The Difference Between ‘Marketing’ and ‘Prospecting’


As a real estate professional, marketing and prospecting are two crucial cornerstones to any successful agent’s ongoing business. It’s a little surprising then just how many individuals—both laypeople and sales representatives themselves—use these terms interchangeably. (And incorrectly, may we add.)

We felt it best to maybe clear up the misinterpretation.

The standardized definition for ‘marketing’ describes the word as “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.”

Marketing specifically refers to your brand. Every agent has one… or should… after all.

On the flip side, the word ‘prospect’ can be characterized as anything from “the possibility or likelihood of some future event occurring” to “chances or opportunities for success or wealth” to “a person regarded as likely to succeed or as a potential customer, client, etc.”

Prospecting is your livelihood. This—not the selfie of you doing an open house over the weekend—is what puts food on the table.

That isn’t to dismiss the significance of marketing at all. No, no, no. Quite the contrary. To repeat, both marketing and prospecting are equally paramount to a realtor’s prosperity, and should be used complimentary to further the effectiveness of both marketing and prospecting campaigns.

Our intention is simply to clarify the importance in distinguishing the two terms from each other. Allow us to be a little more specific…

Marketing is mailing calendars, magnets, mugs, holiday cards, and other knickknacks. Prospecting is calling past clients.

Marketing is deciding on a brand, then a strategy to execute that brand, and then creating assets to establish your brand based on your strategy, which can be setting up a website, blasting out a newsletter, scheduling Facebook and Twitter posts, and changing your Instagram handle to include some unsubtle reference to real estate. Prospecting is calling people in your circle of influence.

Marketing is joining service organizations. Prospecting is calling expired listings.

Marketing is creating awareness. Prospecting is calling for sale by owners.

Marketing is living the brand you’ve established and creating creditability. Prospecting is cold calling for listings and sales.

Marketing is sponsoring a community sports team. Prospecting is knocking on doors.

Marketing is doing floor duty at the office. Prospecting is hosting open houses.

Marketing is ensuring that your digital persona lives up to your in-person persona. Prospecting is calling absentee owners.

Marketing is having business cards on you. Prospecting is cold calling from lists of names.

That’s enough for now, but we could go on and on… and on!

So yes, while the terms may come off as similar, the difference is actually quite stark and it boils down to this: while marketing creates exposure for your business, it’s prospecting that truly grows it. However as different as the two are in business, the key to effectiveness for both (and a lot of things in life) are two things: maintenance and consistency.

This film image + the title image in this post released by Paramount Pictures a scene from “The Wolf of Wall Street.” (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Mary Cybulski)