Four words which strike horror into the mind of the true marketer: Sales and marketing manager

February 2011

My long corporate life never really brought me into contact with the sales person who also masqueraded as a marketer, or at least if I did meet a few they sensibly managed to keep the marketing bit a secret. In my nine and a bit years as a consultant though, I’ve met more than my fair share of this misfit breed and now feel the sample has reached a level to be statistically sound enough to tell you why such a job title is a nonsense.

Let me tell you about my first encounter some eight years back: An early client I picked up in the Midlands passed on to me a piece of DM sent out by a relatively local design agency. Although the DM wasn’t quite on the money, I did think the creative was clever and as I was on the lookout for new design agencies to work with and ones which could talk my language, I thought they’d be a good bet. Why with the language? Well the person to apparently contact was a ‘sales and marketing manager’. Great I thought, someone I could work with who potentially understands marketing in a design agency. So I naively made the call and set up a meeting.

The day arrived and I turned up at their comfortable offices in Southam, Warwickshire. We said our pleasantries and got down to business – or at least that was my intention as I enthusiastically launched into an opener about it being good to find someone on the account side of a smallish design agency that understood marketing (or anyone, for that matter, in a smallish design agency 8 years ago who understood marketing – digital has thankfully changed things). Sensing though that perhaps we weren’t quite on the same wavelength as I’d assumed we would be, I changed tack in order to sound out his true credentials. So I started to talk about tone of voice being as important to many brands as visual elements as part of their identity, and at a point where I stopped to allow him to agree, he actually stated that “It was an interesting theory”. But with a glazed look on his face and when it became clear after more discussion that he thought the sum of a brand was its logo, I beat my retreat and headed for the door.

In truth I felt a bit of a prune. ‘Sales and marketing manager’ didn’t of course mean he understood marketing; just that he was responsible for marketing the services of the design agency he worked for. And although they were indeed a graphic design agency, and even then no doubt dabbled in a bit of digital too, and therefore were part of the marketing industry, he knew no more about marketing than my postman did. Now it was all obvious and I kicked myself for wasting the best part of an afternoon.

After that, and perhaps with new-found awareness of the bloody obvious, my business life seemed to bring me into contact with all manner of sales people, and often very competent sales people, who also had ‘marketing’ tagged onto their job title. And not normally by them of course, but business owners of SMEs who knew no better themselves. For one client, I even ended up reporting to a sales director whose priority for marketing was entertaining clients (e.g. nice night out) pens with logos on, umbrellas with logos on – he REALLY liked umbrellas with logos on – and of course the salesmans’ favourite, the calendar. He once said to me after I’d presented a marketing strategy document to him, that he was disappointed in it because “It didn’t have any pictures in it” (I kid you not…).

Even in the last month a salesman for one of my clients, and in fairness a very good salesman, very decent bloke and one without the M word in his job title, asked me to use the cover of a flyer I’d had produced for him (very focused with core brand message and USP for the product) ‘more productively’. And for ‘more productively’ read ‘bright coloured flashes with sales messages’. I’ll be doing no such thing of course – client or no client.

Of course sales and marketing are linked but don’t get them confused in a job role. The excellent salesman is concerned with selling product and services and will generally do whatever is necessary to do so (though unfortunately often at the expense of brand reputation – to name just one thing). The marketer, however, is concerned with a whole range of issues as long as your arm, but worth mentioning four out of several hundred, if only to accentuate the point; market intelligence, brand positioning, integrated campaigns and a set of metrics to measure success.

So if you’re a business owner who currently has someone in employment that is primarily there to sell your wares but also sorts out the branded pens and torches, shorten their job title and then get them a friend to do the M job properly.

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