The Difference Between Sales And Marketing: Can The Two Be Effectively Managed By A Single Person?

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Have you ever read a advertisement for a Marketing position that, after reviewing the job responsibilities, turns out to be a pure Sales job?

As a professional working exclusively in the Marketing department I am always frustrated by managers who don’t understand the difference between Sales and Marketing.

With the risk of generating a lot of debate here is my take on the issue.


In small companies there is no Marketing function to begin with. Here Marketing does equal Sales, and the few Marketing ideas come from the business owner or the Sales person.

As the company gets bigger the owner might consider adding a Marketing function, such as “Marketing Coordinator” or “Marketing Assistant”. This role is basically a pure Sales support role, whose main purpose is to provide the Sales force with catalogs, flyers and price lists.

Finally with the growth in Sales comes the need for a dedicated Marketing department that will help the company focus on servicing the relevant market, managing the 4 Ps, and build brands rather than products.

What Happens In The Real World

Sales and Marketing rarely work is sync, no matter the industry, product or target market. This statement is based on my personal experience working in the Marketing department of four different companies in various industries, from consumer package goods to the industrial sector.

When sales are bad the two departments come up with different explanations for the poor results.

Sales accuses Marketing for wasting the budget on ineffective programs, and setting the prices too high. According to them, Marketing people spend too much time in the office and are out-of-touch with the customers.

Their solution: pay higher commission to the Sales team, hire more reps and lower the prices.

Marketing in return blames Sales for thinking short-term, and focusing on satisfying an existing demand, instead of identifying new needs and expanding the market.

In their view the members of the Sales team are simply “order takers” who are just waiting for business to fall in their lap.

The difference between Sales and Marketing extends to most of the 4 Ps.

Let’s take price for example.

Sales wants lower prices that allows them to get more products out the door thus meeting the monthly target. Lower prices gives them more leverage to negotiate and close deals, regardless if the company is making money or not.

Marketing thinks more in terms of profits, and wants the sale to happen through brand building and not rock-bottom prices.

Then there is the difference of opinion regarding new products. The Sales team’s vision of a new product is usually a copy of the closest competitor’s best seller at a lower price.

Marketing believes in differentiation, in products with unique features that will offer the company a long term competitive advantage.

And finally promotion. I find that Sales people love Sales promotions, which give them “something to talk about” with the customer.

Marketing is usually cautious with using this communication tool, which in the long term cheapens a brand and decreases profitability.

The Difference Between Marketing and Sales

Sales and Marketing can rarely be performed efficiently by a single person. These two functions attract people with different backgrounds and are meant to produce different outcomes.

Marketing requires long term vision and effective strategies to make it reality.

This involves taking a comprehensive look at the company as a whole, and a good understanding of full business cycle, including identifying new market opportunities, product development, packaging, promotion, among others. Profitability is also important.

Marketing compensation is based not only on meeting the Sales target, but also on the results of the projects being implemented. Marketing people tend to think more analytically, are usually at least University graduates, are able to think long term and are excellent project managers.

Sales usually focus on short-term actions to close the deal, and meet the monthly budget. They see promotion as the ultimate tool to grow sales, and always demand lower pricing. In their view Marketing’s role is to support their efforts. While that is partly true, Marketing is much more than an administrative role.

In terms of formal education Sales people are not usually required to have a post secondary degree. The skill that is mostly valued is relationship building, and the ability to close the deal.

I don’t believe in “Sales & Marketing” titles. I never accepted to report to Sales. Marketing should report to the CEO or President, not the Sales Manager. If you have a Sales and Marketing title, you are probably dedicating 90% of your time to one or the other.

The Solution

I understand the cost savings that result from combining the two functions. But there is one more cost effective solution to consider: outsourcing one function, most frequently Marketing. Management can allocate a monthly budget they feel comfortable with, settle on a number of Marketing initiatives and execute them rigorously.

Every business needs Marketing. The reason is simple, and can be summarize in one word: competition. Sales might provide short-term satisfaction, but Marketing provides long-term success.

Companies that chose the strategy of merging Marketing and Sales into a single position make a strategic error. Marketing and Sales are two separate functions, that require distinctive sets of skills rarely found in a single person.

Global Marketing: Things You Should Consider When Planning International Expansion

One of the most common methods to grow a business is to look beyond the national borders. Although global marketing employs the classic principles and concepts Marketers are familiar with, there are some aspects that a company should consider when considering international expansion.

