A Clash of Titans: Sales Versus Marketing
From my viewpoint, I see the majority of articles in most print industry-based publications discuss Sales and Marketing. Sales and Marketing seem to be presented as family members — brothers and sisters, or sometimes partners. Is this a correct comparison or connection? I am not sure, are you?
Perhaps the analogy holds because one does indeed need to be linked to the other in some fashion. The question is: What is the correct process and method to link and use Marketing and Sales or Sales and Marketing?
Nearly any link is a valid connection. Without a sales team you, as a print provider, cannot easily sell your wares. Without marketing, you and your sales team do not have the vehicles, devices, and tools needed to “start the sales process” or “complete the sales process.”
Do you agree?
Me — not so much!
In my experience, sales and marketing (or marketing and sales) need to be treated or viewed as counterweights — never quite even, never the same — balancing the desired outcome via strong and often conflicting forces to get the job done. I don’t see these “guys” existing in a peaceful state of co-existence. I think the more hostile they are, the better the outcome will be. They are disruptive, if you like — a powerful word in the industry today.
I see the conflict as being defined in part by what you are attempting to accomplish — brand awareness, outright selling, lead generation, referrals, activating inactives, introducing a new product or service, hosting an open house versus considering partnering. All involve combining or linking these two essential processes.
Why do I think this conflict or, in this case, competition makes each bedfellow a stronger partner? You have heard the expression penned by Friedrich Nietzsche, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” The same goes with the high-wire balancing act of integrating your Sales and Marketing efforts. This integration cannot and should not be based on integration alone. The integration itself must be a balancing act, a house of cards that is designed to survive the winds of change that are always active in any sales effort.
Have you reviewed your company’s marketing efforts recently?
When was the last time you integrated your Marketing and Sales, reviewed your marketing plans, transformed your brand based on facts, branded your firm internally, enhanced your sales experience or your customer journey, re-structured your customer experience, aided in educating your employee base on your plans and purpose, rethought your marketing skills, totally changed your sales approach, ensured that you are consistent in your messaging, challenged your relevance and perhaps, more importantly, questioned the very purpose you are in business?
Last week, last month, last year — can’t remember when? Do you have a marketing tracking schedule much like your job tracking production schedule? If not, you should.
According to many studies, marketing programs have an active life of about 45 days, which means you can or should develop up to 8 multi-channel campaigns per year. How long has your marketing effort been running?
I am not trying to make you worry too much. Most printers never take on more than a few of the marketing review points listed above ever! If and when they do, most stop much too soon, much too early in the process and the cycle. Oftentimes, the hard stop is made based on timing; however, 90 days is not time enough to evaluate a sales effort. A second key reason for placing a hard stop is that some new business does arrive, and the plan goes lax. Finally, a very common reason is that the owner or management team of the print provider just run out of time, get bored, or decide to change the sales effort and kill or curtail the marketing effort.
When planning a marketing and sales effort, consider the sales and buying cycles of the targeted verticals as well as how long it takes for your sales team to research, contact, sell, and close a sale. Then add 6-months onto the timeline.
The whys are complex, but, in many cases, sales managers look to the cost of marketing as wasteful. They believe that a targeted sales effort can do the job faster, better, and cheaper. I view this strategy as talking without saying anything, since nearly all the research indicates that people need some sort of ongoing marketing effort (six to eight touches to make contact and even more if you are using social media alone). Without a marketing effort, your sales effort is probably falling on ears that are not hearing what is being said.
My belief, proven by years of working the field, is that “marketing is a profit center” and should be considered as such. Understanding your sales cycle, researching and investigating your prospects’ buying cycle, and integrating those key elements into your sales and marketing plans is a better strategy.
Think of the sales conversation process as being like a poorly networked mobile call. Sometimes every second word is dropped; sometimes every fourth or sixth word is dropped. Those dropped words need to be reinserted, and that is why utilizing a sales integrated marketing effort is a must!
So when you start to think about integration, consider integrating the above-mentioned “suggestions” into a sales and marketing test and see which combination of components best balances the scale. Yes, you may need to weigh different strategies across different verticals and perhaps even different sales team members. Consider a base program that will allow individual salespeople to alter 10%-15% of the presentation to fit their personal selling style and process. I would rather have a slightly altered sales message than a stumbling sales message and a stuttering sales team member.
How should you integrate YOUR messaging?
First, you need to fully understand the view of your firm and the services offered as seen by your targeted customer, vertical, or business segment. Look and listen to what your current customers are saying about your firm as well.
Second, reach out and ask, either directly or via a consultant (better idea), how your sales program is viewed by your sales team. Identify the positives and negatives of your current effort. Consider this as an investment in your future.
Third, look at the sales and marketing tools you are currently using (based on the above review). Measure the response and success of those tools (and how your sales team is supporting them), and consider removing the bottom 20% of the toolkit that is providing weak results.
Fourth, introduce new or revised marketing tools, one tool or one media at a time. This will allow you to measure if the revised or new tool/media is working. This takes time, so be willing to go long and wait.
Fifth, set up a valued, trusted measurement process that not only measures the response of the tools but also the way the sales team uses the marketing tools. Look to developing a list of A-team, B-team, and C-team marketing tools.
Sixth, develop a marketing strategy that acts as a counterbalance to your sales strategy. Add more marketing tools to support a weaker sales area or effort — and more reporting tools as well. Shift the weight around and perhaps, after careful consideration, transfer some marketing tools from those areas that are working best. Then measure the changes in both instances.
Seventh, conduct (via a trusted and neutral internal source or a trusted and valued external source) a customer or client review. Ask what they see, feel, or think about your sales and marketing effort.
Eighth, take a deep breath and start the process again, perhaps every 45 days or based on your target’s buying cycle. Review the changes after every scheduled marketing and sales effort.
A few years back, I was hired by a large printer to interview a number of its most-valued and not-so-valued clients. After a three-month effort, the report was done, but the presentation date to the client was delayed, delayed, and delayed until I realized that it was never going to happen. The sales team supported the research, but senior management did not realize that the data was gold, and management would not support the research presented. What their clients wanted in services was not what the management was offering — it was in direct contrast to their business offering, and, in the end, my researched data proved to be correct. My client’s experience provides a life learning lesson: If you have the data, use the data; do not ignore research, data, or valued input.
If marketing worked each and every time at a pre-determined level, you would see less printed material being developed, less social media being used, less digital media being created, and less interaction with the consumer or business base.
Marketing, any type of marketing, is an ongoing, long-term segmented game — a game that is only as successful as the messaging, tools, interaction, sales support, and commitment that is placed into the effort.
You need to understand that in today’s marketing environment, marketing tools continue to evolve, and every client has a unique service and so do their unique customers. Selling your services to a sports merchandise client is different from selling them to a client who sells life insurance. Is your sales team aware of this basic messaging model?
So, when you plan to integrate sales and marketing or marketing and sales, think counterbalancing your expectations; think timeline; think defined goals and objectives (which may be different for each vertical and sales team member); think what is working best and what is not working. Keep this mantra fixed and focused in your mind: “Marketing and Sales are profit centers.” Then repeat, repeat, repeat.
If you want additional information regarding the importance of integrating your sales and marketing and want to learn about an additional critical element in this mix, click here to read my last article, "A New Business Plan That Is as Simple as 1, 2 and 3!"
Thad Kubis is an unconventional storyteller, offering a confused marketplace a series of proven, valid, integrated marketing/communication solutions. He designs B2B or B2C experiential stories founded on Omni-Channel applications, featuring demographic/target audience relevance, integration, interaction, and performance analytics and program metrics.