Marketing – it’s about Sales and Service. Isn’t it?

Seamas McKennaby Seamas McKenna, Deputy CEO, ASG Ireland

I’ve been involved in the marketing business for more years than I sometimes care to remember.

I recall that what first struck me when I tried to get my head around the subject was that, a) it was much misunderstood (and often still is) and that, b) marketing and business academics were obsessed with definitions and ‘boxes’- and thinking outside those aforementioned cubes.

The CIM definition was hammered in to me and I can still rhyme it off at the drop of a hat with its emphasis on ‘identifying’ and ‘satisfying’ and ‘anticipating’ and its ‘profit’ focus. It was good; it still is. And, indeed, it’s that ‘anticipating’ bit that still holds the biggest challenge for us all.

Many planners I’ve met talk up their being ‘ahead of the curve’ … but if they are so capable of being ahead of that ‘curve’ I wonder why they don’t shape it and make the ‘curve’ happen themselves. Only true entrepreneurs and risk takers get to see the ‘curve’ when it starts to take shape.

Of course, many marketeers and academics have defined their own interpretation of what is the essence of marketing. The one that pleases me most because it is so beautifully simple states that, “Marketing is about getting goods or services that don’t come back, to customers who do.” Clichéd, perhaps, but totally on it, in my view of commercial activity, no matter what sector we look at.

It’s about sales

I am regularly asked to guest lecture on marketing and very early on in any of these discussions I shine the spotlight firmly on sales. In front of me are 20 or 30 eager 20 somethings or, indeed, 30 & 40-year-olds on occasions, who are chomping at the bit to get into digital, or plan media, or develop marketing strategies or attend ‘glamorous’ PR events or make TV commercials.

And that’s all great and part and parcel of the Promotional P of our 4 Ps. But when I mention the ‘S’ word, the vast majority of them shrink in mock horror. Sales, sir? Who, sir? Me, sir? No, sir. Sales? “Don’t think so”, is the unvoiced look on most of their faces.

But for me, it is very much about sales. And it doesn’t matter if you are in FMCG, or services, or a charity or even the public sector. It’s about sales. Selling services. Selling products. Selling ideas. Selling a perspective or a point of view.

I was at a conference a few years back where a ‘Marketeer’ was on the platform and part of his address was the contention that marketing was about pricing, promotion and distribution.

That is was not about sales. And there was a delegate beside me (a very successful and very experienced business owner) who had said nothing for about an hour, but at that point, he leaned over to me and whispered in genuine bewilderment: “ What good is marketing if it isn’t about facilitating a sale at some point?!” And I’m with him on that one.

And service too

And if you want to get those customers to keep coming back then forget about service at your peril. It is a common mistake, in my view, to assume that service is only important in services marketing. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you accept that your brand and your ‘service’ is consumed at every touch point, then service is another key discipline that must be addressed and kept front of mind throughout the customer journey.

It’s not just about common courtesy or good manners or attention to detail. These are taken as a given. If you don’t have these on offer then all other marketing activity is just camouflage. How do we answer the phone? How do our e-mails or letters look or read? How do our accounts departments deal with enquiries? How easy to buy from are we? The list of activities and disciplines that help position us from a service perspective is endless. These are the factors that set the core of our own brand.

At ASG we like to keep it simple. It’s about Joined Up Thinking. We concentrate on trying to understand what we can do to help organisations get more sales to more people who then come back for more. And we keep firmly in focus the two key management tools of Sales and Service all presented with creative distinction. “Simples!”

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