When it comes to business to business companies, marketing and sales are usually intertwined – some companies even use the terms ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’ interchangeably, or in tandem to describe the suite of activities they perform to generate revenues.
But for every executive who can name and categorize the various sales and marketing tactics at use in their business, there are another dozen executives who aren’t quite sure what the difference between sales and marketing really is. I get asked the question all the time, ‘When you say “B2B marketing”, what do you mean?” Here’s the cheat sheet on the role that marketing plays in B2B companies.
Marketing in B2B
There are 5 areas that marketing plays a role in B2B. Like a player on a sports team, marketing rarely scores goals all by itself – it works with other functions (like sales, operations and customer support) to achieve goals. Here are the 5 places where marketing can make a major impact:
Marketing ensures you know who you’re selling to – and how. A good marketing strategy is a vital framework for informed, high-level decisions on which customers to target and how you should position your business (e.g. are you a low-cost or premium solution). Without a strategy, you’re just taking shots in the dark with random tactics. This is probably the least obvious, but most important, place that marketing makes a major contribution to business success.
Marketing increases awareness. One of the most common things I hear from clients? “We’re great at what we do, but nobody knows we exist.” Well, that’s because you haven’t told them. Marketing is the activity that raises awareness of your business among target customers. And B2B marketing is super-focused; getting coverage in a niche industry publication can really get your name out there to the people that count. When your salespeople connect with prospects, the heavy lifting has already been done; they’ve heard of you and are aware of your expertise because of the marketing your company undertakes.
This is one of the most immediately understood roles of marketing. It makes the phone ring, sends inquiries to your inbox, and opens the door so the sales team can go in and close the deal.
Marketers produce the professional collateral that helps progress sales calls and ensure that top-notch sales people have the materials they need to maximize their results. Sales support collateral also ensure that a sales team of 3 or more people tell a consistent story to the market. I’ve worked with companies where salespeople produced their own materials like PowerPoint decks and sell sheets. It’s a recipe for disaster. For one, it isn’t a good use of a sales person’s time; they should be out there selling, not designing brochures. And two, if each sales person has their own messages and materials, it means your company isn’t being consistently represented to the market.
Retain and Grow the Customer Base
Marketing helps B2B companies retain and grow customers. Doing more business with people who already know you is one of the fastest, most cost-effective ways to drive revenue. By bringing news to past customers, you stay on their radar so you’re top-of-mind when they have a need in the future. And marketing is a far more cost effective way to accomplish that goal than a sales team.
Start with a good strategy, and the other four components will come after that. The difference between sales and marketing isn’t as important as just getting marketing in place in your business. Not sure what to tackle first? It depends on your needs. For some B2B companies, sales collateral may be the best place to begin – or maybe you really need to grow your market awareness with thought leadership content. Consider a Free Marketing Diagnostic to help determine your priorities.