Why digital marketing works differently – interplay between marketing and sales

How companies can improve their sales figures by working hand in hand with sales and marketing.

Digitalization also means rethinking marketing and sales. The article explains how to increase sales when everyone understands their new role.

In his book “Purple Cow,” Seth Godin describes the end of the so-called TV industrial complex. This refers to a system that has dominated the previous marketing landscape and enabled decades of economic growth. The idea behind it is simple and describes a previous “success formula” for economic growth.

  • Step 1: Select a market niche that is not yet occupied.
  • Step 2: Build a factory for the product or have it produced by other manufacturers.
  • Step 3: Invest millions in mass advertising for television and print media.
  • Step 4: The commercials bring distribution to retailers and sales in rows.

Clever companies used the profits generated from this to place even more advertisements, again increasing profits. With each round of money invested, the pie that was created became even bigger, and a positive cycle was created. Within a relatively short time, it was thus possible to build a very profitable brand. Once the brand had been positioned and demand had increased, it was also possible to raise prices, which meant that even more could be invested in advertising. Large corporations such as Nestlé or P&G used this to strengthen their position in the market and dominate their respective niches. It went so far that the products were only developed at all after the TV ads for them had been placed and a demand was already present.

The actual product was secondary in this context. At the center was a strong, broad-based marketing machine that persuaded people to buy. In this system, a wide reach of the ads with as many viewers as possible was essential. The individual interests of the target group were of little importance. People’s attention to something new that could be bought was still high at that time. For decades, this approach was also characterized by economic prosperity. The cost of living was comparatively low in relation to wage levels, the middle class had enough money to spend, and wages were rising. There was consumption in abundance.

Marketing as a simple but effective discipline - The cycle of marketing
Figure: Marketing as a simple but effective discipline – The cycle of marketing – Source: David Schneider

As long as this machine worked, it was enough to have an average product and an average sales force that subsequently processed the orders. There were enough customers who were repeatedly attracted by advertisements that one could afford to lose or even scare away a few of them again. Product cycles were long, you could reap the profits for years after a successful product launch. The individual products only had to be slightly differentiated and, thanks to the well-functioning marketing machinery, were able to generate profits for long periods of time.

What does marketing look like today?

Over the last few years, it has been repeatedly proven that people’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter. A rule in marketing is that a customer today needs at least seven interactions with a product before this customer even becomes aware that this product exists. This means that the first 6 times the ad is delivered without any result.

But that’s not all, people’s attention spans are constantly decreasing: We humans are getting better at tuning out things that are not important. According to estimates from the marketing industry, a person today sees between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements per day. Add to that the daily vibrating and ringing of smartphones, social media content, rising stress levels at work and, finally, even a personal life.

Therefore, for the self-protection of each individual, there is a filtering process that all content we see, hear or otherwise perceive must first pass through. So that we do not immediately fall ill with burnout, the vast majority of all external stimuli are therefore unconsciously blocked out and immediately ignored. We also no longer live in a post-war society where scarcity was prevalent and spending money on new products was exciting. On the contrary, we are flooded with the choice of a wide variety of brands, products and services that money could buy at any time. Putting your own product next to it now and saying “I’m there too” is no longer a working marketing strategy. It thus becomes harder and harder to reach the right people for my product, and also increasingly expensive.

Customer attention has become the most precious commodity in marketing today. This is because it is now very rare and customers are understandably very choosy about where they invest their precious time and where they don’t. The old rules of marketing according to the TV-industrial complex, as they were exemplified for decades, are therefore no longer usable today.

Attention is the new currency

At the end of the day, marketing is supposed to help sell products.

If we look at the sales process as a whole, it first begins by generating awareness of one’s product or company at some point. This is the beginning of our sales process. This attention can be used to generate leads that our digital sales force can then work with. Marketing must thus be integrated into the sales process and included as a component in an effective sales organization.

Today, there are also many more solutions for marketing than just TV, radio or print advertising. Today, modern platforms and advertising methods allow us to target precisely who advertising should and should not be delivered to. This enables a highly precise approach to marketing that did not exist before. Properly implemented, this can even reduce marketing costs and digital advertising methods offer improved precision of ads. Of course, this requires first understanding in detail the customer’s path along the customer journey and picking them up where it makes the most sense with exactly the right message for that moment.

This again brings new challenges. Before we can integrate marketing as a support for our sales, we have to answer some questions precisely:

  • Who exactly is my target group?
  • What do my best customers have in common?
  • How do I best reach them and on which medium?
  • What challenges do my customers have and how do I help solve them?

Marketing has not lost its importance, but it has certainly changed in the digital era. In any case, it is clear that the old techniques and approaches have come to an end and are no longer sufficient.

Marketing today is more targeted and provides concrete data that can be relied upon to proactively support the rest of the process. Any company that wants to digitalize its sales and build them effectively must see marketing as an integral part of the sales process.

The possibilities of digital marketing for sales

Think for a moment about your biggest competitor. Would it be interesting to know who visited his homepage? Would it benefit you if you could serve his website visitors directly with ads from you specifically targeted for them? Would you like to have a warning as soon as this competitor performs better than you in the search results online?

All of this can be set up with just a few clicks these days, if you know and understand the tools needed to do it. Some of it is even free. These are, for example, features that can be used for sales via Google Ads or Google Alerts. What you need to do for this is simply to acquire the relevant expertise or bring it into the company, because the programs can be very complex and are constantly changing.

