it has often struck me as fairly odd, and certainly a feature of the anologue past, that marketing should be there to get people into a sales funnel until a point is reached and they are handed over to sales. In the days of someone asking for a brochure and giving their telephone number, it's clear there is a clear handover to sales. That's still the case today, particularly for expensive items where a lot of research is put in. It's also very true of most b2b interactions where businesses buy products and services from one another through long-term contracts.
However, for the vast majority of purchases, digital is changing everything. The funnel can be as short as the few seconds it takes someone to click on a search link to find a Web site and read some copy before deciding whether to hit the "buy" button. There is no handover to sales required in the vast majority of digital transactions. The majority of retail sales in the country still occur in brick-and-mortar shops where, by definition, the interaction will happen with a sales assistant rather than a marketer. However, digital is growing and within digital, mobile is now accounting for very nearly a half of all digital sales. Just think, where is the funnel there in a decision based on the small screen in a shopper's hand as they wait for a train to arrive or a friend to turn up at a bar?
It makes perfect sense, then, for the department that has sight of all this useful data on customers to take a larger role in the sales process -- which, in terms of digital, is pretty much wrapped up within the marketing process of following a link, visiting a Web site and clicking on a button that is in the midst of a bunch of appealing words put there by a copywriter.
It's not an all-or-nothing situation. There are many industries where sales teams are needed to convert prospects and manage accounts, but increasingly even this world of long-term contracts and account management will see sales and marketing coming closer together. Increasingly, when I talk to marketers, the feeling is one of empowerment. If anyone is going to innovate better, friction-free, more rewarding customer journeys, it's going to be the people who have the best view of the customer.
A word of caution, however. The other thing i constantly see is marketers warning that if the department is going to step up to the proverbial plate, then marketing metrics need to be supplemented with business metrics. You can still count "likes" and content "shares," but unless you have a statistic for what this means to the wider organisation, those metrics will be treated with disdain. So get the research done. How much more likely is someone to buy if they "like" your status, have been served a display ad or have read and shared a native article? How does "share of voice" in display or in social conversations translate in to, say, more sales, brand advocacy and less churn?
Get thinking in those terms -- and it has to be said, there is no better time to be in marketing. As the line between sales and marketing blurs, the people with the best view of the customer have to be best placed to be put in the driving seat and make organisations fit for a digital future.