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What’s the Difference Between Marketing and Business Development?

Marketing. Business Development. I hear these words used interchangeably all the time. If you want more business, everything you do to achieve that goal could be called “business development,” right? Maybe. That mindset is a bit confusing and can quickly lead to unmet expectations. If you think you need marketing or business development support, you should first understand how they differ and where they overlap.

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What is marketing? Marketing is about identifying your key differentiators, developing your message and establishing a positioning within your market(s). Think advertising, event promotion, website content and building thought leadership through public relations – these are all marketing strategies (or at least first cousins to marketing).

What is Business Development? Business development is about making connections. It’s building upon the brand that you have established through marketing efforts to connect your audience to your products and services. It’s prospecting (think networking events), qualifying leads and then converting those leads into clients. Business development is all about creating relationships.

Some in-house marketing directors wear both marketing and business development hats. A talented marketing generalist with some business acumen can provide strategic advice and coaching in both areas. But the truth is that the efforts are quite different and usually require a different set of skills and expertise.

Marketing and public relations people tend to be creative. They’re usually good storytellers and know how to develop a message through a brand look and compelling marketing messages. They create new and interesting ways to build awareness for your brand. They’re scouting opportunities and thinking of new ideas. They also probably pitch stories to the media, write content and provide creative direction and/or design.

Business development people are actually selling. They go out and develop business, sometimes without realizing that they’re even doing it. For many professionals, business development takes training, coaching and a couple of steps outside their comfort zone. Whether they like it or not, lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and other providers of professional services MUST wear a business development hat. A marketing person may be great at formulating messages, but the relationship your client is buying is not with them – it’s with the advisor they have grown to trust with their business.

Where do marketing and business development overlap? The sales cycle for most professional services is longer than ever. Once you have identified a qualified lead, your marketing efforts can’t stop. Nurturing leads over a long period of time is critical for retaining top-of-mind awareness. The marketing side of lead nurturing may include sharing branded content and educational opportunities through email marketing, event marketing and social media outreach. Marketing should also provide business development with the sales tools they need to convert a warm lead into a client (proposal language, presentation training/support, slide decks, printed collateral and even branded thank you notes and gifts).  The true business development side may include personal emails, follow-up phone calls, one-on-one meetings/lunches or golfing together.

Which do you need? Marketing or Business Development? When it comes to developing a business development strategy for your firm or business, marketing is an essential piece. Likewise, a branding and marketing strategy should be built with your business development goals in mind. The two not only complement each other, they depend upon each other – but that doesn’t make them the same. As you consider your marketing and business development goals, think about where your firm currently has strengths and weaknesses. You may find that you need more exposure and new marketing tactics for generating leads. Or you might find that you have warm leads, but just need sales training to help convert them into clients.

Learn more about how integrated marketing and communications tools can support your business development goals.

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