Sales versus marketing roles in the on-line environment

Bricks & mortar history

Conflicts between sales and marketing personnel are not new. Despite all of the rhetoric that “we are all part of the same team” there is inevitably a blame game in many organizations when reality falls short of expectations.

It is instructive to consider the “bricks and mortar” trading environment before moving on to the on-line version:

After the product managers, engineers and/or designers have done their thing and the widget is ready to launch on the market, the initial responsibility for effective distribution falls upon the sales force. It must generally achieve acceptance by resellers that may be wholesalers, agents, but also typically the mix of major and minor retailers. Sure, the marketing department plays its part with supporting material like selling aids, trade and maybe end-user advertising but it is the sales team that must get the orders.

Let’s assume in this scenario that the sales launch is successful and broad distribution is achieved. The distribution pipeline is filling and the product is appearing on the shelves, regardless of whether the sales figures reach their targets.

So far, so good and management are generally happy campers. BUT, the game isn’t over yet by any means. Very few more sales will occur until the product moves off those shelves by customer purchases, so that reorders occur. If they do not, or fall below expectations then marketing generally gets the blame even though major attempts may be made to blame the sales force for not following through effectively. Sound familiar?

The on-line business model

Let's assume that bricks and mortar resellers are not involved. It is tempting to dismiss the former scenario as irrelevant, but is it?

Not very different from the bricks and mortar example, the sales team plays a critical part except that in the on-line version, the reach of the campaign is the equivalent of pipeline sales. However wonderful the product and even if those propositions are well-communicated, they must be seen by the prospective purchasers. “Oh but I have a website” is just not going to cut it. The sales mix should surely combine all of the facets of communication that are available and this may include search engine positioning, advertising, PR and whatever else can contribute to awareness. The objective is to get action.

But for marketing, even if the sales mix is effective, the promise must genuinely reflect reality. The promises (called Value Propositions) need to be tangible enough convert interest to purchase. No matter how wonderful the graphics of the website (or direct consumer advertising for that matter) it is the relevant communication of the potential benefits that will result in success or failure. To express it another way, CONTENT as usual is the critical factor.

This is essentially a marketing issue. If the offer fails to appeal, the project is doomed. Benefit communication is both a science as well as an art and it may be wise to get professional help.

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