Advertising and personal selling are closely related business processes that make up the bulk of a company's activity within marketing and promotion. Advertising and personal selling are both methods used by companies to convey the benefits of their brand, products and services to the market. However, advertising and personal selling are distinct approaches to marketing.
The marketing mix, or the four P's of marketing, outlines the four common elements that are used by companies to develop a thorough marketing plan. The NetMBA website credits Neil H. Borden's 1964 article "The Concept of the Marketing Mix" with making the marketing mix a popular business concept. Product, place (or distribution), price and promotion are the four components of the marketing mix. Advertising and personal selling are among the most pervasive components of the promotional element.
Advertising is the use of mass media to deliver a persuasive message that is paid for by the advertiser. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines and the Internet are known as the traditional advertising media, though companies use a number of support media and newer media to convey messages to their target markets. Advertising typically involves dissemination of a prepared message that attempts to improve the advertiser's position in the market.
Personal selling is typically a one-on-one process by which a company's sales representatives personally work with prospects to recommend the best product or service to match their needs. Salespeople ask questions of prospects to understand their particular needs and then try to sell the benefits of the most appropriate solution to meet those needs. Selling is face-to-face or direct communication with prospects, which often leads to more immediate sales of the company's products.
Though many companies utilize both advertising and selling in business operations, they are usually complementary processes. Advertising is a more general communication that attempts to build brand value over time. Selling is more direct, personal contact that allows for interaction. Selling is a prime example of direct marketing, an interactive system of advertising that requires immediate feedback from the target prospect. In selling, the salesperson is the only channel of communication with prospects. With advertising, advertisers use a variety of mass communication methods to deliver messages to their markets.