Where’s the line between marketing and business development?  To determine the answer to this, first I would want to know why you’re asking.  Are you developing a responsibilities and a hand-off between two teams?  Do you want to determine the ROI of your marketing?  Are you writing a job description for a new business development hire?  Are you considering whether your marketing person is really a “marketing AND business development” person?

Here’s the thing… there’s no bright line between marketing and business development anymore.  It has been blurred by online marketing, sophisticated databases, marketing automation and the metrics marketing is now able to provide.   I call it marketing the gravitational pull that brings people to the firm over time by conveying your culture and values, knowledge and experience, specialization and service, reliability and confidence, impact and answers through its many varied activities.

As a marketer who works with professional services organizations that require the firm’s leaders to act as business developers (vs having a trained and dedicated sales force), I tend to think marketing takes on the lion’s share of the responsibility for attracting new business.  The up-side of this is that marketing can show positive ROI and can be thought of as an investment instead of an expense.   Fun fact, when I started in professional services marketing in 2004, marketing was considered “administrative” and “overhead”.  Ouch.

If you truly wanted to find the line between marketing and business development, I’d draw it at the point where a prospect is inviting you to the table.  If you’re going to go do a “pitch” meeting or provide a proposal, that’s business development.  Thinking of it this way, that’s about the final 5% of effort, and STILL marketing can play a role in preparing for the meeting, researching the prospect online, helping to assemble a folder of “leave behinds” like thought leadership, bios, and case studies, and helping to develop the proposal.  Even at this extreme end of the process, that’s a lot of involvement by marketing so is marketing really “handing off” to business development?

Again, I say, why are you asking the question of a line between marketing and business development?  Perhaps asking the question isn’t really something we need to do anymore.  Marketing is everywhere!  Marketing can touch the firm through its culture; its employees through recruiting, onboarding, and retention programs; its prospects through the website, newsletter, social media, and proposals; and its clients through alerts and thought leadership, events, branded materials, being served by happy employees, and more.

If your marketing is helping you to meet your firm’s goals, it’s doing its job.   Have you thanked a marketer today?

Contact me to agree, disagree, or just continue the conversation!

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Alison has more than fifteen years of professional services marketing and business development experience. She is a Boston College Double Eagle, holding both a BS in Management with concentrations in Marketing & Information Systems, and an MBA. Alison is a member of the 2009 Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 class of honorees.

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