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Marketing or Sales?


Article by Joy Bennett

Photography by Joy Bennett

When thinking about how to measure marketing success, it helps to understand the difference between marketing and sales. These activities are distinct and often confused.

Marketing casts a wide net.

Marketing sends focused messaging out to the type of people you want to reach, moving fast to bring in leads, and learning from the results to tweak activity in the future. Marketing is one-to-many.

A good marketing goal focuses on the quality of the leads brought in. Did we attract the right type of people – the ones who want and will buy your product?

Sales meets the needs of individual people.

Sales relies on knowing the actual person you’re going to reach – understanding exactly who they are, why they need you, and how you’re going to guide them through the sale. You must have something they want, when they want it, the way they want it, and at a price they are willing to pay. Sales is usually one-to-one.

A good sales goal focuses on converting leads to customers and generating revenue. Did your leads take your offer? If not, why not?

Marketing goals vs sales goals

Since marketing and sales are not the same, marketing goals will look different than sales goals. Because marketing is one-to-many and focuses on bringing in the right type of people, it’s a long game. You measure marketing success in part by sales along the way, but also by other metrics like subscribers, engagement, and referrals. It often takes a year or more to recoup your marketing investment, depending on how challenging your market is and your product or service.

Sales goals depend on many factors, in addition to marketing. Making the sale requires that many pieces line up just right. Selling is a matchmaking exercise in which you provide the answer to a customer’s problem, a remedy to some pain. If your sales are disappointing, ask questions like:

  • Is your product what they want? This is a positioning question: Does it meet a need or fulfill a want they have? It’s also an audience/marketing question: Are you offering it to the right people?
  • Is your offer presented in the way and at the time they want it? This is a packaging question. Your customers must recognize that they have the need you are meeting.
  • Is the customer willing to pay what you’re charging? This is a pricing and value question. Also, the higher the price, the harder you have to work to earn trust so customers will hand over their money.
  • Does your product work? Your product must actually make good on your claims.

What questions do you have about marketing, sales, and how they complement one another?