Debate: was marketing ever the underdog to sales?

Peter Strohkorb’s recent ‘Why marketing is no longer the underdog to sales’ article has sparked a debate. Andrew Everingham discusses the changes and challenges faced by marketing teams.

Andrew Everinghan HeadshotIn his recent article – ‘Why marketing is no longer the underdog to sales‘ (3 July) – Peter Strohkorb writes about how sales and marketing teams can work together to engage the buyer, reach sales targets and differentiate the business from competitors. He is, of course, absolutely correct; but was marketing ever actually the “underdog” of sales? Whose perception was that?

Is that the way sales perceives the marketing function? Has marketing kowtowed to the sales leaders and considered themselves inferior? While I can see some instances where that has happened, most often I see successful sales management recognising the value of a strong marketing partnership.

I remember once, in greener days, querying my marketing VP about why I, being a marketing exec, would need to go to a sales boot camp.

He said, “we are in technology mate: if you are not cutting code, you are selling.” That has stuck with me ever since, regardless of the industry.

The purpose of marketing has always been and is especially now more than ever, to shorten the sales cycle by building and communicating your brand’s value proposition.

Yes, the sales and marketing approach in a business has evolved over time – it certainly needed to. From a ‘push’ approach; appealing to the masses with one message and waiting for your audience to come to you. To a ‘pull’ strategy; having to truly understand and position your brand to the different customers connected to the product or service (we can all thank the internet for that!)

But what about the marketing department? How does it cope with these changes and how can it keep up? Sometimes simply adding more people may not be the best option.

 

1. Marketing is a growth-focused business function

Is everything you do as a marketer connected in some way or another to growth?

Today, marketers are faced with great pressure to support the opportunities for sales teams to research prospects, qualify leads and close deals. Continuously developing in size, industry knowledge and further down the sales funnel. Forging a variety of platforms for the business to tap into these budding experiences: events, experiential activities, content creation and sharing, creative design and production, direct marketing or account based marketing campaigns – the list goes on.

In their efforts to shorten the sales cycle, a marketers role is to drive action. Whether it be helping improve the relationship with a brand, making the decision to buy a product for the first time or simply communicating a message, there is always an end goal. Marketers who work in a ‘bubble’ – where the production of their work is an ‘artistic pursuit’ – are often disconnected to their customer’s problems and how to solve them.

And what about after the deal is closed? On this side of the sales cycle, marketers are working with the different teams and customers to develop those ‘sticky’ relationships and turn a buyer into a brand advocate. Helping the business validate its value proposition – sold in by the sales teams – throughout the delivery process. Capturing insights and communicating it back as customer success for future lead generation and storytelling. The cycle never ends.

Businesses who understand that every touch point across the customer journey impacts their brand experience will agree that the role of marketing is in everyone’s hands.

 

2. Marketing teams are often under-resourced

There is often an imbalance between sales and marketing headcount. This is caused by the fast recruitment of sales teams during the ramp up phase, followed by the lagging hiring of marketing support. As the balance becomes heavily weighted towards sales, and the marketing team is in hot demand, the business is at risk of exhausting one of its most valuable functions.

When the above is mashed up with a super tight budget, the outcome is never good. You can’t just keep making silk purses from sow’s ears. Either the results suffer or your marketer burns out – or both.

 

3. Outsourcing parts of your marketing function will improve your speed to market

The pace of life is undeniably being sped up by high-speed communication technologies and the ability to access information at the drop of a hat. But we still have a choice about how fast we allow ourselves to travel – even if it is all about speed to market.

Where an absence of a marketing headcount is the case, businesses are looking towards external support to augment the team. Both in the case of large enterprises, which – from our experience – need to lean on external support and bring in specialists in various areas of the marketing mix, and for small businesses which rely on external support to fill the void of having a full-blown marketing team in house. By doing this, the business remains focused on driving action for their brand across the entirety of the sales cycle.

Just as business leaders are be empowered to build their organisations in size, location, operations and service offering, marketing leaders need to be given the same latitude to support and grow their own teams.

Andrew Everingham is managing director at marketing and event management agency CAPITAL-e.

 

Further reading

 

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