By Tom Dougherty
When Should Marketing Take a Front Seat?
Can a company transform itself from sales driven to marketing driven?
At some point in a company’s growth, there comes a time when it decides whether the product or service it offers has exponential growth opportunities. If these opportunities exist, then a strategy must be formed to take the company to its full potential. Often this involves a shift from a sales-driven focus to a marketing-driven status.
All change in the corporate world is stressful, even if it is positive change. Nevertheless, the move from sales to marketing is one of the most stressful. Why? Because it entails leaving “what brought us here” and embracing a future with which we are somewhat inexperienced. The entrepreneurial spirit that spurred the company growth in the first place needs to be harnessed and yet stimulated in a manageable way. The reason to make the change is simple: the bottom line.
If the product or service has mass appeal, it is more efficient cost-wise to market and advertise for the business than to expand the sales force. Cost per lead and cost per close should weigh in favor of advertising and marketing. If it does, then the return on investment will increase.
Top Sales People Do Not Great Marketers Make
Sales people are often put in charge of the marketing department and the mindsets are, and should be, vastly different. At times, they may well be at complete odds. Salespeople make their bread and butter by tailoring the sales argument to the prospect. If they are any good at all, they will avoid strict positioning and benefit because they know that all sales ultimately require “selling themselves.”
A predetermined sales argument and a scripted benefit presentation are their worst enemy and greatest nightmare. A top sales manager will try not to interfere with what works. Marketing is different. It is not by nature one-on-one and is designed to have mass influence. It requires a discipline and marketing shrewdness that flies in the face of much of the sales experience.
The disciplines needed to make the changes are exactly that — disciplines. In addition, more often than not, the lack of discipline and unorthodox approach of division heads has accounted for their prior success. However, just as the micro management that is instrumental in building a business suffocates its eventual growth, entrepreneurial marketing will derail the attempt to harness its momentum in a corporate culture.
The Cultures Can Work Together. Changing from Sales to Marketing
The secret to building marketing success is incorporating both cultures into the new one. It is preferable to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit because it is the germ of growth and innovation, but it needs to be harnessed.
The internal combustion engine gets its horsepower because the unbridled explosion of gasoline and spark is contained and focused within the mechanics of cylinder, piston, and valve. Corporate management must find a way to fan the flames of ingenuity. They must bolster the “take charge” attitude in the company’s middle management while wrestling the marketing power from the same individual units.
A Big Difference
Sales vs. Marketing? Marketing requires us to look at the target audience as a whole, understand them as a group, evaluate their psychographics as well as demographics, and apply a strategy that exploits the most powerful advantage available to us. Notice that I did not say the most powerful advantages we have.
This is important because marketing that works is always single-minded. A great marketing and advertising director will seek the counsel of the sales force when creating the strategy, but will avoid running the final product by them for approval. Why? Because salespeople deal with closing the sale and need lots of benefit weapons to be successful. They view marketing and advertising as a similar beast. Sure, the zebra and the horse might look similar, but genetically they are so different that they cannot successfully mate. Great advertising and marketing requires the identification of a position in the marketplace.
Don’t Be Myopic
The big picture is important here. Know the competition. Know the terrain. Know the target market. It is not enough to understand your product or your competition’s product; you need to understand their position in the marketplace.
Benefits tell only a small part of the story. If all that ever mattered was benefit and product superiority, then we would all be using Apple’s Macintosh and news from DELL would not matter to us at all. Salespeople care about benefits. Marketers care about ownership of strategic position.
The first step in building a brand position in the market is looking at your product or service in the crucible of the marketplace and identifying a germinal belief that relates to your business. What is it that the target market holds to be true in their lives? How does this understanding make your product or service a fundamental building block in their quest for fulfillment? What drives this category? What is the single most powerful statement you can make about your brand that might cause an action or change to take place in the precepts of the target audience?
