Selling Versus Marketing: Here’s what every Business Owner Needs To Hear…
It’s an interesting dynamic to me when I’m pitching one of our marketing services to a client. The reason it is interesting is because I am pitching them something that I, too, have to do to grow my business. B2B is funny like that – you sell a service that you also know you need to invest in.
When I’m pitching marketing to a client, it’s not because the client doesn’t think they need marketing. Their concerns are 1) are we the right one for the job? And 2) is this the best strategy for me?
These are legit questions. But the one that I always hated was this naive one: “Will this grow my business?”
Marketing Doesn’t Grow Your Business. Sales Do.
OK, before you start jumping out of your chair telling me that marketing grows sales, thus marketing grows business, sit back down and let me explain.
Ever since online engagement took over the world and the recession destroyed a lot of employment, everyone became an entrepreneur. Some of it was down out of desperation, some were super legit, and most had no idea what they were doing.
The latter had no idea what they were doing because they read about all of these “super amazing tools” that “grew their business.” Do these sound familiar?
“Buy this master class and I’ll show you the formula to create a six figure business!”
“Now you can build your own website and make money while you sleep!”
“Just like this guy who makes millions on YouTube, so can you!”
“Buy this marketing package and watch the leads come soaring in!”
“Facebook ads are what will make you grow your business!”
I hate these. Not because they’re all wrong or useless. But, I’m sorry, there’s a lot more to growing a business than a few marketing strategies. Heck, even sales strategies.
The reason I wanted to write this article is because I’m seeing small business owners focusing on growing their business to remain small. I’m witnessing the expectation os ROI in the strangest fashions. I’m watching terrible mistakes being made out of desperation because their expectations are being demolished.\
The reason I say that marketing doesn’t grow your business, sales do is because even if your marketing strategy has given you many opportunities to sell, you still have to sell it. If you can’t close a sale or deliver a service/product, you don’t have a business.
So why invest in marketing? Because you need as many opportunities as possible to sell. And notice how I didn’t say “leads.” I said “opportunities.
OK, let’s dive in here, because most of you skipped everything I just said and just read the headlines (no judgement here, I do that quite often myself).
What Marketing Actually Is.
As a marketer, I’ve struggled with defining this myself. I know what it was…just didn’t know how to define it. Then I ran across an article actually written by someone who doesn’t do marketing: The Hartford (they sell business insurance and primarily target small business owners).
They said it like this:
“Marketing is the process that companies use to get consumers interested in the products and services they’re selling.”
I love this definition, because it defined marketing as a process. Oh, so true. The reason is how we judge the results.
Marketing is not defined by a transaction. Marketing is defined by emotional response. I don’t really mean like how a commercial made you laugh or cry. I mean that someone – ideally your target audience – FELT that you may help them solve a problem. They weren’t invested. It wasn’t a hard thing to do to contact you. You weren’t really asking them to do anything. They simply felt like you were going to help them solve a problem (notice: not the ANSWER to their problem. You’re there to help THEM solve their problem).
What caused this emotion? Several factors. I’ll list them in the priority that often matters.
- The timing – you caught them at just the right moment to capture their attention. They may have seen this message/ad of yours many times. But this time they paid attention. Maybe it was because they had a moment? Maybe it’s because they were just thinking about those others times they only gave you 4% of their brain’s attention? Maybe it’s because they needed someone like you just recently? Either way, the timing worked out this time.
- The platform – this ties greatly into the timing. It could be that your ad in the newspaper is what helped grab the timing of someone looking for a particular item. Or it was online where your blog post came up for what they were searching. The platform is what helped marry the timing.
- The media – This counts as the headline, the graphic, the picture, or the video. Media is what first grabs attention. It should grab the attention of the viewer and help bring context to what the viewer is interested in. If we caught the right timing and used the right platform, we’ve somehow triggered them to give us more than 2-3 seconds of brain power.
