1. Sales and Marketing are not the same thing

Some people might respond to this title with, “Well duh — that’s obvious. Everyone knows that sales interacts with the customers and marketing does web, mailings and events. How could you confuse the two?”

It’s true that it is easy to see the difference between the two functions at the high level. Where you can get tripped up is in the smaller level tasks, which can accidentally go unassigned, fall between the cracks, and not get done; or worse yet, they get done by the wrong people. For example:

  • If marketing secures you a booth at a local event, who do you send to work in the booth?
  • If your website includes a blog, who decides on (and possibly writes) the articles for the blog, and who responds to comments or questions on the blog entries?
  • If marketing sends out some small gift to all your existing customers, who is responsible for ensuring that the gifts reach their destination (or for arranging a gift for someone who gets missed)?

If you are a (very) small business owner, you might be thinking one of two things right now:

1) I’m both, so does it matter?
2) I don’t do any of those things, so does it matter?

Yes, and here is why I think so:

Some people (marketing folks) are very good at looking at the big picture and writing communications that accurately and consistently protray who you are and what you do. A good one sees your brand (even as a small business) as your story, and they tell it in a way that gets the attention of potential customers. They are good at big picture, long-term campaigns (executing your brand vision). Marketing = one-to-many communications.

Some people (sales folks) are very good at seeing and relating to the small, personal situation. A good one uses active listening like it’s second nature, really puts themselves into the shoes of the potential customer and knows how to build trust and relationships. Their communications are crafted to the language of a potential customer, and their focus is the immediate, short-term activity of identifying and closing a sale. Sales = one-to-one communications.

It is very, very rare to find someone who does both well. In fact, I would venture to say that focusing on one of these roles (e.g., the long-term campaign) almost requires you to ignore the other (e.g., the short-term need of an individual client). I’m not saying one is better than the other — on the contrary, a successful business needs both. Someone needs to be building your brand awareness in your market, and someone needs to then be leveraging that brand to bring in money. If you are missing (or understaffing) one or the other, the sales and marketing engine is going to struggle.

Now, back to those two thoughts you were having:

1) I’m both, so does it matter?
You might be trying to cover both of these functions, but I would guess that you are stronger at one than the other. Now is a good time to consider which you seem to really like to do (sales or marketing) and admit that is your area. This also leads to the honest admission that the other half of the picture is probably not getting what it needs.

2) I don’t do any of those things, so does it matter?
You may not be doing some of more sophisticated marketing activities (yet!), but every business has some competition to be overcome (marketing) and needs to bring in money (sales). Putting the right people with the right talents in the right places is an important part of making your marketing and sales function successful.

And that is a subject for my next blog entry

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2 Responses to 1. Sales and Marketing are not the same thing

  1. Alex Jones says:

    I do both, and I would argue that marketing sells the business product without need of any selling. In social media campaigns the experts make a point that the business should not be seen selling anything.

    • Thanks, Alex! Sounds like you already know you align better with marketing. I agree that a strong marketing campaign can make the sales job much, much easier, but I also think it depends on three things:
      1) how expensive your product is
      2) how tangible your product is (e.g., a widget vs. a service)
      3) how much competition you face
      In short, how much risk is involved in making the wrong purchasing decision? The higher the risk, the more personalized interaction the customer may need before making a purchasing decision. Thanks again, and good luck to you!

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