A few important definitions

As I repeatedly mention on this blog, I keep seeing recruitment advertisements for marketing staff only to read the job description and discover that the recruiting firm has a muddled position as to what marketing actually is.

I suspect this all started when sales representatives began using the hard sell to up their commission. Salesmen were rebranded as marketing personnel.  The same thing has happened with customer service.  To me customer service means after-purchase assistance, fixing problems and giving advice; but to many firms customer service means sales.

It isn’t just firms misusing the term marketing to cover sales.  There are other errors.

I see a lot of advertisements for firms wanting a multi-tasking superhero.  They expect their new marketing maestro to research and prepare their strategy, write all their copy, build their website, do their photography and draw their graphics.  There are huge issues with this job definition.  I seriously doubt a single individual has all of the above skills particularly as the role mixes numeric and analytical skills, technological expertise and artistic flair.  I have yet to meet any talented artist who is also a whizz with mathematics and able to adequately turn raw data into applicable information.

Another trend I see is the use of the phrase ‘Sales and Marketing’.  This term baulks for two reasons, firstly it implies that marketing is a subordinate function of sales, and secondly, it implies that marketing is part of an approach best described as management in silos. This appears to be a distinctly old-fashioned approach.

So I think it is useful to go back to first principles and try to appropriately define the role of both marketing and sales.

There are two types of sales; direct sales and indirect sales.  For complex or high value sales, the direct approach dominates.  This is often through the use of sales representatives and key account representatives.  It is a personal selling approach.  Indirect sales are how most low value, uncomplicated sales take place.  In fact most consumer purchases are through indirect sales.  These are often transactional commodity sales.  This is the use of retailers, websites, and distance selling techniques.

In business to business markets, it is often the case that 80% of sales are by direct means and the remaining 20% by indirect sales (there is the Pareto ratio again).

Unsurprisingly, sales is the physical act of selling and it has a complex and relationship with marketing but sales is not marketing. Marketing is not a function of sales; sales is a function of marketing.

Some academics see sales as a particular form of marketing at an individual of group level.

Personally, I see marketing as the framework which creates the climate for sales.  It is the process of adapting your organisation to the sales environment and matching your organisations mission to that of your customers.

Sales staff should work to a sales plan. Sales campaigns are the planned stages in acquiring new customers and increasing orders from existing customers.

Marketing is a formal business discipline which has developed over the last 150 years in four stages:

  1.  The Age of Production:  This was when marketing was contained by the limits of production. Products were often made to order so marketing was often limited to individual customers.
  2.  The Age of Sales:  The task of marketing was to get rid of everything the company produced.  This is the post-war era, particularly in America.
  3.  The Age of Consumers: this is effectively from the 1980’s onwards.  It marks the rise of consumerism and designing products to meet consumer needs rather than expecting consumers simply to buy what you are willing to offer.
  4.  The Age of Interactivity:  Some argue this is the current age with micro-segmentation of markets; mass customisation; brand communities and brand networks. An age of self-actualisation and self-esteem.

Marketing is more than the facilitation of commercial exchanges (otherwise referred to as sales).  Marketing is getting the right products, to the right customers, in the right place, at the right time, in the right way, and for the right price.

Rather than production capacity defining the market, Marketing is the development of a customer-centric model, defining your business through a customer focus.  Production-orientated marketing is no longer a valid assumption.  Sales-driven marketing is similarly defunct.

We have moved to a new model of marketing which is defined by global markets, unpredictable and fickle consumers, new purchasing patterns, new methods of distribution and new sales channels.

As David Packard said, “Marketing is too important to leave to the marketing department”.  It is a cross-functional discipline important to all business stakeholders.  It is the strategic process of transforming an organisation to match the needs and wants of its customer base.

Think of marketing as the strategic element of your business whilst sales is a tactical element.

Also, marketing is the top level process which links your business with ‘creatives’.  that means graphic designers, advertising agencies, social media management, web design and copywriters.  It isn’t the production of graphics or text, it is the process of defining the boundaries within which such creative content is produced.

Before developing a marketing plan, you need to carry out a marketing audit.  This audit process tests whether your organisation is capable of achieving its desired strategy, whether it meets the environmental and cultural expectations of proposed market segments.  A marketing audit has three parts.

  1.  An Environmental Audit; both the macro-environment characterises by the term PESTEL (Politics, Economy, Society, Technology, Environment, Legal); and the micro-environment of Porter’s five forces (which includes the internal stakeholders within an organisation)
  2. A Strategic Audit; the alignment of marketing objectives with an organisation’s vision, mission, aims and goals. The analysis of markets to articulate a desired market position and target segments.
  3. A Functional Audit; the organisation of a business structure so as to meet the intended strategy and achieve objectives. Where the function of marketing sits within an organisation and how it links to other functionality.

Once this audit is completed, you create a marketing plan; the systematic approach to achieving the desired strategies and goals.  This can involve the use of tools such as SWOT analysis and perceptual mapping.  The development of an appropriate marketing mix.  Setting appropriate budgets. Defining how the plan is to be controlled and setting review processes to ascertain the level of plan success.

A marketing plan should establish, direct and control marketing and related activities across the desired mix within defined time periods.

And it is worth remembering that marketing plans are living documents which need constant adaptation to meet the changing external environment.