If your department is in charge of crafting the strategy for expanding the business internationally you might find the task challenging, in particular if the target market is totally different than what you are used to when marketing domestically. I am currently in charge of such an ambitious project, and I would like to share some tips that I found useful.

Global Marketing Should Begin Locally

This might sound confusing but your research should begin with identifying programs run by the local and/or federal government to help exporters succeed internationally. You might be surprised (like I was) at the amount of resources available. These includes free market research reports, grants, country profile information, and a list of contacts that can help you get a better knowledge of that particular market. As an example, Canada even provides exporters with fully equipped meeting rooms abroad that export managers can use to meet potential clients and partners, at no cost. Obviously these resources vary by country, but it’s well worth investigating.

Start at the Macro Level

A particular country might look like the perfect expansion opportunity for a variety of reasons. Before you look at the specific industry you are interested in make sure you have a good understanding of the macroeconomic environment that affects the way you do business. Identifying the opportunities but also the challenges such as corruption, lack of infrastructure, taxation, ever changing legislation, political instability, banking system, currency issue, is a must in getting a solid start to exporting. Other points to consider are the entry costs such as legal services, trademark registration, and bureaucracy. It’s very tempting to just start exporting based on an inquiry received from abroad, however rushing it might cause a lot of headaches later.

Adapt to the Local Culture

The most common mistake exporters make in the global marketing planning is failing to adapt their offer to the local market.This is key to a successful market penetration. No two countries are the same, no matter how similar they look on paper. Many consider Canada and USA as twin countries, that speak the same language and have more or less similar cultural and buying preferences.However, whoever visited the two countries realize how different they are in so many ways. Make sure you get feed backs from locals about business etiquette, buying habits and motivators and the things you should definitely avoid when marketing your product there. It’s good practice to hire local translator for any marketing materials you plan to use to promote your products or services, and employ local sales force whenever possible.

One last tip: I personally like to build a list of best practices based on the feedback and research information I receive from different sources. Once I have a check mark beside each bullet point on the list I can move to the strategic planning phase and establish the objectives, strategies and tactics to be employed.

Do you have global marketing experience? I would love to learn from your insights in the Comments section on the blog.

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Trends in Marketing

Year end is usually dedicated to evaluations, analyzing trends in Marketing and business, and making predictions for the year to come. We as Marketers need to be aware of what is happening around us and evaluate the impact of these changes on our strategy. That being said I try to avoid predicting the future.

Below are some trends I am sure you are already noticing, that will continue in 2012 and beyond:

Brands will face increase pressure from low-priced competitors and store labels.

There is no doubt about it, competition is and will continue to be fierce, no matter the market, product or distribution channel . Barriers to entry into most categories are very low due to globalization and technological advances. As a result established brands are facing pressure from two directions: competitors who are able to replicate their product at a much lower cost and distribution partners who are becoming more powerful in the supply chain mix and will continue to launch private brands in order to maximize profits. A solid differentiation strategy is the key to survival.

Social media will be even more fragmented.

This is one of the trends in Marketing that is difficult to predict. No question that social media has its merits in building a loyal audience. The challenge marketers face is keeping up to date with the changes that seem to be happening overnight. Last year building your brand’s Facebook page was the “the thing to do”. Now there’s Google +. Next year apparently Pinterest, a social bookmarking site that focuses on images, will be the next big thing. I miss those times when socializing meant going out for a beer.

Some traditional communication channels will become obsolete.

I am thinking television, radio and the daily newspaper. I recently received the Toronto Star newspaper as part of a direct campaign. It’s as thick as a book and weights a ton. It just doesn’t make sense to take the time to find and read what interests you. Why spend your marketing communication dollars or promoting something that is just not relevant anymore? The same with television as we know it. I cancelled my satellite TV account about one year ago and have no regrets. With the explosion of options to see the content you want, when you want, without being disturbed by commercials, I feel more informed than ever.

Advertising agencies will have to adapt to new budgets and new client requirements.

Marketing communication is evolving, and so will the traditional “full service agency”. Marketers are asked for better results, faster and with less money.  Many of them are working with specialist firms, who are usually easier to deal with and more cost competitive. As a result the agencies will have to adapt to the new reality. Instead on keeping full time employees they too use part time specialists, employed on a project basis. Most of them will have to streamline their services in order to remain competitive.

