More than anything ‘digital’ has blurred lines.

That might be blurring the lines of what we used to consider typical consumer behaviours or models (e.g. increased focus on behavioural segmentation and targeting rather than relying on, say, demographics), the blurring of lines across physical and digital channels, the blurring of lines across value and supply chains, the blurring of national boundaries and commerce. 

The level and pace of change, and these blurring effects, are felt acutely within organisations, not least at the level of organisational design and structure.

What are the correct teams and departments, who should be in control of what, what are the correct roles and responsibilities? Digital, and marketing, are, of course, at the sharp end of these corporate contortions.

In the past I have argued that the point of clarity and focus amongst all this is that businesses should become genuinely customer-centric.

Indeed I defined ‘digital transformation’ not as being anything to do with technology or digital but being about focusing on the customer experience and developing the right culture.

I have argued for a wider remit to marketing in the modern marketing manifesto and encouraged marketers to aspire to become CEOs.

I believe the route to get there should not be through a Chief Digital Officer but could well be via a Chief Customer Officer role that has a remit across customer-facing functions.

Marketing has had to work increasingly closely with other functions as a consequence of ‘digital’ in the broad sense. Social media has blurred the lines between what is ‘marketing and what is ‘customer service’.

Who should own your corporate Twitter presence for example? Is that marketing or service?

The rise in content marketing, earned and owned media, have brought editorial, operations and production closer to marketing. And, of course, we all know how much closer marketing and technology need to work.

But what about sales? Dare marketing court closer ties, or even take control? Just like the infamous tensions between “marketing and IT” there have ever been similar power struggles between marketing and sales.

Depending on the business model, one is typically dominant. In B2B, for example, sales is invariably the dominant partner.

Once again digital is forcing this question with increasing pressure.

For two main reasons...

Firstly, because of what we might call “distributed commerce” where the point of transaction has become digitally layered, or embedded, within any digital experience.

Any piece of digital content, any ad, any video, any piece of ‘marketing’ or customer service, also becomes a point of sale. Most obviously we see this in the proliferation of ‘Buy’ buttons integrated into social media like WeChat, Facebook and Twitter.

We see this happening to video where transactional layers are becoming more commonplace. And recently Google announced the Buy button is coming to their search results too. So where will we draw the line between marketing and sales when both can be part of the same customer experience?

Secondly, the disruption to business models brought about by digital. Many executives are worried about getting Uber-ed, or Amazon-ed, or China-ed.

Broadly one response is to try and ‘go direct to consumer’ using digital and ecommerce to redress the power balance. Nestlé recently hired Amazon's director of consumables Sebastien Szczepaniak as global head of ecommerce. Mondelēz are embedding “Buy it Now’ buttons into social media, video advertising and CRM campaigns.

Unilever has set itself a target of 40% growth in direct online sales this year. The worlds of brand marketing and media are talking big about sales and ecommerce and hiring aggressively.

At Econsultancy we have always said we cover 'digital marketing and ecommerce'. It has always been a bit of a mouthful to have to say both marketing and ecommerce.

But we always felt the two were very closely related. But what do you think? Should marketing and sales remain very distinct as disciplines and teams or, if not, how will they come closer together?

Ashley Friedlein

Published 23 July, 2015 by Ashley Friedlein @ Econsultancy

Ashley Friedlein is Founder of Econsultancy and President of Centaur Marketing. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

Emeline Tissot

Emeline Tissot, Consultant at Emeline Tissot

I don't think the two disciplines can remain very distinct in the current fast-paced environment. It is a great opportunity to better integrate teams, relate people from various backgrounds and encourage them to think differently. I've personally learnt a great deal from working with "non-marketing" people and exploring ideas we came up with in team building exercises. Promoting knowledge sharing will help people strengthen their own skills to educate colleagues as needed. A very powerful organisational concept to keep staff motivated and on board with the mission and values of the organisation.

almost 3 years ago

Martin Wallace

Martin Wallace, Marketing Manager at Innometrics

I think both still have a strong hand to play in the overall customer experience, which is now becoming the clear common goal between the two disciplines. Each tends to be distinct in its focus, regardless of business model (marketing: brand, ecommerce; sales: relationship, solution) but the overall customer experience needs to be prioritised by both camps in their own way. I think here is where the convergence will continue to take place.

almost 3 years ago

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