The difference between marketing and business development
What is the difference between marketing and business development? And does it matter?
The second question is in many ways the more important point.
In practical terms I see a lot of unnecessary stress created in professional services firms by a failure to develop internal clarity on this point either between fee earners and the marketing and BD teams (they may be seperate they may not be), or between marketing and BD.
Lack of internal clarity creates one of two problems. Either everyone falls over each other and start sticking their elbows out in a territorial land grab or everyone thinks that certain things are someone else’s responsibility with the inevitable result that those things don’t get done well or at all.
A related problem is a general sense of status anxiety about marketing versus business development that has arisen in recent years. Marketing in so many firms has traditionally been quite detached from the client – seen as a support department (or auxiliary as my department was once described) – overly-focused on events and brochures – hence it being still referred to in some corners as the “colouring-in department”.
Rather than focus on what good looks like in marketing there’s been a general move towards moving along the curve and everyone, it seems, wants to be head of business development not marketing – “it’s worth an extra 20 per cent grand on your salary,” one recruiter told me.
But everyone can’t be business development because someone needs to do the marketing. Business development and sales is hard graft if no one has ever heard of your firm and don’t know or understand what it does, and if qualified leads are never available and the phone never rings because a badly constructed website meant your firm fell out of the client’s consideration set at the first hurdle.
Marketing suffers to a degree because the results are slower burn – it is often making investments for tomorrow whereas business development brings home the bacon today. Understanding the value that both bring is crucial in underpinning more productive conversations about how they need to work together.
The definitions below are based on some wording by a US consultancy I admire – Hinge – but amended a little by me to include the notion that business development needs to develop relationships – for many firms proactively managing existing relationships re: retention, a greater share of wallet and referees rather than just chasing new clients is often insufficiently prioritised and marketing needs to avoid accusations that it communicates for communications sake – at the end of the day if no-one is listening and acting as a result of what marketing does then it needs to try something else:
- Business Development – Responsible for forming and developing partnerships, strategic relationships, and other professional contacts in target markets in order to bring in new clients and new work.
- Marketing – Responsible for understanding the needs and wants of the target market and developing a strategic plan to establish the firm’s overall messaging, benefits, capabilities, and for communicating those out to the target audience with a view to generating leads and facilitating /supporting sales.
Easy definitions belie the complications of different firm structures and market dynamics. For small firms without the luxury of large marketing and BD teams, fee earners may need to cover more of the BD activity. Similarly the pursuit and management of a few high value relationships creates different roles and responsibilities than a practice area dependent on a high volume of smaller new instructions.
The important thing is for all parties – marketing, BD, fee earners, in barristers chambers clerks and practice managers, in some large firms separate PR teams – to be clear where they fit and what their role is. Clear remits, clear jobs specs for individuals, clear internal communication even engagement with HR can help. Trying to fudge it and hope it will work out in the wash is rarely productive long-term.
A greater investment in client feedback and the development of programmes that look at client experience issues can be helpful in this context. It is generally more productive for conversations about roles and remits to be had on the basis of what the clients wants and needs rather than on which department head is better at the internal politics.