Ever asked yourself what the difference is between sales and marketing? In this, the first of my articles, we will start with the basics of what marketing is and how sales fit in.
Most marketing specialists would agree that marketing is “a process of management that understands in detail the needs and wants of its customers and provides products or services to meet or exceed their expectations – profitably”.
Marketing or “market orientation” is the process of management at the heart of just about every well-known global business today because production, technical and sales orientation in history failed. The reason other types of business orientations failed is because the management teams didn’t focus on the needs or wants of the customer; they focused on their own needs. This is how British management lost the motorcycle industry.
For a builders’ merchant to become market-orientated they need to put marketing as a process of management at the very heart of the business. Builders’ merchants often invest significant sums of money in sales and far too little in marketing. It’s fair to say most people understand what sales are but ask do yourself: do you really understand marketing?
In marketing there is a thing called the “promotional mix” – this could be an advert on the side of your lorry, a brochure, a radio advert, a PR article, a display area, an exhibition, samples of products, social media, a website or a person working in sales. So there you have it, a sales person is part of the promotional mix and the promotional mix is part of marketing. Therefore sales is part marketing, not something separate or the other way around.
The question is, as a merchant is your business sales or market-orientated or indeed something else? A simple way to find this out is to ask yourself whether you have marketing as a process of management, and who decides on business strategy, tactics, budgets etc. Do you carry out independent market research and do you have market audits and marketing plans?
Many builders’ merchants think they know the needs and wants of their customers but these opinions are built upon a dangerous way of obtaining information. Often it’s their own opinion and not the customer’s. As an owner or manager of a builder’s merchant your opinion on bricks for example may be: “we supply top quality branded bricks” but when you ask a large group of customers in research they may say you supply poor quality branded bricks. It’s dangerous to use “your own opinion as a manager or owner” as you’re not the one who is buying them.
The success of builder’s merchants in today’s market is often measured by retaining customers rather than growth strategies. The best way to do this is by putting marketing at the heart of your business, because through a greater understanding of the needs and wants of your customers, operational strategies can then be put in place to meet or exceed their expectations and as a result sales will follow. In other words you wouldn’t drive a car in the dark without lights on so ask yourself, would you do the same to your business?
Remember, marketing is not a cost, it’s an investment – and furthermore it doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be done.
Tony Crutcher is a building materials sales and marketing specialist.