Marketing and sales are closely related functions, but they are not the same. In this brief guide, we will broadly define the two terms, exploring key differences. It’s worth noting that in a large organisation, Marketing and Sales are often separate departments, and may not even report into the same high-level manager. Inevitably, internal politics come into play, and as a result, the two departments can end up working against each other. If Marketing and Sales are not in close communication and pulling in the same direction, there is a real risk of missed opportunities.
This is where a small business has an advantage. The marketing and sales functions are usually performed by the same person, or by a small group of people. This means that the two functions operate closely together, and this synergy can give great results.
Here are high-level definitions:
At the simplest level, this function exists to generate interest in a company’s products or services. This interest is described as ‘prospects’ or ‘leads’. In order to achieve their goals, marketeers have many stratagems including:
Market Analysis and Consumer Research – tools used to find out where the potential customers are, and what they want or need from a product or service.
Product Development – this involves the design (or redesign) of products and services to meet one or more of the needs identified by the consumer research.
Pricing – a crucial part of the marketing function is setting the price of the product or service. It is a tricky balance between maximising company revenue while still keeping the product within the reach of the potential customer.
Advertising – this is the tool that most people think of when you mention marketing. In fact, advertising is only one of the tools at the marketeer’s fingertips.
Marketing is usually aimed at the widest possible selection of the population. The aim is to reach far and wide. The message will reach people who will never buy the product, in the hope of reaching real potential customers.
The aim of the sales function is to turn the leads and prospects generated by marketing into real-life paying customers. Sales effort therefore tends to concentrate on a smaller, more focused section of the population, persuading them to actually buy the product. Where the target population for marketing can be thought of as wide and high, the target population for sales is narrower and more personal. In most cases, sales relationships are one-to-one between a seller and a buyer.
Marketing and Sales need each other
Neither marketing nor sales can succeed in isolation – they need each other. After all, the best-designed products and services may exactly meet the customer’s needs, and be the ideal price. However, that’s useless if no-one gets around to buying them. Conversely, trying to sell a poorly designed product or service that doesn’t do what the customer wants, and is over-priced, is clearly not going to work either.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a start-up or an established small business. Marketing and selling your products or services is crucial to your survival. It’s important to recognise that marketing and selling requires two quite different skill-sets. Rather than trying to find a rare individual who can be effective in both functions, bringing in some outside help from a professional organisation may be your best bet. It needn’t cost the earth, and may be just the boost your business needs to keep you on the road to profitability and success.
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