Consultants waste an enormous amount of time, resources, and energy on short-lived marketing initiatives. Every couple of months they change tactics and spread themselves thin among different channels, only to use the poor results as justification to shift plans again.
This happens for many reasons, but there's one in particular that I'd like to explore here: Putting marketing and sales in the same "package".
Before getting into it, one clarification: This post speaks to established consulting businesses. If you are in "emergency mode", you will rely on initiatives that can generate quick cash. Even if those are rarely sustainable, may damage your brand, and don't produce results that compound over time, survival comes before growth.
Now, it's easy to understand why consultants see marketing and sales as parts of the same thing. That's because they are.
When we look at business growth, they are part of the same system. Marketing and sales are responsible for bringing clients, while the rest of the company (operations, HR, etc.) is focused on serving and satisfying them. Nothing new here.
But even though they do work together, each component has different goals:
- Marketing creates demand: Building awareness, sparking interest for your services, and generating opportunities.
- Sales captures demand: Qualifying opportunities, winning new businesses, and generating revenue.
Why are consultants that see those two things as one more likely to waste resources with short-sighted initiatives? The reason is simple: they forget that those different activities and outcomes require different time frames.
The marketing cycle is different from the sales cycle - much longer.
The false assumption many consultants make is thinking that marketing and sales have the same time cycle. That if you spend an average of 60 to 90 days from first conversation to signed contract, it will take you the same time for your marketing initiatives to work. This is simply not true.
It takes time (and an extensive body of work) for people to see you as an authority in your field. It takes time (and frequent engagement) for your audience to see you as reliable, friendly, and trustworthy. It just can't be done in 90 days.
With the invention of the internet and the rise of digital marketing in the last decades, the distance between the two cycles has been increasing more and more. Here are some recent numbers that prove the point:
- 8 out of 10 consultants automatically get rejected because their digital footprint does not point to a desired level of expertise.*
- 88% of business buyers in 2020 said online content plays a major to moderate role in vendor selection.*
- 70% of B2B decision-makers say they are open to making new fully self-serve or remote purchases in excess of $50,000.*
The changes in buying behavior impact both marketing and sales cycles.
The former tend to gets longer, as consultants are forced to compete for attention in a sea of digital noise and consistently communicate expertise and reliability to earn prospects' trust. Clients move through the marketing cycle when they want, and how they want it.
And while it is true that the sales cycle has grown in the last years (with the typical B2B buying process involving 6-10 decision-makers), the third statistic gives a hint of a turning point. As long as you do an effective job creating interest for your services, companies with high intent have much more clarity about what they're looking for and are open to hiring you with minimum personal involvement.
As you plan the activities to promote your firm and services, you can and should go after quick small wins. But be aware that marketing and sales move in different paces, and that is a reflection of how people and companies buy today. It's up to you to adapt to it.
The biggest results from your marketing initiatives come after 1-3 years of taking it seriously. Your goals and mindset should reflect that.