Thursday, December 11, 2014

Marketing vs Sales


I've recently had several discussions with various people about the differences between sales and marketing. Many would say that they're nearly the same, right?

Wrong. Sales and marketing work closely together, but they are fundamentally different. In fact, they are so different that those people who excel at one are often not very good at the other.

In peeking at job listings over the years, I've noticed numerous postings that try to merge together both sales and marketing. Have you ever seen a posting for a Vice President of Sales and Marketing? How about Sales and Marketing Coordinator. This is a clear indication of a company that does not truly understand what marketing is.

Everybody knows what sales is. We deal with sales people every time we walk into a retail environment. Many of these people are good at what they do: learning and understanding the need of the customer and cross-referencing it with their product knowledge to make helpful suggestions. Sales guys and girls make business happen.

Not everybody knows what marketing its. Marketers sit in offices at their computers developing brand strategies. What exactly is a brand strategy, anyway? For that matter, what exactly is a brand? Consumers are exposed to the effects of brands and their strategies every day but they don't always understand what's happening. There's a reason for this.

Years ago I was asked to explain the difference and I answered that the marketing person tries to get the qualified customer to walk into the car dealership and the sales person takes over from there to try to sell a car. While this is true, it doesn't fully explain the fundamental difference.

When was the last time you bought a car? Try to remember the experience. You probably came to some sort of needs recognition (maybe your old car died) and decided it was time for a replacement. You already had some thoughts about which type of car you wanted. And you walked into the dealership and talked to the sales person. This is key - you talked to them. It was a face-to-face conversation.

However, that skips over the many things that happened before you ever walked into that dealership.

We are exposed to hundreds, no thousands of marketing and advertising messages every day. Our conscious brain doesn't even know about most of them. In fact, the conscious mind can only focus on a maximum of four things at any one time. If we paid attention to every single message that is delivered to our eyes our brain would probably explode from information overload.

So how do we keep from exploding? It's our subconscious mind that acts like a giant filter. If you are flipping through a newspaper you probably won't even notice that there was an ad on page seventeen for the new Ford. Your subconscious mind noticed it, but decided it wasn't important. However, if your existing car broke down yesterday, your subconscious mind would have recalled that, and brought the Ford ad to your conscious mind's attention. Because it suddenly became relevant.

We are exposed to so many messages in today's world that this is the only way our brains can cope.

However, the subconscious mind doesn't forget. While it won't always remember specifics, like the model, price or promotion details, it will often remember the brand (if the advertisement was properly designed). So your conscious mind may not notice because your current vehicle is perfectly functional. But then maybe six months down the road your car packs it in and you find yourself at the automall shopping for cars. When you see that brand's dealership there will be some familiarity. You probably won't remember where you saw the ad (or many ads) but it will be more comfortable than a brand that you aren't as familiar with.

So if it's immediately relevant (you need a new car) then you will consciously notice and read the ad immediately. This is a marketer's ideal situation because it can result in immediate action on the part of the consumer. However, if it's not immediately relevant, some component of the brand gets tucked away in your subconscious brain for future consideration.

It is the job of every marketer to speak to the subconscious mind, hopefully in a way that's relevant enough that the subconscious brings it to the attention of the conscious. And if not, at least in a way that adds some familiarity and comfort to the brand for future consideration.

It's easy enough to recall the sales process we went through to purchase our last new car. But we don't usually remember what kind of marketing activity we've been exposed to before that sales process began, and we don't usually understand what impact it had on our purchase decisions.

Sales people have face-to-face conversations. They speak directly with the conscious mind. Marketers communicate first and foremost to the subconscious mind. And therein lies the fundamental difference.

So next time you see a job posting for a Vice President of Sales and Marketing, especially if it's at a competing company to yours, have a smug chuckle to yourself over the knowledge that that company doesn't truly understand marketing.

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