What Comes First: Marketing or Sales?

When it comes to growing your business, which weighs more – marketing or sales? Actually, the correct answer is neither. Unlike sports, there is no M.V.P. in this scenario, only teamwork and timing. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though. Most growing businesses either don’t have the budget. Some can’t maintain the collaboration between their marketing geniuses and their sales rock stars. So, the question is, who do you prioritize?

The Missing Link

Before we answer who deserves the priority, we have to understand the difference between sales and marketing. Many use these terms interchangeably, but there is a fine line between them – the type of communication. 

Marketing is done on a scale of one-to-many. That is, this field targets audiences on a bigger scale. Through marketing efforts, your company will communicate with people through different platforms such as print, radio, television, social media, and so on. These “announcements” give you a greater audience reach. Oftentimes, you’ll be able to target a specific segment, industry, or demographic, but there’s a catch – you can never have real human communication.

You see, the charm of direct human communication is the most effective. However, you’ll only achieve this on a smaller scale, usually during one-on-one conversations. Enter sales. This department in your company is responsible for qualifying prospects, booking meetings, and closing deals. 

Of course, sales agents get their leads from somewhere – the desk of their marketing co-worker. Now you see some connection between the two. Because those in sales rely on those in marketing, the leads have to be pertinent. Otherwise, all those marketing efforts will go to waste if they attract the wrong people. This “missing link” will definitely cause a decline in your sales and, quite possibly, a cold war inside the office.

If your sales and marketing staff are happily working together, that’s good. You’re on your way to raking in your financial goals. Now, if you’re just starting and don’t actually have two departments (or even two people) working on sales and on marketing, you have to pick just one.  

If You Only Have to Pick One

Here’s a common scenario – when a company is still at its early stages, it has very limited resources. You usually cannot go all out on marketing. There won’t be thousands of videos and have several press releases about you. You can’t have the intensive marketing campaigns that will broadcast your brand to the entire country. 

You may allocate more of your budget to sales, but make sure you also give enough attention to marketing

If you want to grow, you can’t hide under a rock either. Now and then, you’ll have to pay attention to sales, but propel them through marketing, too. The question is if you only have to pick one, which one will you focus on – marketing or sales?

I’ve seen several startups begin with marketing first, even before launching. They wanted to make a name in their industry, so they invested in email campaigns, YouTube ads, well-organized events, and several other marketing expenses. By the time they started getting real customers, they’d already depleted their funds and were unable to sustain their operations. They’ve diverted too much budget to marketing rather than working on the quality of their product or service. In marketing, when you “go big” unnecessarily, you end up “going home” because you were not able to balance your resources.

On the flip side, many small companies stay clear of marketing and just rely on their salespeople. They try to save their budget and leave the agent to negotiate on their own. These companies may have websites or a few marketing collaterals, but the way they present their company is lacking. It’s minimal to the bone, like a haphazard logo and that’s it. When your salespeople start directly reaching out to people with this type of branding, it doesn’t leave much of an impression. Worse, it might be damaging to your company’s credibility. 

Another mistake is not investing in knowledge. Salespeople should be properly trained on how to represent your company, so they can actually sell your product or service. This also goes hand-in-hand with targeting the correct leads. If you don’t have someone to determine “names” for your salespeople, they’ll be blindly entering the field. This hit-and-miss strategy will only waste time and effort. Since nobody is handling the marketing side of things, the company can convert only a few prospects into customers. 

If you only have to pick one, don’t. Stop for a moment and think about how you can balance both. Sure, you may allocate more of your budget to sales, but make sure you also give enough attention to marketing.

What Comes First: Marketing or Sales? – Youtube video

Hitting Two Birds with A Weighing Scale

You may have already figured it out. Yes, the secret to growth is balance. As you work on sales, you have to make marketing efforts, too. 

When you’re just starting or your annual revenue is less than 500,000 or one million euros, you don’t need to go all out on marketing. You don’t need to be on air or be endorsed by well-known personalities. You also don’t need 50 salespeople selling a single product right away. These are common “investment” mistakes that businessmen make.

In growth hacking, you’ll want to do both marketing and sales at the same time, no matter how small. Once you’ve set up your minimum viable marketing campaign, place it side-by-side with your minimum viable sales strategy. As you grow, you’ll build on these foundations equally. In time, you’ll reach a level that will allow you to scale your business much faster, all because you’ve set up an interdependency between your two “growth departments”.

You may be thinking, “I still have to start with a big budget for both sales and marketing, right?” Not really. We’ve found that B2B companies, specifically in Europe, it’s effective to start with a small marketing campaign that is supported by good sales conversion. There’s one company that’s selling a lifetime-value product worth 20,000 euros. What worked best for them was a digital marketing campaign. Over the course of one or two months, they’ve built their social media accounts. Eventually, hundreds and thousands of people got used to their presence. 

This very lean marketing approach allowed a better connection with their salespeople later on. Because of the concept of familiarity, it became easier for customers to say yes to calls, to meetings, and to consider negotiation points. 

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