What is the difference between marketing and business development (sales) in professional services?
I am sometimes asked the question – “What is the difference between marketing and business
development (sales) in professional services?” I think this is an appropriate question to ask as
understanding where marketing activity ends and business development begins within an
organisation is important in so much as it ensures everyone involved fully appreciates what needs to
be done, by whom and the contribution such activity has. Every organisation is different and as such,
expectations as to what constitutes the marketers role as opposed to the person or people tasked
with business development, varies, often considerably.
In my experience, the marketing function exists to perform three main functions. Firstly to help build
or strengthen the brand profile of the business; secondly, to create opportunities for the
organisation to engage with both existing and potential clients and; thirdly, to support the
organisation’s business development efforts when an opportunity arises.
So what do we mean by “brand profile…creating opportunities…supporting the organisations’
business development efforts?”
“Brand profile” relates to the awareness an organisation’s key stakeholders (clients, prospects,
suppliers, employees and key influencers such as intermediaries and the media) have of its activities,
business personality, position on key issues and so on. There is a well healed saying that “perception
is reality” therefore the successful marketer is striving to achieve congruence between what the
organisation is trying to convey about itself externally and how others perceive it. The classic
mistake for businesses to make is to assume that their clients, let alone other more remote contacts,
know what support they can actually provide. Often, there are areas of assistance that have not
been considered. The challenge for those involved in marketing is to ensure there is awareness
where it matters.
“Creating opportunities” means building or engineering connections between those that could
benefit from the services or solutions an organisation offers and those capable of delivering them.
There are many different mediums for achieving this; the clever bit is to pick the ones that fit your
Finally, “supporting the organisations’ business development efforts” enters the realms of one to
one engagement rather than interaction at a macro level i.e. with target groups. In these
circumstances, the marketing function may be called upon to help build a compelling argument for a
prospective client to hire your organisation’s services. This may mean helping prepare tender or
pitch documents, supplying relevant background materials detailing the offering and relevant
experience, rehearsing pitch delivery or a multitude of other related activities.
The greatest likelihood of business development success in any organisation is where there is a
synergy between brand profile, proactive marketing efforts and the one to one engagement
between those charged with BD pursuit and the would be client.
If you feel that your organisation might benefit from an external review of your marketing and
business development efforts then please complete our contact form or call the