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Marketing and sales…in that order!


"Business owners will often say marketing doesn't work. But they haven't done the hard yards around the three Cs – knowing your competitors, your customers and your company."


Dr Jana Mathews marketing and sales for business growth

Dr Jana Matthews


I often hear business owners talk about sales and marketing as if sales “gets revenue in the door” and marketing is just “fluff”. Clearly, they subscribe to the “Ready, Fire… (oops) Aim” business philosophy because nothing could be farther from the truth!


Business owners who come to our growth programs tell us a major reason for a past company failure was they didn’t understand the three Cs of marketing: their customers; their competitors, and their company’s strengths and competitive advantage



The four Cs of marketing


So, how do you create a strong marketing plan to inform your sales efforts and set your company up for success?

Identify your customers and market size


Every company needs to figure out the addressable market. That is, how big the market is for the product or service being sold.  Then, given your company’s capabilities, you need to decide how much of that market you can realistically acquire.


Although your “addressable market” might be huge, it’s important to be realistic about how many people your company could actually reach and service – that is your “serviceable market”.


For example, if you’re in the business of building sailboats it doesn’t matter that the global market for sailboats is $5.8 billion. If everyone in your community who could buy a sailboat already owns one, you’re not likely to sell many new sailboats.  Clearly you need to make sure your serviceable market is big enough to support your company’s growth.

Check out the competition


Once you’ve identified your serviceable market, check out how many other companies are selling the same or similar products or services to this market.


Identify your competitors and try to understand why your customers or potential customers are buying from them.


Competitor checklist:


  • Is their price lower/higher than yours?
  • Is their quality better/worse?
  • What aspects of their customer service do customers like?
  • What features and benefits do those products have that your customers like?
  • Have your competitors developed a strong customer relationship that will be difficult to displace?


Talk with prospects and customers and do plenty of market research to determine what customers value.  Find out what they need and want, when and where they want it, and how much they’re are willing to pay.


Although people told Henry Ford they wanted a faster horse, he then had to decide whether they valued a “faster horse” or to travel faster. Once he figured that out, he developed a solution that made him a billionaire.


Know your own strengths


When developing a marketing strategy, you need to assess your own company’s competencies.


What makes you stand out?


  • What are your company’s unique capabilities?
  • Do you have employees with special skills that are in high demand?
  • Do you have access to specialised knowledge or resources? 
  • Do you have machinery that other companies don’t have?
  • Is your team culture unusually strong and your turnover low? 
  • Do you have intellectual property, e.g. patents and trademarks? 
  • Do you have a unique pricing strategy or incredibly loyal customers? 


It's important for you to be clear about what’s unique about your company so when your salespeople talk to customers they can emphasise how you're different from everyone else.


Create your marketing strategy


Once you figure out your 3Cs (your customers, your competitors and your company’s competences and capabilities), then you need to focus on the four Ps.



4 Ps of marketing, marketing mix. Product Place Price promotion


What product or service can you offer that meets the needs of your customers? Most companies begin with something the founder or business owner thinks people will want to buy. But as soon as possible you need to validate that assumption by testing it with potential customers and determining what they like about it, what they don't like, which features and benefits they want you to keep, and which ones you’ll need to delete or add before they're willing to buy.



Where will they find the product or service? Is it going to be online, in store, or something they can make themselves? If in a store, will it be in a high-end specialty store, a department store or offered at a discount store? Is it going to be in the form of a tangible product, a face-to-face service, software that's available on the Internet, or a downloadable app? Where customers find your product – and how they access it – needs to be an important element of your marketing plan.



What price do you propose to sell it at?  Price and cost are not necessarily related. Do you have something quite unusual and rare from a limited source, for which you can charge a high price? Or is this something that you need to price low and sell a lot of because you only make a small profit on each one?  If you're selling services, do you sell them by the hour, by the project, or through a retainer? If you're selling seats on a plane or to a movie, do you drop the price once you have covered your fixed costs, does your price vary depending on when people sign up or buy their tickets or does everybody pay the same price regardless of when they register and come? 



Most people think that marketing is the same as promotion. They think they’re doing marketing when they launch a new website, distribute printed materials, or have a booth at a trade show. In fact, you can waste a lot of money on promotion if you haven't done your homework around all the other aspects of marketing. Such as who are your customers, do they even come to that trade show, how is your product different from everyone else’s, who is your competition, how many similar products or services are in the market, and what does your customer really want?



There are many “direct” ways to promote and sell your product/service including direct mail or email, letters, websites, social media, tele-sales and sales teams.  But don’t overlook the “indirect” ways: 


  • Partnering with another company
  • Engaging a wholesaler or reseller to sell your product to their customers
  • Bundling your product or service with someone else’s product or service offering
  • White labelling your product or service and allowing someone else to put their brand on it
  • Integrating into someone else’s product which they’re then responsible for selling to customers.


Marketing then sales – key to business success


Business owners will often say marketing doesn't work. But they haven't done the hard yards around the three Cs – knowing your competitors, your customers and your company.


Strong market research and marketing will give your salespeople the ammunition they need to generate revenue – and that gives your company the best chance of success!


  • Look at the addressable market and identify your serviceable market
  • Be clear about what’s unique about your company
  • Figure out which products or services your customers really want
  • Find out where customers want to buy and at what price


With this information your sales team will be able to close more sales, much more quickly. Salespeople are primed and focused on specific sets of likely prospects and need to be told what those prospects need, want and value.

If salespeople are given the right guidance about where to focus their efforts, they’ll be able to sell, and the company will thrive. So companies doing their marketing in the right order are likely to see sales soar!


Join the next ANZ Business Growth program webinar.


Register to attend the next webinar Marketing and Sales to Accelerate Growth with Dr Jana Matthews and CEOs from the ANZ Business Growth program.


The ANZ Business Growth Program includes free webinars which are open to all Australian businesses.


Dr Jana Matthews is ANZ Chair in Business Growth and Director at the Australian Centre for Business Growth at UniSA Business


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