September 13, 2021

The sales and marketing relationship: how to make the plan work

Like most relationships, it’s complex! Having worked in both sales and marketing within the hotel industry for a long time, I have seen moments of brilliance where careful planning and collaboration show a real growth in sales. 

Sadly, I have also seen the opposite when working in marketing. It is often not well understood or believed to impact the top line sales, meaning it gets left out altogether. While the relationship between sales and marketing should be very closely tied and interdependent, their approach can vary wildly.

Whilst this article may be weighted more towards my experience in hospitality, the principle remains the same: sales and marketing plans must align in any industry to effectively use budgets and impact profit.

In many cases this starts with accountability of each area. 

Often, sales and marketing roles are clumped together to be completed by the salesperson, who somehow finds themselves accountable for marketing. As marketing is not their specialist field, they give it their best shot at putting in some activity to tick the box, but it tends to focus around creating brochures, flyers, and some social media activity. 

This tends to lack the level of detail and planning that marketing needs to show return. 

The multi-channel marketing options available are often seen as overwhelming, and the landscape is ever changing, so may seem hard to keep abreast of. The core objectives for marketing should be set out the same as the SMART sales goals, and then the planning can start and be intrinsically linked back to ensure all goals are met.

Marketing is a different discipline to sales, and whilst the two must go hand in hand in order to impact the market segments, the business needs to achieve consistent and predictable top line results. Therefore, it deserves detailed planning in its own right. 

I’ve always felt marketing is the poorer cousin in hotel planning, and should be linked to the budget process from the outset. Often, the costs needed to deliver the marketing plan are not well thought through from the beginning, and sometimes left out of the budget costs entirely.

Marketing plans should be written to support the top line sales budget and support driving business through the most cost effective channels. They need to be linked to the target market and the audience the business wishes to engage with, and with a full understanding of the competitive landscape. It’s not the dark art some people seem to believe, and can actually be very straightforward. The key is good advance planning, sticking with the plan, considering all effective channels, and most importantly measuring and refining.

Marketing can’t only be a knee jerk reaction to a sudden and unforeseen drop in sales, just as it can’t be a tap that gets cut off for the same reason. I’ve often found it’s the first place businesses try to cut budget from when times are tough. 

Many marketing success stories come from the slow burning activities over time, and even when there is a need to create a last minute flash sale or campaign, the success of that will only come if you have a readily engaged audience from the ongoing activity. 

The most successful campaigns we have worked on in hotels are a direct result of always nurturing the marketing activity, even more so when times get tough. The pandemic 100% cemented this, with the hotels that worked hard on the bounceback plan right from the get go being the winners.

The two disciplines are very different, but the need for the sales and marketing plans to work seamlessly together are ever more important. The sales step should be the nod to the achievement of a successful marketing strategy. Much like any relationship it can work beautifully as long as both sides work together to achieve the same goals.