Uncollapsing Marketing and Sales

One of the things I observe executives and business owners alike find difficult to do is to simply and confidently explain the difference between sales and marketing.

At nLIVEn, we distinguish the difference as follows:


  • primarily responsible for lead generation
  • more specifically, to generate leads that translate into revenue (as my colleague Brett Bonser from Align.me pointed out to me)
  • which is achieved through positioning the brand of the enterprise plus its products, services and people
  • includes products design and development, pricing, promotion, etc.


  • primarily responsible for lead conversion
  • this includes meeting with prospects, presenting our solutions, preparing proposals, follow up and securing orders

What Get’s Measured, Get’s Managed

It is important that the marketing and sales functions measure and monitor performance using several common key performance indicators. This helps align their activities and interests, which are often neither explicit nor well aligned in many businesses.

However, because they have overlapping but different primary responsibilities, we also measure and monitor performance using several separate key performance indicators.

With so much information available these days, how do you filter what is most relevant?

Making Big Data Work For Small Businesses

Many managers are big picture people – they respond better to pictures on a page rather than a long list of numbers. They need to see trend lines to observe and make sense of patterns and changes happening within their business.

This is where standard financial reports may not suit your “work-style”. If so, it’s up to you to design how you would like data presented to you, so that it provides better information upon which to base your decision making.

An example of this is a dashboard – which is an analogy adapted by business from people’s experience of driving cars. Designing a dashboard for any functional area of your business involves asking (and answering) the question “if I could only see 3-6 gauges of how we are travelling, what would they be?”.

The nLIVEn Marketing Dashboard – the 6 KPIs we are using in FY 1516

To help you understand in very practical terms how you could take this approach and adapt it to your enterprise, you need to decide what to focus on in your business.

At nLIVEn, we track and report on the following six key performance indicators (KPIs) of our marketing performance, which are reviewed and agreed annually. On a monthly basis, we use these KPIs to monitor and assess the effectiveness of our marketing plan, programs and campaigns.

1. Online Reputation

There are two criteria we report on:

  • Online Reviews – an aggregate from our top ten directories including Google, Facebook, Yelp, Start Local, Yellow Pages, True Local, etc
  • Rating – our average score / stars, out of five

2. Traffic

Whilst we get traffic to a range of our company and personal social media pages, the primary outcome we are looking for is to drive traffic to the nLIVEn website.

There are three criteria we report on:

  • Users – the number of different people who visit our website per period
  • Sessions – the number of sessions (visits) those users made
  • Page Views – the number of pages they visited within our website

3. Our Subscribers

There is one criterion we report on:

  • Subscribers – the number of people on our list in Mailchimp, our email marketing platform

4. Audience Engagement

There are three criteria we report on:

  • Messages Delivered – the reach of our outbound marketing is the number of people reached (e.g. 3 campaigns in March 2016 sent to 9,000 + 10,000 + 11,000 = 30,000 subscribers)
  • Open Rate
  • Click Through Rate

5. New Leads Generated

We use our CRM database to track and report on the number of new leads per month.

6. Conversion Effectiveness

We use an internal spreadsheet maintained in MS Excel to track and report on the number of proposals submitted to prospects and clients per month, cross referenced with our CRM.

We use our CRM database to track and report on the number of new projects won per month.

There are three criteria we report on:

  • Proposals Submitted
  • New Projects Won
  • Conversion Effectiveness (Proposals Submitted / New Projects Won)

Marketing Plans – Marketing Philosophy, Marketing KPIs, Marketing Projects, Marketing Programs

When it comes to developing and documenting your marketing plan for a given period, such as the next financial year, there are four sections I recommend you cover:

A. Marketing Philosophy

This section is where you cover off the 8Ps of marketing. Thinking about the year ahead:

  • Products/Services: How will you develop your products or services?
  • Prices/Fees: How will you change our pricing model?
  • Place/Access: What new distribution options are there for customers to experience your product, e.g. online, in-store, mobile etc.
  • Promotion: How can you add to or substitute the combination within paid, owned and earned media channels?
  • Physical Evidence: How you reassure your customers, e.g. impressive buildings, well-trained staff, great website?
  • People: Who are your people and are there skills gaps?
  • Processes: How can you empower team members and improve your marketing processes to elevate engagement and effectiveness?
  • Partners: Are you seeking new partners and managing existing partners well?

B. Marketing KPIs

The top 5-6 key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will measure and monitor – this has been the focus of this article.

C. Marketing Projects

What are the primary (3-4) and secondary (8-9) projects or initiatives that you will do to drive innovation from a marketing perspective this year? These may include things like:

  • Upgrade our website
  • Implement a CRM
  • Develop a user guide to our products and services
  • Create a referral program
  • Develop an explainer video
  • Establish a customer loyalty program
  • These are discrete projects, that have a start and finish date, within the time frame under consideration.

D. Marketing Programs

Once you implement some projects, such as “Establish a customer loyalty program”, they become ongoing programs vs projects.

What are the 3-4 key programs, like networking, direct mail campaigns, referral reward programs, that you have previously established that need to be maintained over the coming year?


Don’t make the mistake of confusing a marketing project (like upgrading the company website) with a KPI / objectives and your measure / target (like grow our web traffic from 10,000 unique visitors by 5% [compounding] per month would yield 17,103 per month).

In this case, for example:

  • KPI = Unique Website Visitors
  • Target = 17,103 / month

Making It Happen

In this post I have provided you with a more granular look at how we track and report on the functional area of marketing at nLIVEn. We also use the same approach, separately, when it comes to planning and managing the sales function of our business.

This is a critical component of uncollapsing the way you understand and manage both marketing and sales, as separate but related areas within your business.

If you need help understanding and designing the true drivers of performance and success in your business, you can learn more by reading another post related to this one. In “Strategic Plan, Business Plan, Strategic Business Plan: is there a difference?”, I discuss the challenges you need to face and overcome to get an executive or ownership team to agree on how you will measure and monitor performance.


Explore Additional Resources:

Article:  Strategic Plan, Business Plan, Strategic Business Plan: is there a difference?
Article: How to use the 7Ps Marketing Mix
Article: From 4Ps to 7Ps
Article: Marketing Mix Is Key To A Succesful Marketing Plan (includes a great, short instructional video)

Ask Me a Question:

If you have a question, comment, thought or concern, you can do so by clicking here. We’d love to hear from you.

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