communications

At entry-level, most Marketing employees earn around $49,300, but Marketing is a lucrative career choice that can see you climb the ladder quickly and earn a high salary. Depending on which path you take, you could end up making around $100,000 as a Marketing lead, or even around $168,000 as a Chief Marketing Officer!

Although Communications Specialists make slightly less on average, there is still the potential to move up the chain and make more money. With hard work, you can expect to move from the average $55,000 salary to around $100,000 in prestigious organizations.

Skills Required For Marketing And Communications Professionals

Because of the high salary afforded to Marketing or Communications professionals, roles in the industries can be very competitive, and there are a number of skills that you should be experienced in regardless of the path you choose to pursue, but there are also some required skills that are specific to each business area.

Inter-Disciplinary Skills

Whichever option you choose, there are some skills that you can utilize regardless of your potential direction, such as:

  • Social Skills

In any business area, but especially those that are customer-facing like Marketing and Communications, the ability to interact well with others is a key component of what makes a good employee. Focus on building experience and success in the way you interact with others in a professional setting.

  • Project Management

Often, both Marketing and Communications teams will have a lot of sub-projects and side work that might not necessarily be related to their main project outline. It’s good practice for you to have experience juggling multiple projects and deadlines at once, as well as supporting others to do so. This could come in the form of extra-curricular experience at school or college, or directly from the workplace.

  • Adaptability

Being adaptable is crucial if you want to succeed in either Marketing or Communications – things can change quickly in these areas, particularly in the Digital Age, where trends and fads are quicker to both appear and fade. Knowing when and how to react will be a great skill that can bolster your suitability when searching for a role.

  • Problem Solving

Lastly, the ability to problem solve will be a key consideration for prospective employers who often face challenges in their roles. The prospect of having you on board should make an interviewer feel confident in your ability to think on your feet and resolve any issues that arise.  

Skills Required For Marketing Professionals

Most skills required in the Marketing vs Communications worlds are actually quite different. Marketing teams demand a lot from their employees, and creating the right strategy doesn’t come easy. Some of the best skills to demonstrate on your resume include:

  • Content Creation Experience

The ability to create and advertise unique, value-driven content can boost a Marketing team’s ability to reach out to and associate with the right target audience. If you have examples of your creative flair from previous roles, this is a good way to show a potential employer that you know what you’re doing.

  • Research Experience

While many people see Marketing as a solely customer-facing industry, professional marketers are actually required to have extensive research skills. In a Marketing role, you’ll be expected to carry out market and competitor research, and it’s great if you can demonstrate an awareness of and competency in this area to your interviewer.

  • Digital Skills

As more and more people look online for their products and services, having skills with digital functions like social media and website creation can be the difference between being successful in a job application and not, so try your best to understand how different digital channels work.

Skills Required For Communications Specialists

  • Public Relations

Communications teams work closely with the public to drive brand awareness and promote specific messaging, so being skilled in public relations is vital.

  • Multimedia Skills

Understanding how different media channels work is a huge plus for a Communications Specialist job application, especially if you can combine that with a knowledge of how different audiences respond to different communications.

  • Professional Network

While a prospective employer won’t necessarily ask you about your professional network, having an extensive network allows you to speak with and work alongside other successful individuals in the Communications industry.

Routes To Marketing And Communications Success

While there is no set path into Marketing and Communications, there are a number of ways that you can increase your chances of success in each field, such as taking specific degree courses or achieving the right qualifications. Firstly, however, you should have a basic awareness of the career paths that you can pursue in each area, and how you can become qualified for each role.

Career Paths Within Marketing

Marketing is a wide-reaching industry, and there are a number of career paths that you can choose from if you wish to work as a professional. These can include:

  • Market Researcher

Without extensive research, in both the target audience and competitor spheres, Marketing teams would struggle to properly develop and advertise a company’s products. As a Market Researcher, you’ll play an integral role in this process, speaking with prospective customers and evaluating how successfully a competitor promotes a similar product. To pursue a role in this area, a degree in Market Research, Business or the Social Sciences can boost your application.

  • Account Manager

As an Account Manager, you’ll manage client accounts to make sure that everything consistently works for both the business and the customer, resolving any issues and gathering feedback. For Account Managers, a degree in Marketing, Communications, Business Management can support you if you can’t find a trainee role.

  • Product Manager

Product Manager’s play a crucial role in the way specific products are advertised, ensuring that the messages and discourse around a product is positive, and sends out the right message based on previous research into the target audience. As Product Managers deal with product presentation directly, a degree in Computer Science, Design or Business Management can give you the best experience to enter this field.

Career Paths Within Communications

Communications professionals differ from Marketing professionals in the career paths that they can take, and these can include:

  • Public Relations Officer

In a Public Relations role, you might be tasked with speaking directly to the media, holding press conferences or bringing a brand story directly to a wide audience. If you’re hoping to become a Public Relations Officer following a degree, you might consider majors such as Public Relations, Communications, Business Management or Marketing.

  • Communications Copywriter

Brands and businesses rely on Communications Specialists to promote their brand identity, but how do they actually tell their story? As a Communications Copywriter, you’ll work on writing the best advertising or story material that businesses can use across a range of platforms to communicate their vision with their target audience. Degrees in Journalism, Creative Writing or Marketing can be a great asset for Communications Copywriters.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, whichever career path you pursue, Marketing or Communications, the main drive behind your application should be your enthusiasm and ambitions within the Marketing and Copywriting industries. As you consider Marketing vs Communications and the roles available to you, make sure that you have a strong awareness of what direction you’d like your career to take you in, and you’ll find success in the field in no time!

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