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Digital Marketing vs Digital Selling: Which Will Win You More Sales?

For several business decision-makers, digital marketing is an expense rather than an investment. It’s a belief that needs to be dispelled once and for all. That’s because many decision-makers tend to reduce their marketing budgets to give way to other business activities in hopes of increasing sales. But the truth is that digital sales and marketing always go hand in hand. It is crucial to invest in digital marketing now more than ever to boost the sales team’s efforts.

On the surface, though, digital marketing and selling appear to be the same. Even business-savvy individuals mix the two terms up. Think of these two as the Internet and email, which are two different technologies coexisting together.

Marketing campaigns aim to create leads for a business’s sales funnel. That way, sales representatives can look into them and persuade them to become paying customers. To make it even more confusing, sales reps typically utilise marketing techniques, such as gifts and other special offers, which can entice people to buy.

If you’re running a business, it is crucial to understand the difference between digital marketing and digital selling or online sales activities. At the same time, you should also acknowledge the similarities between the two. Both disciplines are useful in improving your brand, reputation, and connection with the customers. They are neither Business to Business (B2B) nor Business to Customers (B2C); they’re Business to Person or B2P.


So, What is Digital Marketing?

Marketing is about stirring your target customers’ interest in your products or services. That’s easy enough to understand, except there are a few things that need clarification.

The number one issue with B2B marketers is that they are not truly marketing. They conflate their sales efforts with marketing. It’s not because they do not know what they are doing. The reality is that most of them do not fully understand what the marketing job entails. Rather than focusing on strategies that can turn the brand into a household name and create a demand, most of the attention is on an already established audience.

In digital marketing, you aim to promote products, brands, or services on the Internet and other electronic media. A wide variety of techniques and tactics encompasses digital marketing, including:

The goal is to find the target audience, mainly where they spend most of their time, and that is online. There are now numerous ways to reach potential customers, including different assets, such as the following:

  • Social media pages
  • Written content in the form of blogs, eBooks, and the like
  • Videos
  • Images like photos and infographics
  • Websites

Over the years, digital marketing has proven itself as a powerful practice. It allows companies to get in front of their target audience (i.e., the right people) at the most suitable time (such as when they are searching for specific goods). When done right, digital marketing is the key to improving the possibility of people choosing your organisation.

Your business can thrive even if you’re purely in the online world through a robust digital marketing strategy. It’s a fantastic way to convert your efforts into sales. However, many businesses find online interaction to be inadequate. That’s why they turn to digital selling.

Digital marketing is an online engagement effort which uses a variety of assets, including websites, videos, images (infographics or photos), written content (blogs or ebooks), and social media pages to connect with customers.


How about Digital Selling?

With the first matter out of the way, you will find that the difference is quite subtle. In contrast to digital marketing, your goal for digital selling is to turn the audience into buyers. To do this, you should reach potential buyers at the most convenient time and location. Generally, sales happen when you connect with customers when they spend a ton of their time online in a place where they can purchase the products or services they need.

Successfully selling products or services drives revenue. A properly-designed digital selling strategy leverages a variety of digital tools, such as:

  • E-Commerce
  • Social media selling
  • Online marketplaces

To make it easier to remember, the sole focus of digital selling is to drive sales – and nothing else. Sellers can set up their online store or go to a third-party platform, such as eBay and Amazon, to list their products.

We can divide your digital selling efforts into two engagement functions:

  1. Inbound Activity from Potential Customers: In this first segment, the prospects visit your website and respond to your offers. They will then reach out to your organisation because they are interested in your product or service. This is where digital marketing comes in, as it is designed for this specific purpose: to connect with the target audience.
  2. Outbound Effort of Your Sales Team: Your team uses different resources to research prospects and connect with possible leads. They can then schedule interactions to encourage those prospects to take action. These activities are what turn them into customers.

Selling in the digital world is not as passive as one would think. Digital sellers generally use search engines and social media to gather leads. They do not sit idly by waiting for prospects to be handed to them, which is why they are proactive in their search. Successful digital sellers are adept at communicating via email or instant messaging so they can put the word out on their value proposition.

Digital salespeople are not your average outside salespersons. They are generally pressed for time when building a relationship with a prospect. Users today have a limited attention span, so it is difficult to capture the attention of their target audience. However, when digital selling tools are used appropriately, they can win more sales.

Digital selling takes place via a variety of common online channels.


Why You Should Know the Difference

As a marketer or a business owner, it’s essential to recognise the difference between digital selling and digital marketing. This knowledge allows you to develop and execute a more effective digital strategy that can address the unique needs of your business. Understanding the distinction will also help you in aligning your campaigns and activities at the suitable stage of a buyer’s journey. When appropriately implemented, prospects will have a seamless and enjoyable experience, which can help turn them into loyal paying customers.

Business to Person marketing is about capturing people’s interest and making them want to pay for what you offer – not the other way around. The intention here is to demonstrate that you have what they need, including the next big thing. That way, they strike whilst the iron is hot, so to speak.


Knowing the Difference Can Make a Difference

Understanding the difference between these two confusing terms is useful so you do not lose the meaning of marketing. Many decision-makers make the mistake of giving way to sales. They worry more about finding their target audience instead of allowing consumers to find them.

Now, you’re probably thinking it doesn’t matter as long as your business receives some form of engagement. After all, you’re winning if someone purchases your products or subscribes to your services, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Remember that marketing is not equal to sales. Putting all your eggs in your “selling” basket can significantly hinder your business’ chance towards achieving more engagement and growth. Your digital marketing efforts can impact revenue, even though digital selling is more about closing the deal with the customers.

Since there’s a blurry line here, many marketers think of themselves as an on-demand sales centre. That’s because they feel like they are hired to make sales under the guise of marketing. Instead of being accountable for the number of consumers they pull in, they become responsible for the amount that consumers end up buying.

