Done right, marketing happens before sales. Not with sales, not as an afterthought to sales, but before it. You first do marketing, which then delivers you with a steady stream of enquiries, then engage in sales, the part where you negotiate one on one deliverables and price.

This process of starting with marketing, to generate leadsand gradually moving them along a journey to the point of the sale, is calledthe marketing funnel. Or the sales funnel….or the sales and marketingfunnel….or the marketing and sales funnel. Whatever name you choose,bottom-line is it’s a funnel, and it should start way before your customershave announced themselves to you.

Implemented well, the marketing funnel is one of the the greatest tools for business growth. It allows you to put a system in place that reaches potential customers and stimulate interest whilst you are managing your business. By the time someone knocks on your door with a potential sales enquiry they have done their homework and much more inclined to engage in business. Instead of breaking down doors with an aggressive sales process, you are now able to have a discussion around needs, values and timelines. Much better.

The problem is that most medium sized B2B companies don’t have a fully developed marketing funnel and consequently spend way too much time banging heads against the wall to get new customers. Typically these companies have over invested in the sales part of the funnel, and underinvest in the marketing part, which includes company branding. The job of a good marketer in this situation is to help the company extend its funnel beyond pure sales focused approaches to include marketing communication and brand positioning. The result should indeed be measured in sales: faster sales cycles, more profitable sales….happier clients willing to buy again.

As an area of study, marketing is about moving customers from a position where they know nothing about your business, to being regular buyers. From raising awareness, to generating interest, to trialing your offering, to buying it….and buying it again. Loyalty! The traditional sales process is about the last 30% – 50% of this process and what most mid-sized B2Bs preoccupy themselves with. Just imagine what could happen if you doubled the size of your funnel and started reaching out to potential customers way before they have even heard of you?

Take another look at your marketing and sales process, and ask yourself, where does marketing fit into your process? Is it helping you to feed the sales engine, or just costing you money?