Where marketing ends (and sales starts)

Where does the job of the marketing department finish and the role of the sales team kick in? It’s a difficulty territory to define, particularly in a B2B environment.

In Australia, we suffer a little from ‘overseas branch office syndrome’. We’re too small a market to develop localised products so, often, the Aussie team consists of sales folk hired to push what’s been developed overseas. There might be one or two marketing people, whose jobs can be summarised in two words: lead generation.

But social media, sophisticated online marketing techniques and richer behavioural analytics are changing all that.

Wherever they are in the world, customers or prospects expect to engage with your company far earlier and in a more casual way than the regimented sales calls of old. Well before they buy, they want to engage with you on Twitter or Facebook, leave comments on your LinkedIn group or consume blogs, whitepapers and other content on your website.

But sales people don’t want to be spending their time communicating with such a wide base of prospects, particularly when they haven’t a clue who is most likely to buy. More than ever sales need marketing people to help sort the wheat from the chaff. So, lead generation has now evolved into the more sophisticated art of lead nurturing.

Marketing continues to generate awareness through conventional (and emerging) channels – PR, events, advertising and now, of course, social media. But they can now do a lot more to build engagement through content and events, including blogs, whitepapers, webinars and seminars. With an increasing online focus marketers can drive more of this in an automated fashion, with a clever use of targeted emails, online banners and landing pages.

By scoring prospects through this process – based on how engaged they have been with your content – marketing can ensure they’re passing qualified leads to the sales team. It’s then up to the sales folk to determine whether the contact is sales-ready. If not, it can be thrown back into the marketing pot for continued nurturing activity.

To most marketers there’s nothing terribly new in this approach, but with improved analytics the process is becoming a lot more scientific. Visits to key web pages, email click-throughs and document downloads can all be tracked and scored.

But only a small number of companies pull all this behaviour together and use an effective rating system to determine who is a marketing-qualified lead, ready for a sales call.

The more marketers apply this science the more efficient the sales process. And the sales team will gain new-found respect for their fellow professionals. In fact, with all this behavioural data to hand marketing should be able to furnish the business with a whole range of metrics to influence which products are right for the market, how they’re priced and which channels and promotional activities are most effective. That’s right: the full marketing mix.

It makes the B2B marketing role far more satisfying and influential in the business. And branch office or not, marketing becomes as important as sales in driving the business forward.


Aden Forrest
BY Aden Forrest ON 11 July 2013
Aden Forrest is Australia/New Zealand managing director at Marketo.