Most digital marketing experts will tell you to give equal attention to your digital marketing and selling initiatives. The problem is that many businesses fall into the trap of concentrating predominantly on sales. It then leads to excluding digital marketing efforts altogether. This approach becomes risky as it creates a desensitised and disengaged audience. Worse, it can damage your growing brand because you have been focusing more on the sales department, which can earn you a reputation for aggressive selling.


How to Use Digital Marketing and Digital Selling Together to Increase Sales

The good news is that you can use digital marketing and selling to work together. Although these are two different entities, they share many similar attributes, which allow them to complement each other:

  • Both digital marketing and digital selling require a detailed plan to target relevant audiences.
  • For these two to work, you should be able to identify opportunities with customers and prospects.
  • You should have an in-depth understanding of techniques that work and those that don’t, in terms of conversions.
  • You are required to deliver results consistently; otherwise, your digital marketing and selling efforts will go down the drain quickly.

Sales and marketing are two halves of the same pie when it comes to their importance. However, they are not the same even though they share several characteristics. Either way, they help you connect with people so you can develop relationships with them. They rely on the same information, including behaviours, habits, and preferences, to determine the products your customers demand. What this means is that you can provide the best possible experience by having a strong digital sales team that collaborates with digital marketing pros.

Because digital marketing and digital selling are somewhat alike, you can benefit more if you can create a strategy that allows them to work with each other. Let us first see some examples of their similarities:

  • Both are Process-Orientated Activities.

Digital selling and marketing are both focused on the process that salespeople and marketers follow to identify customers and their needs. From there, they create content to show they can solve people’s problems, a tactic that often results in a sale.

In sales, the process involves a multi-step approach that turns leads into paying customers. At the top of the sales funnel are awareness and interest, with intent and consideration in the middle. Finally, it all culminates in conversion.

In a similar vein, the marketing process focuses on reaching potential customers digitally, such as through social media and search engines. It follows a step-by-step approach, starting from developing a strategic plan to creating and publishing content to measuring and analysing results. The final strategy revolves around the optimisation of digital marketing processes and procedures.

  • Both are Customer-Focused and Customer-Centric.

Being customer-focused means listening to your customer’s needs and wants so you can offer them exactly what they are searching for. Meanwhile, being customer-centric takes things a step further. You strive to understand those needs and wants so you have an idea of what influences their behaviours. A customer-centric business aims to serve patrons in various customer life cycle phases.

Both digital marketing and digital selling give focus on the customer. Some activities are geared towards attracting customers and keeping them loyal to the brand at the same time. Digital marketing is about making a product relevant to existing and potential customers. It’s achieved by generating product or service interest through a variety of blog and social media posts, website pages, and other online communication methods.

Meanwhile, sales are more concerned with direct customer interactions. For example, a sales rep can assist the customer in identifying a product that’s most appropriate for their current needs.

  • Both Require Data Management to Be Successful.

Digital marketing cannot work without a high degree of information – and neither does digital selling. Those involved in these two tasks understand that data is king. It is what they need to get to know the audience, which is useful in making informed decisions regarding promotional campaigns.

To be more specific, marketing involves the collection of data from various sources. Data will then be managed, organised, and analysed to be used effectively. On the other hand, sales are generally more on the application of insights from closed deals data.

The bottom line here is that numerous parallels exist between digital marketing and digital selling. When executed properly after careful planning, they are both cost-effective investments and can be extremely profitable. Having a sound strategy certainly helps, especially if you plan to employ both tactics. You are required to show your analytical skills, along with your Internet marketing knowledge, to succeed in both fields.

To further help you out, here are some examples of how other companies utilise digital marketing and digital selling at the same time:

  1. Netflix: This company markets and sells to grow using targeted online advertising. Netflix also leverages the power of social media and email marketing to attract new subscribers. To upsell and keep loyal customers, it uses data-driven customisation and recommendations in the app.
  2. Nike: Nike is another company that is good at digital marketing and selling. It uses a combination of fantastic SEO tactics, along with its strong social media presence. Nike also takes advantage of influencer marketing to advertise new products. The e-commerce website is easy to use, encouraging new customers to purchase Nike goods.
  3. Airbnb: This company is unique because it focuses more on digital marketing. Its strong brand has been built through the years, and it’s now diverting its attention to targeted online advertising. Nevertheless, we still see plenty of content and social media marketing efforts. The marketing strategy is to use a variety of channels to strengthen customer trust and build a reputation as the go-to holiday rental accommodation. As for the selling function, Airbnb has a smooth user interface to help potential renters locate the property they want to book.
  4. Amazon: If there’s a business that’s proficient in selling and marketing simultaneously, it is Amazon. The company takes advantage of digital marketing tactics, including SEO and email marketing, which help drive traffic to the main website. With the customers clicking on ads and redirected to the site, Amazon uses excellent strategies, such as easy checkouts and personalised recommendations, to entice people to tap the Buy button.


When the two functions collaborate on messaging, content development, and the process of customer engagement, great things can happen.

The key is to keep marketing and sales aligned. Remember that marketing is not sales, but they do work together. The best approach is to treat these two as different entities that go together and complement each other. Develop sales strategies with marketing in mind and vice versa.

Let Origin Digital help you bring your marketing and sales teams together and ensure they use the “right message to the right audience at the right time” method. Contact our team today!

Brad Russell
Brad is one of Australia’s leading authorities on SEO (search engine optimisation) and digital marketing. Brad’s mission is to help small to medium-sized businesses reach their full potential online. With 14+ years of experience in SEO, he is an expert in on-page optimisation, link building, technical SEO, conversion optimisation and more. Learn more about Brad