Marketing and sales are complementary functions in business — the marketing department creates demand that turns strangers into potential customers, then the sales staff closes deals and builds life-long relationships with them.
But in many companies, the lines are blurred, and the sales director winds up taking on marketing roles. If you find yourself in this situation, you may need a crash course in marketing.
How is Marketing Different from Sales?
To understand the difference clearly, imagine a simple B2B business structure, like an office supply store. Sales happen at the cash register as people talk to the clerk and check out with their purchases.
But before they come to the cash register, they’ve seen a lot of marketing that may have influenced their decision. The store’s name, logo, window displays, newspaper ads, billboards, shelf displays, and internal signs all impacted how the buyer perceived that store and may have also led them to select particular products.
As a sales director, your focus is on how well customers engage with your company and customer retention. But if you’re taking on marketing functions as well, you need to be aware of what challenges customers experience with your company.
Today, a lot of marketing takes place online. Your business’s website, social media, blog content, and digital advertising are all part of its marketing. Sales may also happen online and could involve Zoom meetings, e-mails, online chat, and other direct communications as well as website shopping carts.
The best way to reach customers who are being constantly bombarded with advertising messages is to send very specific messages that will appeal to them. In order to do that, marketers define their niche and target market very specifically.
If the office supply store in our example was the only store in town, its marketing would be very simple — tell people what’s on sale this week, or what’s new in the store.
But what if there were five office supply stores in town? In a crowded marketplace, you would do well to look at who the other businesses are selling to, and who isn’t being served. For example, one store might have the lowest prices for bargain-hunting side hustlers while another has upscale supplies better suited for attorneys and other professionals.
The niche each store chooses will influence everything from the merchandise on the shelves to the colors chosen for their logo and signs.
Creating an Effective Strategy
The key to marketing well is to know your niche and your target customer well and then tailor your message to them.
Step 1: Narrow your niche
Unless you’re the only shop in town, don’t try to be everything to everyone. Take a look at the competition, and find a target market that isn’t already being well-served. Then figure out how you can be the best choice for that market.
Step 2: Describe your customers
Imagine your potential customer as an individual. What kind of business are they in? What is their role? How old are they, where do they live, what is their level of education? What are their problems, and how can you help solve them? What are their goals, and how can you help reach them? The better you know them, the more effectively you can reach them.
Step 3: Create your brand identity
Keep your target customer in mind as you craft the look and feel of your brand. Choose a couple of signature colors and images that will appeal to your target market and use them consistently to build a clear brand identity.
Step 4: Choose marketing channels
Your website should be the hub of your online marketing, and from there choose the outreach methods that make sense for your target market. The most popular options are social media, content marketing, YouTube channels, and online advertising (Google, Facebook, Linked In, etc).
You don’t have to be everywhere at once — choose the channels that make the most sense to reach your target market and develop them one at a time.
Step 5: Manage your metrics
As you build your marketing channels, keep your eye on the numbers. Which social media posts are attracting new business? Which blog posts are getting traffic? How much are you paying per click for your ads (CPC)? Keep testing different things as you refine your marketing approach.
Putting it All Together
As a B2B sales leader, you already have a good sense of who your customers are and how to speak persuasively to them.
As long as you keep in mind what kind of businesses are in your target market and stay consistent in your brand messaging, you’ll be able to produce high-quality marketing that will lead to the sales numbers you’d like to see for your company.