- The message – now that we’ve captured their attention, they’re seeing your message and putting it into thought. How does this message speak to them? Emotion. Their emotional response to it being important to them.
- Urgency – this is your call-to-action or “ask” or “presentation of opportunity.” Basically anything that creates a slight sense of urgency to take care of the problem someone has. When someone decides to act, it is an emotional response…if it’s not, then the marketing has done nothing.
Why do I lay all of this out? Because most business owners believe that marketing is a non-emotional formula that “gets people in the door.” They talk all day about the emotional aspect of sales, but not marketing. And that’s where most get it wrong.
Before I get into that more or discuss the “marketing verses sales” argument, let me talk about selling.
Why Selling Is The Most Important Aspect of Business
If you know anything about Paper Jacket, you know that it was started by myself (Jeremy) and my brother, John. There were many reasons we started a business together, but the main reason we stick together in our partnership is because of how we compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, I can sell – John cannot.
John is fantastic as taking a 5-page essay and condensing it into one amazing sentence. That’s messaging. John can design something that communicates a message immediately – but I, on the other hand, would take 2 hours to explain. The truth is that I undoubtedly believe that John could take Paper Jacket and run it by himself…except for one factor: Selling is his weakness.
Selling is a talent in closing. It’s persistence meets “argumentative problem solving” (like my fancy word for saying “one who can argue”?)
The strength I realized I had as a young adult was being able to sell, because I’m persistent and know how to challenge someone saying “no” to me. But you know what I’m terrible at? Cold selling. I cannot stand someone approaching me out of nowhere talking about something I wasn’t thinking about. Time is more valuable than money…and sales people like to ask for both. That’s why they’re known as a negative thing.
But when you sell to someone who is interested in what you have to offer and they’ve shown that desire, I know how to close. What I mean by that is I have a great success rate of getting their business verses one of my competitors. Because I’m good at listening to the problem they have and building a relationship in that moment to help them solve it.
You know what cannot do that? Marketing. Marketing is general. It’s not specific. And it honestly never will be.
Selling is both the introduction and the close. Sure, sometimes marketing can be the introduction, but that’s often either through advertising (something separate – a component in the process of marketing) or a referral (which is still another component of the marketing process).
The introduction part of selling is often referred to as “hustling.” And I need to be straight with you – that never goes away. The reason you create an introduction strategy in your marketing is to help you scale. But you never stop hustling.
An athlete may get performance enhancers, like cleats to run, but you never stop running. A particular bat may have better strength, but you still have to know how to make contact.
(OK, sorry…sports illustrations over)
You get my point. If you think for a moment that turning the marketing button on means that you can stop hustling to introduce yourself and attempt to close more deals, you’re going to be sadly mistaken.
Marketing Is A Process – What You Do Within Marketing Is The Difference
As you saw in the definition above, marketing is a process to create interest in what you’re selling. It’s not “hey look, buy this!” That’s selling.
Marketing is “hey look! Cool, huh?”
Marketers need a solid sales team to get anything done…but the sales team needs a good marketing team to thrive.
Measure ROI of Marketing In Different Ways
OK, I think I’ve compared sales and marketing enough. Let me get practical about how we – a marketing agency – markets and sells, as well as how we measure it.Our marketing strategy (as of this moment) is built around these:
- Presentation of our brand – are our target customers impressed by the quality and talent we bring to the table? A lot of people like to say that they offer quality. We’d rather just show it and have you say it. Items in this are our website, business cards, printed material, our digital graphics throughout social, and our promotional videos.
- We measure this by the “wow” factor. How many people refer to our work when we talk to them? What is the first impression reaction? Are we receiving a certain amount of attention on each of these items?
- Content – we want to rank well, so we write copy that does that. We want more engagement from our audience, so we write blogs, create presentations and make videos that our target audience is interested in (business tactics, sales, and marketing). We also like to entertain our audience, because as you should do in building a relationship with someone, you should provide value outside of “just business.”
