Is it Sales or is it Marketing?

Is it Sales or is it Marketing?

Why do many small and midsize businesses confuse sales and marketing? The answer often stems from a mistaken belief that the marketing role is simply to help sell. The real definition of marketing is much broader (see below).

Where does this misinformation come from? In many cases, it starts with the experience of business leaders. Many have “grown up” in an operational or technical role. Even those with sales experience often have a limited view of what marketing should do. Perhaps this is because in a smaller business, the broader marketing role often isn’t present at all or is done by the founder or the leader in an implicit way not labeled as marketing.

What is the right way to think about marketing? Let’s go to the source: here is Dr. Philip Kotler’s definition (author of the definitive textbook Marketing Management, now in its 11th edition).

Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.  Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.

 Marketing is often performed by a department within the organization. This is both good and bad. It’s good because it unites a group of trained people who focus on the marketing task. It’s bad because marketing activities should not be carried out in a single department but they should be manifest in all the activities of the organization.

The terms “small m” and “Big M” are sometimes used to distinguish this broader role (Big M) from the more tactical “small m” work. Using these terms, the mistake made by many businesses, large and small, is to focus on the small m and forget about the Big M.

If your business is stuck in a “small m” mindset, what should be the first steps to get out of the trap?

  1. Assign someone the “Big M” role. It should be one of your executives or, at least, they should oversee the effort.
  2. Assign resources. Start by thinking about what is needed to be the “canary in a coal mind” for your business. If you don’t have the skills in house (many smaller companies don’t), this is a good place for consultant help.
  3. Develop a 3 to 5-year marketing plan for your company that includes the key points from Kotler’s definition. Involve your leadership team to refine it and get buy in.

There is much more that can be done, but these simple steps will make a big difference to your company if it is missing Big M.