In June I met with JW, owner of one of the biggest soft drink distributors in North America. During our dinner, the Maître approached him to describe a certain wine to try as it could have certainly met his tastes – I don’t drink alcohol so I was not in target. JW liked the given description and said yes to the wine. After 40 minutes or so, we had not received any wine so he got annoyed. “You see?” he commented “this is bad marketing. The Maître persuaded me to buy, then he didn’t deliver so he lost a customer”. My prompt answer was: “Wait a minute, this is not marketing’s fault and I’ll explain why. The Maître was actually – marketing -. He delivered the message, he persuaded you to buy and was successful because you said yes. Then he told – sales? – to bring the wine to you and the – sales guy/customer service – failed to bring the product so the company (the restaurant in this case) lost a customer”.
He didn’t agree with my point and I didn’t change my opinion, at least that evening. A little background about JW, twenty years ago, he bought a bankrupted drink company for peanuts and, July of last year, he sold it for a huge amount of money. My common sense tells me, no matter what, he would be always right.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, I would say we were both right and both biased. My bias is connected to the industry, I work in a B2B business and the role of the sales rep is still considerable (not for long, though). As I tell my colleagues in sales, right now, no matter how much awareness we create (by “we” I mean the marketing team), and how effective our message is and the strategy and the target, if you don’t go to the prospects to close the deal, nothing will matter. Clearly, marketing success can only be measured with the right goals, metrics and expectations so in the above situation, marketing was absolutely successful. On the other hand, JW is an entrepreneur, his goal is sales, no matter who makes the sales within the company and if the sales are not made, it is a failure and an issue of the entire company. I can see his point.
What I learned from all these years of marketing experience is to be sure the marketing investment makes sense hence, my suggestion is to start from the P&L. Always connect your marketing activities to sales, a priori or a posteriori but make sure to create the link. Don’t assume people in front of you understand what you are talking about. A lot of people do not know how to read KPIs and metrics, so don’t give anything for guaranteed: explain, give details, and create logical connections between strategy, action and ROI. Remember Peter Principle? Here is a link if you want to know more about it. It applies almost all the times.