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CensoredTell a recruitment agent that you are looking to hire a Marketing Manager and dollars to donuts they will provide you with a position description and job advertisement laden with terms like ‘creative flair’, ‘innovative engagement’, ‘maintain brand image and awareness’.  Apart from being useless jargon, what all these terms imply is that the marketing department is the Poster Paint and Crayons Department and not a strategic business function.

Much of the confusion around marketing lies in the different specialties and different terms used in different industries.  What is marketing, and how does it compare to communications, business development and sales?

Marketing: Why it isn’t a Dirty Word

The American Marketing Association claims that marketing is “an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships”.

In many businesses this is the case, marketing is a siloed function whose sole purpose is to create promotional materials and communicate with customers.

The 9 Strategic team believe the definition should read, ‘Marketing is a detailed strategy for growing a business.  Its role is to grow tactical and strategic revenue, increase business valuation and capture market share.’

Strategic marketing links the business plan to tactical marketing efforts by evaluating a business and using these insights to generate profit and growth.  Strategic marketing utilizes disciplines such as communications, sales, product management, product innovation, information technology, information management and customer service.

A marketing function should consistently work towards a strategic purpose using a range of tactics. It should work hand-in-hand with your communications, IT, sales and finance functions; and, more crucially, the Marketing Director must have a seat at the boardroom table and have full access to the business plan.

Business Development: Another Term for Marketing?

Many Australian professional services businesses refer to their strategic marketing departments as business development (BD).  However, when you investigate BD departments in SME businesses the role of BD changes dramatically.

In the Forbes article, ‘What, Exactly, is Business Development?’ Scott Pollack explains many common misconceptions about BD: “Business development is sales… Business development is partnerships… Business development is hustling.”

In many Australian SME companies the role of BD is equally vague and falls somewhere between tactical marketing and sales.  Often, companies recruit BD personnel and are disappointed when they aren’t keen to settle down to make some cold calls and are bemused when their new recruits request a copy of the business plan.

Pollack ends up concluding that BD is sales and partnerships; creating strategic cash flow; finding the right customers; understanding which markets to play in; and building relationships with partners, customers, and employees.

Communications: Not Just Brochures and Websites

While the role of communications certainly encompasses the task of creating brochures and websites, the job doesn’t start and end there. Wikipedia defines communications management as:

“The systematic planning, implementing, monitoring, and revision of all the channels of communication within an organization, and between organizations; it also includes the organization and dissemination of new communication directives connected with an organization, network, or communications technology.”

This definition is spot-on.  However, what it fails to address is that your communications must be linked to your strategic marketing plan (which in turn is connected to your business plan). Indeed, the communications function is an integral part of strategic marketing.

Perhaps the most important tasks for the communications function are to communicate the goals, direction and strategy of the business to all employees; and to consistently and regularly communicate to all external stakeholders, including clients, prospects and channel partners.

In 9 Strategic’s 9 BoxesTM of marketing, the communications box is right at the heart.  Without effective communication strategy it is impossible to effectively find, convert and deliver clients.

Sales: No Longer Just a Numbers Game

In the past, the role of the sales department was much like a machine: contact as many leads as possible, identify their needs and help them make a purchasing decision. But while the role of sales has changed, many businesses cling to the old model.

Customers do the bulk of their purchasing research – up to 70% – online and this means that your sales team needs to build relationships and understand how customers want to purchase. To succeed in the new world of client-driven sales, sales teams must steer intelligent and intuitive conversations by:

  • collaborating, not selling;
  • delivering remarkable content that educates;
  • taking a long-term view to lead nurturing; and
  • understanding that reputation goes beyond a contact list.

Customers in this new purchasing dynamic are looking for a company that is prepared to invest in understanding their challenges.  It is now the role of a sales team to work in partnership with clients –  to find a uniquely developed or tailored solution, with the least risk possible, at an affordable price. In other words, marketing strategy leads sales strategy.

So what does it all mean?

While there are many and varied overlaps between all of the functions listed above, it is the role of strategic marketing to guide and direct them all.  Without a strategic marketing function the rest of your efforts to find, convert and deliver clients lack direction and risk working against each other.

Discover if your business is treating marketing like a dirty word by benchmarking your marketing performance.  Find out more about a strategic marketing review by contacting Nicola Dent-Votier on 0466 980 076 or emailing for more information.

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