Look for a Niche That You Can Own
Change the playing field and alter the selling argument. If one can successfully shift the view of the target audience, even slightly, one can mortally wound the competition. Remember, preference for a product need not be overwhelming. If your category creation can provide a simple “might be better” uncertainty to the status quo, you win. In a horse race, it is not necessary to win by a length — a nose will do just fine. No one remembers who took second place to Secretariat’s Kentucky Derby win. Yet, Secretariat won by a nose.
The opportunity here is to look at the category as it is. Most businesses have grown organically and so have the categories. It is an advantage to look at them and redefine them through careful planning. Then we must develop an understanding of the precepts that always drive them.
Once you have analyzed the market and category, once you have evaluated the target audiences based on the strategy of identifying the beliefs that drive them, one can begin the task of owning a position. Position speaks about your company. Your position statement should be answered by the question. “Why are we here?” it is your mission statement and corporate charter distilled down to a single and simple phrase. For the target audience, it is an elevating and aspiring reach that helps pay off the brand.
Position Is Not a Sales Tool
Position is like real estate. The more secluded and free of neighbors the more valuable the property is, provided it is located in a desirable area. A powerful position is your reason to be. It is the spark that ignited the company in the beginning and is the flame that keeps it going, growing, and innovating.
It must never be static and is never defined as a product or service. The best place to start is to look at what you do and ask yourself why you do it. Every product or service you provide meets a need. We are successful only if we create a new product to meet an existing need, illuminate a new need, and fill it, or improve an existing solution to a need.
The key element in all this is the word “need.” Positions are real only in the light of a real tangible need. The more immediate the need, the more powerful the position. Our job as marketers is to define the need in unshakeable terms and bring the benefit of vision. A great position allows for growth, change, and personal benefit. Once we know what our customer holds as being necessary, we can position ourselves as the company that understands the importance of delivering it, whatever it is.
This is a subtle difference. We are talking about what we believe, not what we do — it is in this difference that the marketing position takes its breadth of life. I have seen many poor positions in my experience — positions that are unbelievable, indefensible and without real meaning. Such as providing “better products, solutions or systems.” The problem with these ideas is that they have no meaning; they talk about what you do and not why you do it. Why you do it is a differentiating benefit that influences your target market. The more distinct the position is from the competition’s claims, the more powerful it becomes.
Marketing is a Different Focus and asks us to Make Some Changes from Sales to Marketing.
Without the focus provided by a powerful and distinct marketing position, branding, advertising and marketing dollars are wasted. To that end, it is inevitable that a consistency of message and centralization of marketing power be set. All aspects of the brand and position need to be reined in and one final authority needs to exist.
Marketing by committee means certain failure and can only be unlimited spending. David Ogilvy once said that there are no statues in the world of committees. The idea of a central theme and brand/marketing/advertising strategy is to manage spending and outperform an independent sales force. Once you have built and evaluated a position, efforts should be turned to the brand. Our theory of brand differs from the brand management used by package goods companies.
The old brand ideas have failed. Brand was supposed to protect margins against commodity products. However, I am hard pressed to name any package goods product that is not competing today on price and promotion. The care and concern of USP, tag line, logo and consistence of presence are important, but sound more like corporate identity to us than brand strategy. In the Stealing Share modern brand model, brand does not belong to you. It resides in the perception of your customer. We know that position speaks about us and proclaims our reason to be, but brand speaks about our customer and their need to become.
Marketing Needs Brand To Work
Brand is the expectation that the customer brings to the purchase of a product or service. It is the difference a customer is willing to pay for your product or service (read BRAND) over and above the accepted value of the commodity solution. In the realm of brand resides ail of your profit margins.
Brand answers the question “Who am I?” which refers to the customer, not you. Everyone is in a constant state of becoming and every purchase choice one makes is an attempt at reinforcing whom we believe we are. The purpose of brand is to make the use or purchase of your product or service irresistible, to make the target audience feel incomplete without it.
This means making sure that the tenor and personality you project are in keeping with the core beliefs of you target audience. Brand attracts the customer as ice cream attracts children. Building a brand is akin to turning on the power of an electromagnet. The more amps we send through the wire, the more attractive power it influences over the iron shavings it is designed to attract. Chat live with a brand strategist for help on growing from sales to marketing.