Many business owners and practitioners mistakenly think of selling and marketing as interchangeable concepts. This is particularly true in the case of small businesses, which often equates marketing with selling due to organizational and resource limitations. But even if sales and marketing are intrinsically linked, the fact is that they are two very different business activities.
Selling begins when a product or service becomes available for consumption or use. This function covers placement of products in appropriate distribution/selling channels, building the retailers’ awareness and confidence on the product and cultivating customer advocacy for the maker of the product or service.
Marketing, on the other hand, is much broader in scope and starts long before the selling process takes place. It covers everything about the market, the consumer, and the brand.
Marketing is about creating consumer-relevant brand values that satisfy specific market needs. It is about building product and brand awareness, influencing consumers’ preferences and purchase considerations, and making the consumers repeatedly avail / purchase the marketer’s offering.
Marketing and sales are complementary functions, any one of which can’t achieve its goals without the other. And they need two key elements to make them successfully do this: (1) an extensive understanding of their customers, and (2) the ability to adapt to the changing needs, attitudes, and behaviors of the market.
To ensure continuing sales success, a marketing strategy needs to achieve four specific goals for a particular product or service: strong consumer focus, meaningful segmentation, clear and compelling brand positioning, and a relevant marketing mix.
Strong consumer focus. Nobody buys anything for what it is. Consumers purchase a product or service for what they think it does to them (benefit). Thus, it is a must for companies to be grounded on solid understanding of the consumer or customer. They should find out as much information about their target through relevant consumer researches or studies. They should be aware of what makes their customers/ consumers want to buy a specific item or service.
Marketers have the tendency to want to develop products that carry superior functional claims. Though this is a good thing, it is not always possible to achieve such demonstrable product superiority such as technical or cost limitations. Moreover, such superiority may not always be sustainable as competitors often try to outperform, if not match, benefits or propositions being offered by competition.
This is why it is important for companies to come up with offerings that more than demonstrate functional superiority, satisfy specific needs or desires of consumers. This can come in various forms—packaging, sizing innovation, distribution, advertising—and dimensions that are functional, sensual and emotional.
Meaningful segmentation. To really know their target market, marketers need to identify the group of consumers that has the strongest need for or affinity to the brand. Every consumer is, of course, unique. Each has needs that are different from others, so it would be unwise to custom-fit a product or service offering to a single individual. For the same reason, it would be impractical to expect the needs of all consumers to be satisfied by a single product or service offering. Thus, the most cost-effective, practical way to market a product is to target a specific group of customers and consumers with largely similar needs.
This is where market segmentation comes in—identifying and targeting a group of consumers that are in some demonstrable way similar to one another but different from the rest of the market. Determining the most apt group of consumers for its product or service can, of course, be done through an appropriate market segmentation study.