“Full-time employees” will be replaced by “project partners”.

The days when employees spend their entire career with one company working regular hours will soon be gone. The notion of “full-time job” will be replaced by work that gets done at different times and places. “Workplace freedom”, “work-life balance”, “flexibility” are the new trends that employers have to adapt to. Generation “Y” demands flexible hours, telecommuting, and serious motivation. Getting the work done will be what matters, rather that where or when it’s done. Those changes will affect other familiar concepts such as “career path”, and “job security”.

As always, I value your opinion. What trends in Marketing (or business) are you noticing, and how do they affect your brand? Please feel free to share them in the Comments section below.

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Best Marketing Books

I recently wrote a article about my favorite Marketing and Brand Management blogs, which generated great feedback. I also love books, and for this reason I decided to share with you the list of my all-time favorites that have helped me tremendously in my career. You will find these and other great titles on my new Books page dedicated to great Marketing reading. 

These are some of the best Marketing books for at least two reasons: they offer practical advice that marketers can apply in their everyday jobs and the information presented between the covers is still relevant today. 

Philip Kotler: Marketing Management– a “must-read” for every marketer, this book is the only reference you need when it comes to Marketing fundamentals such as customer targeting and segmentation, marketing research, and the 4 Ps of marketing mix. This is the single book I used to successfully obtain my Professional Certified Marketer™ designation.

Kevin Keller: Strategic Brand Management-the co-author of the Marketing Management book above, Keller wrote another classic that deals with all aspects of Brand management, from brand planning to measuring its equity. What makes this a great reading is the abundance of example that makes this book a great practical guide for our everyday jobs of managing brands.

Jack Trout & Al Ries: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind-I make it no secret that Trout and Ries are my favorite marketing authors. Their simple, down-to-earth approach to building a brand that starts with the concept of “positioning” has always fascinated me. Needless to say I apply their advice in all my projects that involve launching a new brand or re-positioning an existing one. Written 30 years ago, this wonderful book is as easy-to-read and enjoyable as you can get, and introduces us to the concept of “positioning”, which has since then become a fundamental branding concept.

Jack Trout: Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition-what makes a brand successful in the market place? The ability to differentiate itself from competition through a unique and single idea and supporting elements. This book explores different options that a brand has to stand out from the crowd, supported by numerous real-life examples. The chapter that deals with the “line extension” concept is worth paying special attention to, as many brand managers fall into the trap of over-stretching the brand into new categories in order to deliver growth.

Jack Trout: Marketing Warefare-this marketing strategy book looks at how brands should develop their go-to-market strategies based on their current share of the market: leader, follower, and the small company looking to avoid being crushed by the bigger competitors. A must read for any business leader, the main assumption is that Marketing is a war especially in today’s super competitive environment where a multitude of brands fight for a slice of the market.

Al Ries and Laura Ries: The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding-this books strives to provide answers to some of the fundamental questions brand managers have: how should I name the brand? Is quality important? Should I extend the brand into a new category? My favorite one is the Law of Extensions: “The easiest way to destroy a brand is to put its name on everything”. The 2002 edition of this great book also includes the “11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding”. Great addition to any Marketing collection.

David A. Aaker : Building Strong Brands-brands are the most important assets the company owns. Managing them requires knowledge, skills, resources and patience. David Aaker’s books provides great insights on how strong brands are built. He also introduces the concepts of brand-as-person, brand-as-symbol and brand-as-organization,which is a great way of analyzing a brand’s image and positioning. A classic book for sure!

David Ogilvy : Ogilvy on Advertising-although not a Marketing strategy book this was one of my greatest readings.  The books contains timeless advice regarding how to best communicate the benefits of your brand to the target audience. The main idea it conveys is very a very valid one:”Advertising is salesmanship”. The only way to judge the effectiveness of an advertising campaign is to look at its effect on sales. Unfortunately this principle is often forgotten in today’s communication environment dominated by over-creativity.

Walter Isaacson : Steve Jobs-this is the only book on the list that I haven’t read yet. However I consider Steve Jobs the greatest marketer of our time, so a book about him is always an interesting read. The reviews have been very positive, so this title made it to my “Favorite books” list.

These books are a good starting point for anyone working or interested in Marketing and Brand Management. I invite you to visit my “Books” page for more great titles. As always I look forward to discover your favorite books in the Comments section below.