Executive Perspective: Marketing’s Top TWO Customers

In the B2B industry, generally speaking, marketing is responsible for leads and sales is responsible for closing deals. B2C companies, on the other hand, are traditionally more transactional, meaning that marketing often closes deals (especially in the online retail world). In the B2C realm, it’s very obvious who marketing’s real customer is: the people swiping their credit cards.

In B2B, this isn’t entirely the case. In most scenarios, there is more than one person involved in the buying cycle — not to mention the months of follow-ups, RFPs, demos, and marketing communications before a check finally comes in the door. Traditionally, B2B marketers aren’t a part of the sales process, so when a deal closes, sales gets credit for closing it while marketing struggles to justify how they played a part in the deal. It can be frustrating for marketers when they don’t get any credit for deals that close after months and months of work, even when the leads are marketing-generated. It’s a hard pill to swallow, and frankly, quite detrimental for marketing departments that are expected to turn leads into dollars with the snap of their fingers.

The solution? B2B marketers need to revise their way of thinking. Instead of focusing solely on their “customers” in the traditional sense of the word, it’s time for marketers to start thinking of their customers in two separate sets: the end customer, and their sales team. Let’s take a quick look at each.

Customer No. 1

Marketing’s first customer is sales, the ones talking to your end customers on a daily basis. Your sales reps have needs that require marketing support in the “pre-sales” stages, including generating leads, creating website content, furthering your thought leadership in the industry, or coming up with marketing collateral. Without any of these efforts on the part of your marketing team, sales reps would have fewer leads to contact, and no content to serve as touch points with their buyers. This is why product marketing and content marketing play such a large role in most mature B2B organizations.

Customer No. 2

Marketing’s second customer is the end user. Marketing is at least partly responsible for making sure the end user is happy and engaged. This involves creating content like infographics, white papers, webinars, and PR/AR media promotions, as well as having a social media presence, syndicating content, hosting and attending events, creating customer stories, and more. The end customer needs to feel like the company is real, the product is real, and most importantly, the people are real. Would you still buy from a company if their content was always irrelevant or unhelpful, or if they didn’t have a coherent brand message? Chances are, probably not — and that’s where marketing comes in.

Both of these types of customers are equally important for marketing. If you focus solely on your end customers, you will likely have problems internally. The same goes for focusing entirely on your sales team. Remember, if sales numbers are going up, marketing value automatically goes up with it.

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3 thoughts on “Executive Perspective: Marketing’s Top TWO Customers

  • I beg to differ.

    In a well aligned organization, marketing & sales have become different sides of the same coin.

    While I appreciate your sentiment with the statement “Marketing’s first customer is Sales” — that phrase was first coined many years ago to try to get some kind of respect from sales for marketing — this was back in the days before the company had a website & developed a marketing database — this was back when marketing’s job was to buy ad space, print brochures and go to trade shows.

    We’ve evolved well beyond that — even the most dysfunctional organizations rely on marketing to design and build the corporate website — and are generating leads from it.

    Marketing’s first customer is Sales first customer is the business’ first customer — the people who pay us money for our product or service.

    Anything else muddies the water and I believe it’s crucial for all parties to keep their eye on the ball — I mean their customers.


    Brian Fey

  • Thanks for your comment Brian. I totally get your point. My thoughts via this post is simply put an idea out there that for B2B marketers to be successful, they have to recognize that sales is also a customer. To your point, organizations rely on marketers to build website and generate leads but modern marketers and mature organizations are quick to realize that marketers and marketing programs can impact the entire buyers journey and not just top of the funnel.

    I do think the order could be reversed by stating #1 customer is the buyer and #2 is internal sales but many organizations just miss that altogether.

  • Brian,

    I think you jumped the gun bro. You make some valid points, but I certainly didn’t read it as sales is a priority over the customer, just a number in a list. With that I will disagree that you feel marketing shouldn’t consider a Sales a key stakeholder in the process of the buyers journey. Like it or not, in a B2B scenario, marketing fails without a successful sales group.

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