There are many explanations of the difference between marketing and sales, some quite long. But as is often the case, the best definitions are the simplest and shortest. Marketing is about the needs of the customer. Sales are about the company’s need to make the cash register ring.
One of the most often voiced comments intermediaries hear is something to the effect of, “my marketing efforts just don’t seem to be getting the results I want.” The astute intermediary –such as your Murphy Business broker — usually responds, “Do you mean your marketing efforts or do you mean your sales efforts?” The expected reply: “Same difference, right?” No! Marketing and sales are not interchangeable terms.
The definition of a market is “a group of people with similar traits and characteristics; wants, needs, desires, demands and the ability to buy,” according to Dr. Philip Kotler. So it is easy to accept the fact that a marketing department or a marketing person should be focused on defining who your market is, their common traits and characteristics, their wants and needs and their ability to buy. Then the ongoing task becomes discovering when and how there are changes in those wants, needs, demands and willingness to buy. Marketing data, in its purest form, becomes a huge part of the strategic decisions you need to make about what you will sell and the tactical decisions you need to make about how you will sell it. (Like the difference between marketing and sales, the difference between strategic and tactical decisions is often confused.)
So, now that we know marketing and sales are not interchangeable and very successful small businesses often engage in both, the question becomes: how? What tools and tactics do I use? How do I apply them?
As we said, the very first step is to carefully define your market using Kotler’s definition as your template. Given that you have done that well, and that you have determined whether you are market driven or product driven, then gathering market data — what do the people want and what will the people buy — is not particularly daunting. Among the tools you can use are:
- email surveys
- focus groups
- direct mail with pre-paid response cards
- census and other public databases for data mining
Marketing data, if properly collected, will almost always tell you what your customers will buy and often just how much they are willing to pay for it — all of which is strategic in nature.
Once you’ve made the strategic decisions (what we are going to do), then the tactical decisions (how are we going to do it?) are up next. Among the tactical tools readily and inexpensively available to small businesses for sales tactics are:
- BOGOs, two-fers, rebates and other offers
- direct sales
- phone apps
- value adds
- referral rewards
- frequent buyer programs
- product or service guarantees
All of these are designed to make the cash register ring – a key difference between marketing and sales.