- How much engagement happens on these items? What is the average attention span for these things? How many of these clicks-t-content lead to a meeting? How many choices were made in doing business with us due to this content?
- Local SEO – the need of being found is important. So we want to look at how we’re being found (keyword searches and platform clicks), how we’re being approached (phone calls or emails), and how often we’re being found.
- Sales Material – This is more specific than our brand presentation. This is a flyer that shows our pricing. This is a powerpoint that walks you through the experience of our service. This is the commercial advertisement that tries to get prospects.
- We measure these elements on the “wow” factor and how long it takes someone to make a decision. For example, if my pricing sheet looks all over the place, it’s confusing. If it’s straight forward, but boring, did I lose some of the emotional aspect of my prospect?
That is honestly our marketing strategy. It’s like a routine work-out. You don’t notice a difference right away, but then you begin to. Same thing for when you stop. You don’t notice anything at first, but then begin to.
Marketing ROI is run by multiple numbers, but it’s more measured by overall business growth than anything else. I hate saying leads, because leads, to me, are not emotional interactions with marketing. They are someone who got thrown into a funnel without realizing it most of the time. Or they’re interested in a product/service you provide, yet have no idea who you are.
What most businesses want are prospects – someone who has shown interest in what YOU do, but hasn’t given a commitment yet.
Now, that’s our marketing. It’s a process. It’s built different than our sales strategy. Our sales strategy involves using our marketing material and strategy along the way our entire time.
- Networking – I attend BNI. I’ve joined some other networking groups. I’m involved online with facebook Groups and other people to always be there. I want to be well known and ready to jump on an opportunity whenever I can. I use my marketing material to help create those opportunities, and then I jump in to try to formulate a sale.
- You measure this by the platform your investing in. For example, if BNI doesn’t give me any referrals and I’m heavily invested into it, then I cut it. Not ROI. But if I am getting many referrals that I like, it’s a great investment. Often times it just takes one win for it to be a positive ROI.
- Advertising – I need to get our brand out there more, so we spend money in advertising to get it out there. Obviously this is very close to marketing, but it’s the ad spend I’m paying attention to.
- To properly watch the ROI, you have to make sure it’s not your marketing material that sucks before you shut down the advertising. It also may not be the platform, but rather the way you’re targeting within the advertising. This ROI stuff is pretty straight forward: you want to find out how much it takes to get a prospect and the average on closing that prospect. Then decide if the advertising is worth it or maybe you just need to tweak a few things.
- Keep in mind that advertising can be like marketing in that it doesn’t create traction right away…sometimes it just builds momentum. Companies aren’t making their money back on Super Bowl ads within months…it takes time. But that momentum boost may help a lot.
- Knocking on doors/researching – I know a company that built an amazing email marketing funnel and they simply go to target audiences and thrown their emails in this funnel. The email portion is marketing, but the sales portion is finding those emails and then following up when a opportunity arises from those emails. Sometimes you can’t pay for ads, so you gotta try knocking on doors.
- Surprisingly enough, Paper Jacket has a lot of ROI from cold emails and calls. But we greatly tie that into being an approachable brand…and timing. We know that the variable is timing. Little bit of luck, but we also do our best to make our own luck.
How To Invest In Marketing
Your sales team needs marketing. It’s not always a consistent item that a marketing company does for you. Maybe it’s a once-a-year project to capture your messaging, create an ad, and then have your team run with that. For others, it’s consistency that does the trick.
The reason John and I built a marketing agency that offers a retainer model with a month-to-month agreement is exactly because of this. Sometimes you need to hire us to do something for three months, and sometimes you need us every month for two years. At the end of the day, your marketing strategy dictates your sales strategy and visa versa.
So when you’re looking for marketing, don’t look for a substitute to selling. But if you’re looking to scale and spend more time talking to prospects over leads, then you need to invest in marketing.