Are Marketing and Sales the Same Thing for Startups?

It used to be that marketing and sales were two separate creatures.

In one corner, marketing focused on building brand awareness among target audiences. In another corner, sales was about driving leads and deals. Like church and state, the two worlds rarely converged.

For startups, however, this model can’t be embraced because, frankly, it doesn’t work. When you’re operating with limited or modest resources, having marketing and sales operate independently with their own distinct mandates is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, marketing and sales need to be mashed together or, at least, structured to be cohesive and coordinated groups that support and nurture each other. In many respects, marketers need to be salespeople, while salespeople have to be marketers.

With a fluid structure in place, a startup’s goals (customers, sales, profits) can be positioned as the common good, regardless of someone’s role or title.

This struck me as a key takeaway from a conference I attended earlier this week hosted by Klass Capital and PwC. There were two panels: one about marketing (which I was on) and a second on sales that featured Paul Jackson (Method CRM), Kirk Simpson (Wave Accounting), Don Mal (Vena Solutions) and Jason Atkins (360 Incentives)

All four CEOs head up venture-backed startups that are aggressively working to establish their brands and products within competitive markets. As they drive forward, it is easy to see how marketing and sales are working in parallel strategically and tactically.

In some respects, it’s like a 1 + 1 = 3 proposition where math not only works, but it has to work.

As marketers, it is sometimes easy to get tangled up in brand building, which involves a many moving parts. You begin to think that given all the hard marketing work being done, customers should be enthusiastically knocking on the door to buy your product.

As a result, it is easy to forget the sales process is oozing with marketing at each stage within the funnel. As a customer goes from awareness to exploration to consideration to purchase, marketing needs to help drive the process forward.

Given this reality, marketing and sales have to be working side by side to optimize what each other is doing. Just as marketing supports sales, sales drives marketing by working to ramp up the brand’s awareness and stature.

For startups looking to drive growth, the best move may be to have your marketing and sales people work together to determine the best ways to collectively be successful.

What do you think? Is this the way to go for startups?

If you’re looking for strategic and marketing help, my company, ME Consulting, works startups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their efforts.

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  • Garnet Waldron

    This is a great article Mark. I agree, in the startup space Sales and Marketing should be sitting beside each other, and sharing client feedback to hone the joint message. Like two sides of the same coin, they work together!!