On a recent episode of the excellent Marketing Companion podcast, friend and colleague Tom Webster mused that marketers are in danger of elimination if all we do is write down what salespeople say, that the gap between customer and sale has virtually vanished. If you haven’t listened to the episode, you’ll find it here.
The above, that marketing is in danger of redundancy and elimination, is only true if you’re really bad at marketing. Admittedly, it’s statistically likely in a normal distribution that there are far more bad and mediocre marketers than good or great marketers, but that doesn’t mean the profession is in danger of elimination.
I’d posit that the simpler and lower risk a transaction is, the more marketing can be programmed or automated. There is virtually no risk in my trying a new flavor of gum, or a new brand of cereal. If I don’t like it, I’m out $4. Likewise, with Tom Webster’s example of Amazon, Amazon has made simple transactions virtually frictionless. From the moment you become aware of a product, you can engage with the product’s marketing, activate as a lead, and convert – all within a click.
Where the frictionless process breaks down is as transaction complexity increases. Think about the process of skipping rocks on a lake’s surface. If the rock is light enough, shaped correctly, and projected at the right angle and speed, it skims off the water’s surface, frictionless. Make the rock heavier, a non-flat shape, or thrown at the wrong angle and it will more likely sink than skim frictionlessly.
We see this in complex sales. Almost no one logs onto a website and 1-click buys a car, a house, a college education, an aircraft, a CRM, etc.:
The more complex a sale, the more friction and the more marketing is needed in order to bridge the gap between awareness and conversion.
Marketing’s goal is to close that gap. Technology can shorten it, bridge it faster, but as transaction complexity increases, the gap naturally widens. Tom Webster’s comment that marketing must create demand is true; however, marketing’s most important function is to maintain that connection between awareness (the role of advertising and public relations) and conversion opportunities (sales). Without that connection, sales simply do not happen.
Demand generation creates the reason to bridge the gap, but work by marketers ushers the customer across it.
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