Marketing’s job is to create awareness…
I was reading an excellent article recently by Leon Sterling, where he writes that ‘In recent years a confusing, disturbing trend has evolved: marketing is being confused with sales, or being treated as if it is sales’. He then goes on to write that pure marketing has always been about communication and how it has encompassed Public Relations, advertising, promotions, direct mail, trade shows, etc. He then finishes his opening statement by saying, ‘It’s about the message, not about closing the deal’.
Of course he’s completely right, although I am not convinced it is a recent phenomenon.
Marketing titles have always blurred the lines between marketing and sales and it’s a very important line to keep perfectly clear.
In order to give some sales people exalted titles, such as “Marketing Director” (and to avoid the word “sales”) both the roles and the functions have become confused. I myself was given the title Director of Marketing after 3 successive years of being the Top Salesman for a growing printing company I had been hired by… however, I had a Bachelors Degree in Advertising Design at the time and was studying Marketing at Concordia University in Montreal.
In particular, this brings us back to one of the oldest questions in business: Who’s in charge, Sales or Marketing?
What Fast Company says:
“Marketing’s primary function should be to develop the market, to create demand for the product or services which results in High Probability Prospects. The primary function of sales-people should be to find and do business with the High Probability Prospects, as they develop.” [Jacques Werth, co-author "High Probability Selling"]
In other words, Marketing’s job is to create awareness; Sales job is to make the sale.
In the early 1980’s, I was hired as an Art Director for a printing company and a few months later, because of my knowledge in printing and creative, they requested I become a Sales Representative. Within one year, I became the Top Salesman for the company, easily outselling all the other Sales Rep and by the end of my second year in Sales, outselling the President of the company.
By my third year, I found it quite simple to visit some of the top Ad Agencies in Montreal and discuss the capabilities of the equipment the company had in the language both an Art Director and Print Buyer needed to hear, and close the sale but my primary role had morphed into where I had started and that was in Marketing.
Fundamentally though, my job became ‘The Awareness Creator’. I spoke the Ad Agency lingo, I understood their needs and I understood exactly what the equipment the printing company had did and I understood how the entire design process fit into that. In other words, I opened up leads and took sales reps in to close (or service, in my opinion) the accounts.
With the blurring of the line between sales and marketing functions, you’ll often find that a “Director of Marketing” is really a sales person in marketer’s clothing. If one of those hybrids becomes your client, it can make it very hard to create effective communications.
True marketing people understand both the process and the reasonable expectations from marketing efforts. Sales people only expect results. Immediately. That’s not how marketing works. Coke became Coke through more than a century of branding. You don’t get there overnight.
The point is, when sales is in charge of marketing, the true purpose of each is lost.
Marketing creates awareness. Awareness creates sales.
Sterling goes on to say; “Often, companies get the mistaken idea that sales can do just fine on their own. (“Who needs marketing?”) They get the idea that sales is all they need if they see dollars marching in every time sales people come back”.
But how often are those sales people doing it all on their own? If they don’t have good marketing materials and support, are prospects really as receptive?
If a web site is not a good representation of the company, is it harder to close the sale? I think so.
If the marketing materials are poorly designed and poorly photographed, does that make it harder to close the sale. I think so.
The simple point is that prospects are far more receptive after they’ve been softened up by really good marketing materials.
And don’t forget that a single piece of marketing can be seen by tens of thousands of people at a time, while a salesperson can only talk to one prospect at at time.
The web site we built for Partymart now receives over One Million Visitors annually.
Marketing is strategy.
Marketing has always been about communication. For communication to work, it must be on strategy. That strategy must be arrived at before materials are created, and it must be communicated through compelling messaging. To be compelling, the marketing communication must be relevant to the true target audience.
(By the way, figuring out exactly who your target audience is must come first. You need to be able to answer, “For whom does your product or service exist? Why will they want it? Who else does what you do? What makes your offering different? What will it take to win?”)
Sales is execution.
Sales has typically been based on making promises. Things go wrong when those promises are at odds with the marketing strategy. That’s bad, very bad. One of the basic tenets of branding is that the very same message is communicated by everyone, in all departments, across the board. If outbound sales is saying whatever comes into their heads to make a sale, you’ve got to rein them in and make sure, absolutely sure, that they’re only communicating the agreed-upon strategy.
Sales and marketing are inextricably connected. The ultimate job of marketing is to support sales. And the ultimate job of sales is to execute on the promise of marketing. Marketing is about driving awareness and interest. Sales is about closing the deal. They’re connected, but distinct. They need each other, but cannot do each other’s jobs.
The most successful sales people I’ve ever known say, “I’ve never made a promise I couldn’t keep.” The most successful marketing corollary is “Never over-promise.” By sticking to truly relevant, entirely believable messaging, everyone will succeed.
Marketing is at the core of branding – creating critical awareness about a product or service within a targeted audience, and about the specific potential for fulfilling the need for that product or service. Marketing is also about defining the benefits of the product or service and how to communicate those benefits effectively – all of which is given to the sales force to execute on.
Sales is the other end of the stick, using inbound or outbound people to zero in on specific targeted prospects as a result of warm leads from responses to marketing materials.
Marketing creates tools that support sales. If the tools are not working, sales has to let marketing know and, together, you have to redesign those tools to end up with communication that does work.
If either marketing or sales gets the idea that they’re running the show, someone in charge needs to sit them down, straighten them out and then turn them loose to try it again.