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What is marketing?

Even though I feel like everyone knows this, let's start with the best definition according to Google:
"Marketing refers to activities a company undertakes to promote the buying or selling of a product or service. Marketing includes advertising, selling, and delivering products to consumers or other businesses. Some marketing is done by affiliates on behalf of a company."

So where most think that selling is for sales, this is actually not true. Marketing should not only sell, but also deliver products. So what is the difference? Where do we draw the line in the sand?

For me marketing is one-to-many and sales is one-to-one. And even though this is a common way to differentiate, many use it as an excuse to put the departments in silo's, communicate little and thereby undermine what every marketeers goal should be: bring in more money. 

Let's talk about money!

Almost every company I work for has 'making money' as the single most important goal. Some have a short-term strategy. Some rather consciously acquire debt now to accelerate growth to make more money in the future. And some companies focus on culture and people as they are the backbone not make more money.

But for marketing money is not always easily measurable. Every marketeer understands the pain of attribution. Even with the best tools is extremely inaccurate (despite that the sales person of that tool will convince you of the opposite).

Old school marketing is relatively easy: you have an ad. That goes to a landing page containing a form, sales has a chat and you have perfect attribution.

Welcome in the new age:

  1. Your Google search ad is clicked by manager A on his personal device.
  2. Intern B is then told to research, fill in the form, and download the whitepaper. And may even do that with his/her school email address.
  3. After a review by the manager this goes to the CTO, who types in the URL directly to research the company and decides this is interesting. So brings it to the CEO.
  4. After a demo, some negotiations etc etc the CFO signs the deal.

A typical buying committee will contain 6,7 people for larger B2B sales, but that obviously does not include manager A or the intern. After asking 'how did you hear about us' no one will even consider a simple search ad.

So as we can't attribute this, does that mean the ad-budget was wasted?

Attribution through leads.

Because of the complexity, and almost impossibility to accurately calculate ROI, many companies resort to the lead generation principal: Every lead that marketing has created or attributed to generates an estimated profit and with that we can calculate ROI.

Gated content is king because that gets us the details in the early stages, makes sure we can send that to sales and have a fantastic ROI. But there are two contradicting downsides:

  • People will not want to fill in their details and even though they may be interested will still look elsewhere
  • People will fill in their details to just get low value content and realistically should not be a lead (yet).

If marketing is siloed and does not look at the bigger picture this may be the best way to work actually. Still I think that nowadays times have changed. Customers both B2B as well as B2C make more educated decisions, and do not want to be bothered by yet another sales rep or be spammed by yet another mail or newsletter. 

Demand generation: the cool kid way?

So the answer seems simple: un-gate all content, make a clear path to talk to a sales person and the customers will come to you when they are ready. 
Or while we are at it: research has shown most customers do not want to talk to sales. So why not make an online quote tool and fire the whole sales team while we are at it?

Demand generation is the way to go in this new day and age. But it should not replace old-school marketing or lead-generation. With the last you will look at the people who are in-market. Potentially implement lead scoring and will help target the right people at the right time.

Demand generation is a fantastic way to target the 97% of people for who it is not the right time. People buy from companies and people they know. Even if they are not in market: get your name out there! Do they have the competitors solution: make sure you can still provide value.

But no, don't fire your sales reps. They are quite likely worth their weight in gold and will streamline the last bit of the buying cycle. And the best sales reps provide marketing with the most valuable insights about the market: what people want to know allowing marketeers to write more relevant content. And with that allowing sales reps doing less generic education and more time to focus on their unique value.