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Marketing vs Sales

Marketing vs Sales

Better marketing means better sales, right?  

On the surface, this seems quite logical.  But let’s take a closer look to see why this notion is completely, undeniably and irreparably wrong – and why it will only result in a lot of confusion and disappointment.

First, what is marketing?  Google, The Dictionary-Formerly-Known-As-Webster’s, defines marketing as: “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”

Sounds straight-forward enough…and you’ll even see the words “selling products and services” included in the definition.  So, this must mean that “marketing” equates to “selling”, right?  Well, now we must define “selling” vs. “sales”.  They’re NOT the same thing.  Selling is the act of making goods or services available to someone else.  Sales, on the other hand, is the bottom line – the profits (hopefully) made through the work that was done during the process of selling.  Little Lucy may be “selling” lemonade in her neighborhood, but at the end of the day, she may have no “sales”.

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on.

Marketing is all about the work that’s done to promote a business, product, or service.  It’s filled with both simple and complex scenarios, situations, data, goals, techniques, strategies, campaigns and concepts.  In short, there’s a lot that goes into it.  What’s a bit more complicated is that some people include everything that they do to promote their business – even if it’s simply having a random conversation about their services with a stranger on an elevator – as marketing, while others hold to a rigid list of what they define as a true “marketing” line item, thereby potentially excluding important practices and procedures that should, in fact, be considered as marketing.

Rather than going off on a tangent about what marketing IS, let’s just talk about what it’s NOT.

Marketing is not:

Sales:  Let’s just answer the big question right away.  Marketing is not sales.  Marketing helps LEAD to sales, but it is NOT the same thing.  We’ll get into precisely why this is such an unfair and incorrect (and an all-too-commonly-held) confusion in just a bit.  But first, more on what marketing is not:

Customer Service:  Marketing is not the day to day extras that you do to provide great customer experiences.

Product or Technical Support:  Like the above, there are things that every business must do to improve products and services, streamline operations, and keep things running – on both a technical and creative level.  Whatever the laundry list of these (sometimes pesky) tasks are, you can classify them however you’d like, just please don’t lump them in as part of your “marketing”.

So why is it so important not to confuse marketing with sales?  Let’s look at it from a practical standpoint.  A marketing manager is not a salesperson.  Successful salespeople and successful marketers are two very different breeds of animal; and both are valuable assets to any business.  Marketing works to spread the word and drum up interest.  But stopping here is like looking into your pantry in the morning to find that someone has conveniently placed the ingredients for a delicious spaghetti dinner just within reach but then expecting to find those ingredients magically transformed into a fully-prepared Italian feast by the time that you return in the evening.  Obviously, there are a lot of steps that must happen in between if you really expect to sit down later and dish out some pasta.  Would you blame a box of dry noodles for its failure to convert into the dinner results that you want all on its own?  Of course not.  However, too often, businesses make the mistake of blaming their noodles – err, marketing, for their lack of sales.  Still thinking about spaghetti prep, we know that because there are, indeed, many steps needed to prepare the proper meal, there are also a lot of opportunities for things to go a bit array along the way.  Overcook or under-cook the pasta and you won’t be happy with your results.  Forget the right seasonings and you’ll be disappointed.  Taking your first bite too soon or waiting too long will mean you either get burned or sit down to something cold.  When your marketing is working, you’re receiving interest – the ingredients for sales, if you will.  How you handle that interest will make the difference in what type of outcome you receive.

When potential customers respond to a marketing message in any way that results in their taking a measurable action that brings them closer to buying from you, your marketing is showing signs of success.  Next, all kinds of things are at play:

  • Salesmanship
  • Customer Service
  • Follow Up
  • Value
  • Supply/Demand

If you have weak spots in any of these areas, your sales will be impacted in ways that have nothing to do with your marketing.  Sure, part of your marketing’s job is to deflect attention away from any potential weak spots and highlight only the strengths – or do something creative by drawing attention to an area that could potentially be seen as a weakness and turning it on its head – but if your business is battling issues with staff, poor quality of product or service, poor customer retention systems, inconsistent performance/customer experiences, inferior product or service compared to competition, unrealistic pricing, or similar industry or market-specific or internal situations, your sales will (eventually) be affected, even if your marketing is fantastic.

When you marketing efforts are causing steady increases in phone calls, visits to your brick and mortar locations, email inquiries, web hits, and social media reactions from well-qualified people who are inside of your targeted demographic, your marketing is doing the bulk of its job.  Next, marketing works to change people’s minds.  This is the trickiest part of all.  Here, your marketing is working overtime and then some to go the extra mile for your business – focusing on the precise products and services that result in the best profits for your business, making common objections seem less compelling, building excitement amid a cynical society, and pushing your products and services to the forefront of a potential customer’s heart and mind.  This is no easy feat.  Cultivating warm leads and sending them your way is the primary job of your marketing.  If it gets this key component correct, it’s a success.  But what if your sales are not where you need them to be?  This is when you need to look beyond your marketing and directly into your business.  When you determine where the weak areas are lurking, and why and when your warm leads are walking out the door without making a purchase, you can use that information to make the necessary fixes that your business requires – and you can use it all as an opportunity to build on the successes of your marketing in ways that will, in turn, result in sales.

Marketing is the catalyst and cultivator.  Sales is the follow through and the performance. While marketing and sales certainly go together like garlic butter on bread (for the spaghetti dinner that I know you’re now craving), they’re partners in a process.  If your sales aren’t at the levels that you expect despite all of your work on your marketing, be willing to take a closer look at all of the aspects of your business.  Be willing to make changes where they need to be made so that you can empower your marketing in the same way that your marketing empowers your sales.  After all, marketing and sales may be different, but they are on the same side!

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