Didn’t expect that one? True, it isn’t the natural assumption of most marketers, particularly in B2B. We could wax lyrical for hours about the aligning of both the marketing and sales departments. But are we getting the balance right? Read on to find out which one makes the most sense, finance and marketing or sales and marketing.
A brief history of sales and marketing
Once upon a time, many may have viewed B2B and B2C marketing as the same. After all, isn’t it marketing’s job to communicate value in both fields? Are there customers at the end of both campaigns? Back yonder, many a sales department scoffed at marketing’s ‘brand building’ and ‘colouring-in’ skills. That partly missed the point but may not have been entirely untrue in the B2B world.
Fast-forward a few decades and marketing is now a technological and analytical powerhouse. Yes, the sales team has a powerful ally in the fight to capture valuable leads and sales won. But how did this change happen? Somewhere along the way, the scoffing stuck with boards and investors who demanded ‘value’ from marketers. Ultimately, many marketing teams picked up the baton and began a journey towards a partner of sales.
Marketing or sales?
Of course, this isn’t really an option in B2B. Whether you like it or not, prospects are now up to 80% down the sales and marketing funnel before speaking to an account manager. In the age of big data, digital everything and self-educating users, prospective customers are part-way to making a decision already.
Across the table from those intrepid B2B marketers are their B2C counterparts. A B2C reader would wonder what the fuss is all about at this point. Tasked with communicating brand value and/or product benefits, they rule the roost. B2C marketers generally don’t need to worry about the sales department and thus in many eyes have less accountability.
The sales support function?
It may not sound that appealing but that is exactly the argument put forward by Peter Weinberg over at Marketing Week. He says that “whereas many B2C firms are ‘marketing-led’, most B2B firms are ‘product-led’ or ‘sales-led’.” He also argues that B2B and B2C marketing are strategically quite similar, only diverging in political terms.
Crushingly for B2B marketers, he follows up by suggesting that in B2B, “marketing is no less valuable, but marketers are much less valued”.
Unfortunately, the short-term and transactional thinking of sales lends itself to ABM tactics. Whilst this is great for increasing deal size, conversion rates and retention, it does pitch marketing very much into supporting sales.
Enter the finance department…
Finance and marketing – the new power duo?
During and after any recession or company downturn, the finance department comes to the fore. Just as it looked like the calm, considered and critical finance team seemed relegated to a bit part, now they are in the spotlight. Furthermore, it’s no longer just in the downturns. With the rapid growth of private equity ownership, it tends to come with closer finance involvement.
As a result, you would be hard-pressed to avoid an interested finance person at some point. But are they really so bad?
From the POV of the B2B marketer, they can feel stuck in a bad marriage between marketing and sales. Believe it or not, not everyone sees eye-to-eye with sales, especially if the salary differences are very large or ‘the wolf pit’ vibe takes over. The result is a marketing team that works for and supports sales, bringing more hassle, more accountability and more pressure.
The solution, according to Peter, is to align marketing with finance. We have a lot of experience in both approaches but there is some sense here. After all, finance has a longer-term view of value creation and that may allow marketers to invest in brand value. Is this the new power duo?
Finance, marketing and sales at Think Beyond
In conclusion, wouldn’t it make sense to have a triumvirate of finance, marketing and sales? Finance wants return on investment and consistent growth in free cash flow. In B2C, marketing may lean away from finance but that depends on the ownership structure and strength of the FD/CFO. In B2B, it may be wise to sit between finance and sales to balance long and short-term goals.
Think Beyond is relatively unique as a marketing consultancy to have both finance and marketing founders. Yes, we have a former FD and Marketing Director. Both have considerable experience in B2B marketing as well as B2C. Whatever your challenges, we have a solution for you.
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