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Why marketing must never just be a support service for sales

If you’ve ever studied marketing as an academic subject, it will almost certainly have been defined as a very broad managerial process, bringing together everything from new product development to sales. The Chartered Institute of Marketing says that it is a discipline “that ensures producers of goods and services can interpret consumer desires and match or exceed them.” Our list of activities that a marketing department might have to do demonstrates this well (and it’s also by far the most viewed article we’ve ever published on this blog).

But the CIM also immediately admits that “sometimes people assume marketing is just about advertising or selling”, and that rather brings us more in line with the day-to-day situation at many companies. So I was interested in a short post last week by the well-known marketing strategist David Meerman Scott, which acknowledged that ‘sales and marketing’ are often combined, but put a different spin on the difference. Scott wrote: “Marketing communicates with the many people who make up a buyer persona. Salespeople, on the other hand, communicate with one potential customer at a time, putting the buying process into context.”

One-to-many

So the job of marketing is to understand buyers, classify them, and influence them on a one-to-many basis. The job of sales is to influence them one at a time, once they have been individually identified. Scott says: “While marketers need to be experts in persuading an audience of many, salespeople excel in persuading the individual”.

This particular distinction is important, he concludes, to avoid marketing just being a support service for the sales team. When that happens, a company is unlikely to be building for the future.