When You’re Not Selling an iPad

(This is the first in a series of posts  devoted to Sales Strategies. To read other posts in this series, click the “Sales Strategies Series link in the right column.)

Often when talking with a small or medium size business, the conversation turns to marketing versus sales.  We would all love to live in that space where marketing alone is sufficient to generate the business we need.  Certainly new internet technologies have driven an impression that we can leverage the web, associated social media,and mobile applications and –voila! – we have business.  If only it were that easy.  The reality is that most companies who are getting decent business through the internet are investing significant dollars in internet marketing and also operating outbound call centers.  In other words, they are investing in both sales and marketing.

Take a look at the following chart:


Unless a business has deep pockets to invest into extensive marketing, branding, and advertising, and either serves a high-demand niche market or is first to market with an innovative (game-changing) product, a focused and deliberate sales effort is necessary.  A good example of a company that is able to function in the upper-left section of this curve is Apple.  Apple is known as an innovator, a game-changer, typically the first (or at least early) to market.  And they have the deep pockets necessary to bring the products to market.

Conversely, mature products with high-levels of competition function in the lower half of this curve.  An example of this might be the insurance industry.  “You’re in good hands” “we’re on your side,”  “so easy a cave man could do it,” and many other such slogans prove that they are investing huge amounts of money into marketing.  Yet they all have large, efficient sales engines too.  Though they have deep pockets, their products are more commoditized, and they have significant competition.

Most small-to-medium sized businesses operate in more traditional industries, face competitive pressures, and have a limited marketing budget.  In these types of situations, an effective sales strategy is essential.  That is not to say that “no” marketing should be done.  It absolutely should.  But, until the company has captured a reasonable share of the market (at least 15%), and is able to invest significant funds in marketing, it should focus its funds on lead-generation rather than branding.  Its sales and marketing strategies should be strongly coupled.

What does this mean for your business?

  • Where do you fall on the chart shown above?  Are you an innovator or are you fighting tooth and nail to get ahead in a competitive, mature industry?
  • What resources do you have for marketing?  Is lead-generation or branding a better investment for your business?
  • How closely coupled are your sales and marketing strategies?  Is your strategy aligned properly with the gross-revenue objectives of your company (this should be evident from current performance)?

There is an analytical approach to determining the right model for your company – a process to develop the right resourcing and investment strategy.  Stay tuned because this cannot be covered in a single post.  In the meantime, think through these questions and draw a horizontal line on the above chart depicting your current level of marketing investment, taking into consideration the examples given above.


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