Marketing is linked closely with sales in that they are both focused on selling. Marketing is the precursor; it is intended to create recognition for a brand, build desire, and generate leads. Contrary to the urban myth, marketing’s purpose is not to close deals—that’s the job of the sales team.
The marketing tasks within the buying cycle require slightly different tactics. The buyer’s mindset varies depending on where he is in this cycle:
- Phase 1: Determining solutions for a business problem or need
- Phase 2: Researching and evaluating the provider to deliver that solution
- Phase 3: Choosing the provider
In Phase 1, the prospect is sparked by a need. Maybe their technology is outdated or they’re expanding and need to add to their existing systems. Or maybe they’re unhappy with the current solution they’re using. For whatever reason, they’re in the market for something new and different.
The prospect starts by doing research on the solution. They begin with brands they know, which is why image advertising is still essential. Ongoing advertising contributes to top of the mind awareness. And, according to a 2011 Gartner study, advertising is still the most influential medium for building awareness.
Once the prospect has narrowed down his product/service choices, he investigates the solutions providers who could deliver what he wants—exploring pricing, availability, warranties, and service. Most often in today’s marketplace, this step happens online, with the majority of buyers utilizing the convenience of the Web to check out companies. So, your website had better quickly and clearly differentiate your value proposition!
The buyer then contacts a few providers. This process starts online but usually ends up with a phone call or, depending on logistics and the dollar value of the sale, face to face. The quality of the sales contact is critical here. All the investment in advertising (for Phase 1) and the online presence (Phase 2) could be a waste if the salesperson doesn’t listen and respond to the needs of the buyer.
At every point in the buying cycle, be aware of your marketing and sales activities. Overall, they should work as a value chain, with each link as strong as the last and the next. Don’t allow a weak link to break the chain!