Marketing is The New Sales


We live in a new world order. Where once the sales process for any business was a reasonably direct tool that began with an advert, was followed up by a smart-talking sales rep, and where marketing was its fluffy counterpart, today, marketing is inextricably linked to sales. It has multiple facets and different job roles to ensure success not once per customer but repeatedly.

Crucially, the mindset shift has changed from old-school sales to modern marketing. That means that instead of focusing on making a sale and moving on, marketing is about building long-term customer relationships with a view to sustainable business growth and repeat sales/ subscription retention.

This article delves deeper into how marketing has become the new sales and what that looks like for modern businesses.

Out with the sales funnel; in with the marketing flywheel

Historically, we used a sales funnel to move customers towards sales, but that's no longer the way customers think or purchase.

People used to find out about a brand, speak to a sales rep and move into a pathway towards buying. In a digital world, conversations happen in more places and amongst more people; customers can find out about you through all manner of places, and it takes time to build trust in a brand - but in the long term, it's worth it. In addition, where a funnel has a beginning, middle and end, we're looking towards sustainable sales in a modern world, particularly in organisations that offer subscription models, which is very much the trend.

HubSpot describes the modern gold sales and marketing standard as 'growing better'. They write: "Companies that align their success with their customers not only scale but create delight, loyalty, and love from the people who matter most. When companies grow better, they meet even the highest customer expectations, resulting in a better business, better relationships, and a better path to growth."

In doing this, they talk about their 'flywheel' approach. A flywheel is a mechanical device that stores energy to give it powerful momentum. In the flywheel approach to sales and marketing, you use the momentum of your happy customers to drive referrals and repeat sales - in essence, to keep your business spinning.

Instead of a straight line towards a single sale, it becomes a circular approach that attracts strangers and engages with prospects who become customers. The process doesn't stop there, though. By continuing to engage and delight through product, service and customer experience, customers become an invaluable part of your marketing process, promoting your business and becoming brand advocates.

Modern marketing and the customer experience

Central to modern marketing is not simply clever straplines and pretty imagery but a holistic approach to the whole customer experience. From engagement to customer service and the ease of purchasing on your website - all these things contribute to the marketing process, and it's much more about building relationships than hard sales.

For example:

Attracting new customers

Attracting new customers is done through a multifaceted approach to educating, informing and entertaining using:

  • Content marketing
  • Search engine optimisation
  • Social media marketing
  • Social selling
  • Targeted paid advertising
  • Conversion rate optimisation

Engaging with customers

Engaging with customers is about their interactions with you - how easy is it to shop on your site? Can they find information and products easily? Is the customer journey seamless and barrier-free? HubSpot says: "Focus on opening relationships, not just closing deals."

Key features include:

  • Website and email personalisation
  • Database segmentation
  • Marketing automation
  • Lead nurturing
  • Multichannel communications (chat, phone, messaging, email)
  • Sales automation
  • Lead scoring
  • Try before you buy programs

Marketing that turns customers into brand advocates

In this circular approach to marketing, brands successfully achieve a cumulative and self-sustaining growth pattern thanks to their happy customers. When customers are delighted by their experience with you, as well as the product or service, they should do two things:

  • Firstly, they are likely to purchase again or retain a subscription.
  • Secondly, they are more likely to recommend you to other people and become an integral part of your PR.

To get a sense of how important customer, reviews, referrals and word-of-mouth are, you may be interested to know that:

  • Companies that lead in customer experience outperform laggards by nearly 80%.
  • Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don't focus on customers.
  • Loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again and four times more likely to refer a friend to the company.
  • Customers are likely to spend 140% more after a positive experience than customers who report negative experiences.

(Ref: Forbes)

In addition, it's estimated that:

  • Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
  • 65% of new business opportunities come from referrals and recommendations.
  • 82% of small businesses claim referrals as their primary source of new business.
  • 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know.
  • 97% of people read online reviews of small and local businesses.

(Ref: Signpost)

Key elements you can leverage to delight your customers include:

  • Self-service
  • Proactive customer service
  • Multichannel availability (chat, messaging, phone, email)
  • Ticketing systems
  • Automated onboarding
  • Customer feedback surveys
  • Loyalty programs

The skills for modern marketing

While this might all make a lot of sense, how do you put modern marketing into practice? Businesses need to focus not just on their intention but cultivating the strategy, capabilities and skills within their team to accommodate this shift.

A survey by McKinsey researching B2B buyers and sellers around the world found that 55% of sales leaders felt only around half their sales force has the required capabilities for driving B2B revenue growth in the new world order.

They estimate that to deliver excellence in today's environment, B2B sales organisations will need to make three seismic shifts in the way they approach clients and lead teams:

Become omnichannel orchestrators

The survey noted that the average buyers now use 10 or more channels as they journey through the buying process. They said: "sales leaders will need granular data and AI analytics capabilities to discern what information and which interactions are most helpful to reach specific audiences."

Furthermore, in HubSpot's 2022 Sales Strategy & Trends Report, "33% of sales reps say they average 2-4 interactions with prospects in the sales process. Trailing close behind, 26% of reps report 5-7 interactions." In addition, it found that "84% of sales professionals communicate with a prospect on 2-4 different channels (i.e., email, social media, text, live chat, etc.)."

Adopt a value-creation mindset

McKinsey found that B2Bs with the fastest revenue growth rates are approaching customers sooner and with a more consultative mindset. The emphasis is very much on maintaining customer relationships - which includes looking after existing customers rather than making the primary focus on new customer acquisition. This is savvy on two fronts - it's more costly to win new customers than to retain existing ones; it also makes a business a much stronger and more valuable asset if it has substantial repeat revenue.

HubSpot noted that 26% of sales reps report an increased focus on existing customers in 2022. They said: "almost 90% of sales professionals try to upsell their customers. As a result, almost half of companies report up to 30% of their revenue comes from upselling. When it comes to cross-selling, 80% of sales professionals use this tactic. 42% of companies see 11-30% of their revenue come from cross-selling."

Enable continuous change management

McKinsey said: "65% of sales leaders said they believe that the speed of change has increased over the past few years, and 85% believe that adopting agile working methods will be critical for success in the coming years."

In short, businesses and their sales and marketing teams need to become much more adaptable, willing to learn and evolve, and more willing to engage with customers on an ongoing basis.

From our experience, research and HubSpot's sales reports, the key to unlocking this circular way of working is achieving greater alignment between sales and marketing. However, HubSpot found that only 23% of companies surveyed believe that their companies are achieving that goal. Increasing collaboration between sales and marketing is not easy, but it does reap rewards: "28% of salespeople say it improves the customer experience, and 26% report stronger lead quality" (HubSpot).

Pivoting to this way of working can sound pretty overwhelming. The chances are you have some of these processes in place or partly in place already, but deciding which tools to use, metrics to track and skills development pathways to adopt can feel daunting. To some extent, there is a cost investment to develop a strategy that's clearly in line with your business objectives. However, mostly it's a time investment to align your business culture, marketing and sales with your commercial goals.

At gigCMO, we take a systematic approach to analysing where you are and where you want to go with your business. We have always asserted that sales and marketing are not mutually exclusive; it's a model that we use ourselves and bring to our clients, applied through a playbook approach designed to adapt to the changing world around us.

Creating a powerful partnership. Find out more about how the relationship between sales and marketing drives business success.
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