In what we hope will become a recurring series, with _Ask EXERTUS…_, we set out to answer some of the commonly asked questions (or commonly addressed topics) brought up by our clients and peers. In our first installment, we set out to answer the age-old question: What is the difference between marketing and sales? Below, we delve into the differences between marketing and sales to help you better understand how each fits into your organization.

Question 1: What’s the difference between sales and marketing? Is there one?

Answer: Yes, there is definitely a divide between the two. Though they’re often confused for each other, and in fact, many business owners make this mistake, they are not the same. I like to say that sales is proselytizing while marketing is preaching. In one, you’re trying to convert the unconverted, while in the other, you’re speaking to the choir. They’re already in your pocket, you simply have to win them over and encourage them to action.

I like to say that sales is proselytizing while marketing is preaching. In one, you’re trying to convert the unconverted, while in the other, you’re speaking to the choir. They’re already in your pocket, you simply have to win them over and encourage them to action.

A good way of understanding the differences between the two is to think in terms of a real world analogy. Consider a door-to-door vacuum salesman, for example. That’s sales. He or she walks from one house to the next, knocks on the door of an unsuspecting customer, and tries valiantly to sell a vacuum to this person who until they opened the door, had no interest or inkling of buying a vacuum. It can be very, very hard, which is why cold calling is often a game of quantity over quality. Call as many people as you can, and eventually someone will bite.

Marketing is creating various materials for individuals who already have an inkling or an interest in purchasing a vacuum cleaner. You are simply providing these people with the information they need – through pamphlets, brochures, videos, radio ads, websites, and other marketing materials – to act on their impulse. The goals, processes, and audiences are fundamentally different. To confuse the two is a common but ultimately detrimental mistake.

Question 2: What advice do you have for business owners looking to expand their marketing efforts?

Answer: My first bit of advice would be to do it! Too many business owners focus on sales exclusively, while ignoring ongoing marketing efforts. And in doing so, they’re ignoring and under-serving what is likely a large audience. If you ignore the very individuals who are interested in your products or services, you’re fighting an uphill battle and making things needlessly hard on yourself.

The cumulative effect of these various efforts over time is a comprehensive and robust marketing initiative that can aid a company in branding, customer acquisition, customer retention, reputation management, and yes, even sales.

My other advice would be to start small and build. Marketing efforts can be wide-ranging and all-encompassing. If you’re starting from the ground up, marketing can be overwhelming. However, it’s crucial that companies start from somewhere and stick with their efforts. Over time, these efforts will grow and build on themselves. The cumulative effect of these various efforts over time is a comprehensive and robust marketing initiative that can aid a company in branding, customer acquisition, customer retention, reputation management, and yes, even sales. Take the door-to-door vacuum salesman; wouldn’t he have a better chance of selling his product if he was armed with supplementary marketing materials?

Question 3: What common mistakes do you see within the industry?

Answer: The most common mistake is engaging in marketing half-heartedly. A lot of business owners focus on sales almost exclusively. They’ll employ dozens of salespeople, at great expense, but will have little to no marketing team to speak of. They simply won’t make an effort. And what efforts they do make will be intermittent at best. This is not a path to success. Marketing must be ongoing, constant, and assured.

The most common mistake is engaging in marketing half-heartedly. This is not a path to success. Marketing must be ongoing, constant, and assured.

Marketing encompasses many things. It encompasses branding, it encompasses customer relations, it encompasses customer education. These are things that can’t be done half-heartedly. Take for example Twitter. How many companies have a Twitter account but no Twitter representative? If you are going to maintain a presence on Twitter, maintain a presence on Twitter. Don’t simply open an account and post a Tweet or two every month. That’s a non-starter when it comes to customer relations, and can actually backfire, as it will inform your business’s reputation. Choose the outlets you’re going to focus on, and focus on them. It’s better to do a few things extremely well than many things poorly.