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East of England Cambridge

Outside-In Marketing – why?

20 Mar 2018
Outside In Marketing - Malcolm Johnston

Sales and marketing have always made slightly odd and awkward bedfellows.

Despite their differences, however, the sleeping arrangements were clearly defined: each had their own side and there was no argument over the dividing line. Everyone knew the rules.

Now, however, marketing has started slowly taking more of the duvet and it’s encroaching on sales with each passing night. Why? Not because it wants the whole bed, it’s because the relationship between the two is getting serious, and it needs to get closer.

Before this analogy gets too raunchy, let’s step back a little.

The two departments used to be strictly defined: marketing generated leads, sales nurtured those leads and closed deals. The customer’s journey to purchase was simple and the ‘hand-off’ between sales and marketing was clear.

Today, a prospective customer will make a series of interactions with different areas of a business we once knew as ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’ – shuttling back and forth between the two. The journey from prospect to customer is now more complex and, as a result, the distinction between the two roles is less defined than ever. Add in the servitisation of many propositions and the enhanced role of customer service and we can all sense the challenges of three groups fighting over the duvet!

This blurring of the lines has implications for the way business owners structure their teams and invest scarce resource.

What’s changed?

The roles of sales, marketing and customer service now overlap in so many key areas – pricing, promotions and customer satisfaction among them – that’s it’s difficult to define a distinct ‘hand-off’ at all. If we think about the purchase funnel with awareness at the top and loyalty at the bottom, marketing now has a hand in all levels, not just generating leads but helping close deals then nurturing a customer into becoming a loyal client.

At the awareness and interest stages, customers often decide to buy before interacting with a sales person at all. They’re less trusting of sales messaging and far less tolerant of messages that don’t recognise their particular need at their specific point in the purchase process.

Instead, they trust Google: 67% of customers claim that online reviews influence their purchasing decisions while a survey by Roper Public Affairs found that 80% of business decision-makers said they prefer to get information via articles, not ads. This is information that the sales team of twenty years ago would deliver either in person or over the phone.

Marketing now has to establish internal processes to identify what customers value about a proposition and then turn that data into insights on which sales, customer service and marketing can act. Disconnected messaging communicated by a business will result in lost opportunities to convert. Businesses need to educate and inform customers about their proposition through strong, engaging content based on what the triumvirate of marketing/ sales/ customer service have identified as the customer needs. For content and messaging to be effective however, they have to address the pain points of the individuals within the DMU and talk about UPB (Unique Perceived Benefits) and not the USP – and this direct relationship with individual elements of the DMU used to be the preserve of the sales team.

Couple this with increasing use of automation – automated email marketing campaigns edging out cold calling, mailing lists edging out regular contact with a sales rep, and CRM systems monitoring each customer’s place in the buying cycle from the moment they first contact the business – and it’s no surprise that the traditional role of the salesman is changing. Marketing and customer service are involved much further along the buying cycle and are much more involved in building rapport and relationships with individual customers than ever before – even at the so called dormant stage of the buying cycle.

What are the implications?

For a business owner, the implications of this change are huge. The most obvious changes are in business structure and systems.

As these roles blend, should they be separate departments at all, or simply one entity pushing in the same direction: a growth team if you like or a customer experience team? Similarly, with marketing working further down the funnel than ever before, a business owner should question whether having a huge sales force on the road is cost effective. Is it still the best use of resource?

With marketing managing the identification and communication of value, building relationships and developing a steady stream of qualified leads to the sales team, sales jobs should be easier and conversion rates should be higher.

As prospective customers have access to more information about products and services, they are increasingly empowered to make buying decisions for themselves. That information typically isn’t coming from sales personnel and customer service – it’s coming from reviews and reportage that’s influenced and nurtured by marketing, yet outside of its direct control.

So, while it might seem that marketing is trying to get a better night’s sleep by taking up more of the bed, sales, customer service (and business owners) should embrace and encourage marketing in this new space. We’ll all get a better night’s sleep because of it.

Written by:  Malcolm Johnston, Regional Direction, The Marketing Centre

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