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Monday, April 14, 2008

Marketing and selling -- linking or separating

This image is from a web page: Getting Started (as an entrepreneur) Presenting Your Plan; a section of a site developed by the National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance. The page specifically focuses on presenting your business plan, and the use of the "Elevator Pitch". And the example of the elevator pitch is that of an imaginary company selling construction work boots online.
ConstructionBoots.com is an e-commerce website that sells construction boots on a b2c and a b2b basis. Our primary market consists of construction workers, with secondary markets including other individuals and companies in the construction trade. We offer the highest quality products and drive traffic to the site by linking to other websites related to the construction industry. We believe the customer would find purchasing and direct delivery of construction boots through our website easier than purchasing via traditional retail outlets.
We believe we will be the only pure e-commerce construction boot site, but will face indirect competition from traditional brick and mortar b2b retailers who target the trade as well as traditional mass merchandisers. If all goes as planned, we would look to sell ConstructionBoots.com to an industry retailer who sells construction gear.”
In case you are wondering about "constructionboots.com" it is a website owned by someone exploiting keyword advertising links; trouble is, of course, most the college students driven to this site by the marketing "elevator pitch" example are probably not in the market for construction boots. Oh well, I guess this reference is giving a free ride to the exploiting site.
So, you may wonder, how does this relate to the linkage between marketing and selling? Well, maybe that is point!

Consultant Bill Caswell advocates that the lines of authority and leadership for the marketing and selling departments should be decoupled; and that it is especially dangerous to put someone with a sales focus in charge of the marketing responsibilities. In part, this is because he believes that marketing is future oriented or visionary, while selling is immediate or practical -- and if the two are pushed together the practical day-to-day selling responsibilities will overtake the necessary future perspective of marketing. His advocacy is that the marketing director reports directly to the CEO, not the sales director or vice-president.

Caswell's viewpoint is not universally accepted. Many people see marketing departments with bureaucracies and priorities far from the real needs of the business; instead of thinking in terms of practical realities -- and focusing on generating useful leads for the sales team -- the marketing 'experts' waste time on peripheral priorities; draining the company's coffers for results which, if they are measurable at all, often measure stuff that is of little use or value to the company's immediate or, for that matter, longer-term needs.

So which perspective is correct?

I'll side with Caswell on this one, with some big cautions. Our business, still in recovery mode, of course, is far too small to have a separate marketing and sales department and right now responsibilities for leading both departments is in my hands/head. In practice, the division of responsibility is working quite well -- I really am in charge of marketing, while I have delegated most of the day-to-day selling responsibilities to the sales team.

Marketing, if meant by branding, forward planning, and leads development, is very much my responsibility -- with of course input from the sales team and other employees. This blog, for example, is definitely all about marketing. It generates a few useful leads for the sales team but its main value (and the value of most of the leads generated) is much further down the road, when we are ready to operate in multiple cities and regions where we don't have much of a presence now. So is my involvement with the Society for Professional Marketing Services -- the contact network there, along with connections, relationships and learning process -- will prove useful value in the future along with some guidance in 'best practices' in the present.

But I can see plenty of examples where marketing specialists and departments don't connect properly to the sales department; they are far too focused on image and superficial assessments of 'branding' -- not appreciating the importance of actually helping the sales team bring in the business. Caswell, I suppose, would argue these departments have been infected by administrators ensuring correct procedures are followed, rather than visionaries with a forward-thinking perspective. (Administrators are of course essential for the effective running of any business; in fact, all businesses which wish to survive need structures and systems, as well as practical 'doers', but they also need some vision and respect or warmth, or as Caswell would suggest, some "friends".)

I can say this -- if your business is struggling to survive the recession, don't forget your vision, your future, your dreams, but probably you should put someone who cares about selling in charge of the marketing department unless it consists of one employee, who should be the boss/owner.

2 comments:

Daniel Smith said...

Interesting piece Mark.
One note about the intro though: Is it just me or was that the worst "elevator pitch" ever written?

I sure hope they're giving that one on the way up the CN tower because it took me over a minute just to read the thing at a comfortable pace!

Elevator pitches should be short (30 seconds MAX I have always heard) and moreover, simple. That thing was so long and convoluted it nearly put me to sleep...


What are your thoughts?

Mark Buckshon said...

Agreed!
Also, while I understand the intent, the words "elevator pitch" connotate something not so good -- they imply that pushing something about the pitcher's business is what really matters; when the real priority is the sensitivities na dinterests of the person being 'pitched'.