Blurred Lines: Where Does Marketing End and Sales Begin?

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Historically, over 96% of small businesses fail within 10 years, partly because the small-business entrepreneur needs to develop competencies in a very wide range of critical areas. BrightTALK’s “Breakthroughs for Small Business” Summit was created to help the small business meet evergreen needs with today’s technologies –and the new strategies they enable.

Tony Robbins opened the program by mentioning Peter Drucker’s famous dictum about business:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Our own Atri Chatterjee, Chief Marketing Officer of Act-On Software, addressed the evolving continuum of marketing and sales and how that affects customer communications in the presentation, “Blurred Lines: Where Does Marketing End and Sales Begin?”

This on-demand webinar is packed with useful information tailored to the small and medium-sized business looking for new growth strategies. We took notes, and here are a few of the key points:

Marketing has changed

""Traditionally, marketing was responsible for “air cover” – advertising, branding, public relations, awareness building. It was disjointed from sales, especially B2B sales, whose role was going out and closing deals. There wasn’t much correlation between the marketing effort and how it actually translated into selling, partly because it was hard to measure.

Today the buyer’s journey is quite different, and consequently so is marketing.

Here’s one very simple example: 78% of purchasers now start the buying process with a web search, and at least 50% turn to social media and peer reviews to glean insight about  a particular product or service. This has become an enormous advantage for the small or mid-size business; the Net is a huge equalizer.

Using the Internet effectively begins with building a strategy around understanding your buyer. It includes seeing how buyers interact with you online, measuring their behavior, and tying that intelligence into your marketing and sales process. You’ll need tools to do this; you can use point tools or  a marketing automation system that integrates your email marketing with those tools.

Optimize your lead to revenue process at each stage.

Buyers go through different stages. The journey changes with the buyer, the product or service, the budget, the industry and other factors, but each buyer’s journey  follows roughly this same pattern. You should have a specific set of goals, and tactics for engaging with prospects, at each different stage.

  • Awareness. The buyer becomes aware of a problem, then aware of possible solutions. It’s all about getting your brand out there, getting found, and getting known. SEO is important; when people are searching for what you sell, you need to ensure they can find you.  Advertising is helpful, but it’s expensive and by itself isn’t enough. Public relations and talking to industry influencers are useful. Social media provides key channels all across this entire process.
  • Consideration.  In the consideration phase, you narrow down your interactions more. You begin having conversations with prospects, perhaps you get an email address and a little bit of profile information about them, they may volunteer certain intents to you. This is where you create a dialogue to help get them through to the next stage, preference, and this is where the concept of nurturing and interaction really comes in.
  • Preference. The buyer begins to develop product preferences, which may or may not be borne out through the sales process. This is about more than just buying something; it’s about creating a trusted relationship that will continue during the purchase and loyalty period.
  • Purchase. The buyer commits and becomes a customer. Your job at this stage is to make this a successful transition, helping them get up to speed and reinforcing their choice of your offering. Some purchasers will like joining a community of others using your products and services.
  • Loyalty. In this post-purchase phase, you take care of your customer, to increase lifetime customer value and the likelihood of an up-sell.

As a small or mid-size business, if you’re looking to increase your market penetration or launch a new product, you have to factor in your online strategy and your content approach and tie it to these different stages.

buyer's journey stages

Content, and becoming a trusted advisor

Offering value is key at every stage of the customer lifecycle, and the delivery mechanism is great content.

You should have a strategy for how you’re going to engage people when they’re doing that initial research, when they’re looking at potential opportunities or various options, when they are forming preferences, and as they prepare to purchase. If you do content right stage-to-stage, your potential buyers will see you as a provider of trustworthy information that corresponds to what they would receive as a customer using your product or service.

The best-performing content is educational and engaging, not promotional. Develop a curriculum and a content distribution plan that matches the buyer’s journey.

Multi-channel strategies

Once you’ve created this content, optimized it for search, and posted it on your website, you should reinforce it with distribution across multiple channels. Put it up on your Facebook page, post it to LinkedIn, YouTube and SlideShare, and use Twitter and other channels to share it. People believe that the recommendations and information they get on social media are more unbiased than the voice of the vendor itself, so be sure to  promote your content in forums where unbiased people can react to it. All these things tie into improving your visibility and trustability during the awareness and consideration phases, and validate a decision to purchase.

Atri went on to talk about how marketing automation facilitates customer communications, the revenue process, measurements and metrics, and sales and marketing alignment.  His presentation was followed by a question-and-answer session that included a discussion on marketing to Millennials and Boomers.  You can catch the entire session on demand here.

Watch Blurred Lines