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Magic and Measure: exactly what is the difference between marketing and sales?

Everyone wants a magical solution to every problem. Especially when it comes to Digital Marketing and Communications or PR. And, rather frustratingly, marketing is often confused with PR. The two can be linked in over-arching job specs by well-meaning HR departments, or small businesses hoping to save costs by conflating the two. And often small businesses desperately need both skills on their team, but lack the budget for two team players.

Marketing & PR

Both are really important business areas, but it's worth remembering their differences, especially if you are going to outsource and use an agency to help you. Marketing focuses on a specific product, but PR is about the business as a whole. If marketing does the job of telling a stranger about a product or service, PR tells the story by generating interest in the whole business.

I also think of the difference between marketing and PR as reward and reputation. It takes time to build a reputation and measure ROI for PR activity. Marketing can offer quicker rewards - such as audience growth or better engagement - which may have a visible impact on revenue. But for marketing to continue to deliver such rewards, it needs to be supported by ongoing brand awareness, which comes from consistent - and time consuming - PR.

Marketing & Sales

And while I'm on the subject, let's talk about magical solutions and the relationship between sales and marketing. Sure, effective marketing plays a part in identifying customers and generating potential leads. And digital marketing has embraced sales funnels as a tactic, using content and storytelling to secure interest and nurture leads.

But marketing is not sales.

A marketing plan lays out what the product is, its price, who it will be sold to, and where it will be sold. The 4 Ps of Marketing are nothing new: in fact, product, price, place, and promotion have underpinned successful marketing for decades. And the CIM students I teach know that McCarthy's mix is as relevant today as it was in 1960 when he articulated it in his book Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach.

Sure, goals are set, marketing channels are chosen, and a budget is allocated for the campaigns the marketing team plans to pursue. And of course today, there are more channels available to us...but more about that in another post.

You'll notice I haven't yet talked about Sales. This is because sales plans are as different to marketing plans as night is to day. Sales plans include details about the sales process, the structure of the sales team, the characteristics of the target market, and goals for income secured. The sales plan also outlines the tools, and resources, that will be used to hit these targets.

Small businesses and start-ups often confuse sales with marketing and expect good sales to come from marketing activity. And rather sadly, some businesses use poor sales to try to demonstrate that marketing has failed, when often what has happened is the marketing generated the leads, the PR gave visibility... but there was no team on hand to nurture leads, or the online customer journey was poor so sales could not be completed online.

Time & Investment

To set up a website and populate digital channels around a cohesive marketing strategy takes time - and investment. So it's easy to see where the confusion comes from. After all, which business isn't keeping a close eye on ROI? And even the leanest start-ups spend significantly on marketing because if they bring it in house and learn as they go, the cost to the business is time. So sooner or later this investment needs to be recouped.

But time spent learning about marketing is time away from the core business. And as the time adds up, the need for sales becomes such that somehow businesses often assume that marketing will magically secure these much-needed sales.

And here we exercise caution and ask even the most ambitious businesses to remember that even the most dazzling marketing strategy is no guarantee for sales.

Read more about how holistic Digital PR & Marketing gets results here.

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