Even specialized agencies therefore often don’t have an overview of all the details of these programs. Here, a lot can be glossed over from the outside, while hardly usable results are produced for the sales department. Therefore, beware of letting external service providers take over this extremely significant process for your business. For digital sales, these tools are essential and can make a significant contribution to lead generation. The programs can be used to spy on competitors, make advertising campaigns more effective, or for data generation of various kinds. However, this requires that someone with a full understanding of your sales process also manages the marketing programs.

The importance of the issue is too significant to outsource this part of the process, given the opportunities it offers. This is where the marketing and sales departments merge into one for the best possible results. If the sales team’s approach, process, pipeline, etc., is known to the marketing team, and in turn, these employees are relied upon to support it, marketing activities can be targeted. Don’t be put off by the complexity of a program or two. In fact, it’s usually just a few details in the settings that distinguish an effective online marketing campaign from a poorly performing one.

Even if agencies like to present it differently to you as a customer – the whole thing is not witchcraft and the essential functions can be learned in a few weeks even without much previous experience. There is a lot of free material in the form of YouTube tutorials, blog articles, and lectures organized by Google itself that teach you the tricks of the trade free of charge. The only condition is that someone from the company is interested in it and has the time resources to devote to it fully. In the long run, the company will definitely benefit from this know-how and thus has a digital tool at hand for sales that can be specifically adapted to the target group and thus actively support the sales process.

Combining sales and marketing into one unit

Modern sales is no longer to be understood only as classic sales, but has also been given an essential role by digitization (Read more: How to Digitalize Properly?), especially in the communication of the company. Sales employees are often the first point of contact for customers. Their words and appearance thus form the front line of the company in communicating with the market. These messages should therefore be as congruent as possible with the content on the company’s website, with the current marketing campaigns in the respective region, and with all other possible points of interaction. All of these together ideally create a picture in the customer’s mind that leads him to the decision to buy, if everything has been done right.

This means that classic advertising for a company, direct sales, the online presence of the respective company, sales promotions of all kinds and even the public relations activities of a company in digital sales form a self-contained, coordinated unit. Properly implemented, the end result of these many individual steps should be a process that symbiotically supports all other processes in the company and in which, like a gearbox, one cog meshes with the next.

The individual measures thus multiply their effectiveness, because customers subconsciously get the impression that they are receiving the same information from different sources and in different places, which helps to gain trust and increases the confirmation of the message sent out. This effect is artificially and deliberately brought about by the unified messages from sales and marketing. This unity also results in the entire customer journey that a customer goes through – from the first advertisement they see to the final conclusion of a contract. Marketing plays an essential role in this process through a strong presence in digital media. Customers are increasingly online these days, in almost every aspect of life. Effective advertising has to pick up the customer where he is currently. In most cases, this is online nowadays. Attracting customers’ attention to a product or company today therefore requires a composition of various marketing and sales activities, all of which must work in harmony like an orchestra to create an optimal image.

A study conducted by the University of Mannheim in 2005 proved that coordinated cooperation between marketing and sales has a direct relationship to the success of a company. In those companies where cooperation and coordination between the two areas was high, the return on sales was an average of 8% higher in each case than in comparable companies in which marketing and sales were managed as separate areas and did not interact with each other (Homburg, Jensen, Karmann, 2005). The actual impact can be amplified many times over with today’s data-based technologies available in marketing and sales.

Future of marketing and sales

Today, even from a marketing perspective, a variety of digitized tools are intervening to make operations more precise and efficient. Until now, it was always a mystery where exactly the marketing budget disappeared to. In the meantime, it is possible to trace every click, every interaction, every order, and thus determine which measures have brought results and which have not. The distinction in hardware or software of the individual programs is less relevant than the gain in efficiency and the possibilities to solve existing marketing problems better than one could before. This is also often associated with the collection of concrete data and the direct evaluation of the effectiveness of marketing activities on customer behavior that can be seen from it.

Thus, if we consider sales and marketing as a single unit, we have a completely new environment of possibilities at our disposal. Again, these can be customized or combined, resulting in a seemingly endless number of options for how sales can take advantage of this. Adapting to this new reality requires not only alignment and coordination between marketing and sales on a digital level, but also an ever-present need to adapt to new conditions that the company faces as a result.

However, with all these wondrous technical possibilities, the consistency and longevity of individual methods have unfortunately declined. Trends come and go, updates change entire communication channels overnight. Users on the respective platforms are once again adapting their habits to the new circumstances. Changing customer behavior and the associated realignment of communication policy and sales strategy demand the highest flexibility from both employees and management with regard to the situation and the wishes of the customer. In digital marketing, the ability to adapt to new situations is the most important measure of long-term success.

Those who take on this task can look forward to better sales figures and greater effectiveness in customer acquisition in the long term.

David A. Schneider hat über 10 Jahre an vorderster Front im Vertrieb und im direkten Marketing verbracht. Sein erstes Unternehmen hat er mit 18 Jahren gegründet und war seither von den Möglichkeiten und Auswirkungen des Unternehmertums auf unsere Gesellschaft fasziniert. Seit Jahren hat er es sich zur Aufgabe gemacht, ein Buch pro Woche zu lesen und die Inhalte in der Praxis anzuwenden. In diversen Branchen hat er damit bereits überdurchschnittliche Ergebnisse erzielt, indem er seine Arbeitsweisen stets an die neuesten Technologien anpasst und orientiert. Derzeit hat er eine leitende Funktion in einem Familienunternehmen mit 150 Mitarbeitern und teilt sein Wissen als Autor, Blogger und Unternehmensberater mit seinen Kunden und Lesern.

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