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Marketing vs. Business Development

What to do about the overlaps

Marketing is often poorly defined. What one company calls “marketing” can be very different from another company. 

Business development is often poorly defined. What one company calls “business development” can be very different from another company.

This makes comparing them fun.

They overlap so much that some companies don't really do marketing.

And that makes understanding the comparison important.

See also:
Roles

What is marketing? What is business development?

Marketing is what brings people to your sales process. Business development is that sales process. Except when it’s also marketing. It’s more like business development contains a little of both marketing and sales. And that’s the problem.

Business development overlaps with marketing when it is responsible for identifying new markets and customer segments (as opposed to individual customers). For example, by partnering with other companies to bundle their offerings, a business developer might gain access to their partners' customers as well as their own. Or by figuring out that if it develops a new solution, the company can win new business.

However, when business development is also responsible for identifying new individual customers, it also overlaps with sales. When business development is responsible for hitting targets based on closing sales, it is a sales function. How much of that marketing do you think will really get done?

The overlap between marketing and business development is mostly at the front end. The central issue is what needs to happen before you start prospecting, and who should be responsible for it. There is another set of issues at the back end, revolving around who leads the pursuit once a lead is qualified, who decides what to offer, and who is responsible for proposal development,

Where do you want people to spend their time?

Do you really want your business development staff spending time on marketing? Do you want them designing a web site to attract the right customers and figuring out how to flow them to the information that will convince them to make contact, or do you want them spending time with the customers that do make contact? Do you want them spending their time crunching analytics to determine what kind of customers to chase, or do you want them selecting individual customers to pursue? Do you want them segmenting markets to determine the right composition to fill your pipeline, or do you want them identifying specific customers to fill those segments?

If your business development staff are incentivized based on deals, that’s where they will spend their time. And you will get no marketing. 

But you definitely do need marketing. And for a lot more than just “branding” or name recognition. Even if you can get by just responding to publicly announced RFPs, you need marketing to figure out which market segments to target and where it’s worth developing relationships. If you just turn your business developers loose, what you’ll get are the low hanging fruit. And over time you’ll grow like a weed instead of growing strong.

Beware the seesaw effect

When business developers are incentivized based on leads and sales, they won’t start marketing until they run out of leads. Marketing requires time to pay off. It won’t pay off fast enough when you’ve run out of leads and then start. I’ve seen companies go up and come right back down because of this. Marketing would have saved them by creating a continuous funnel of leads for their business developers to spend their time qualifying and pursuing.

Instead of an either/or approach or a relationship based on territories, consider having an integrated approach. Ultimately the goal isn't to have marketing, or to have business development. The goal is to win and win big. This requires skills and effort that are beyond what we can reliably expect of one person. It's so much bigger than one person that it really should be the corporate culture and not simply roles that people play.
 

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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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