Transitioning from Selling to Marketing - The evolution of growing firms

Every business starts with a solution to a problem by an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs by nature are great salesman as they are selling their solution with a passion.

However, there comes a time in the evolution of every company when they have to transition from selling to marketing. Selling is asking for the order, while marketing is creating a demand in the mind of the customer so that they seek you out.

Malcolm Gladwell, the well known author, captured this transition in his tome’ – The Tipping Point. Gladwell describes this best with his definition of the Tipping Point being when a company begins to attract the “early majority”. This is that point when the “early innovators” have broadcast their excitement with the value proposition to the extent that this has attracted the next larger group of customers (the early majority) needed to propel the brand to the next level of growth.

Let’s use the iPhone as an example of this process. When introduced at $599.00 the first group of customers – the “Innovators”, bought the initial model based on the passionate sales pitch made by Steve Jobs. As a result of the innovators rave reviews when the next model was introduced at $399.00 the early adopters were the second segment of eager customers. Then based upon their experience (“I love it”) and sharing and broadcasting their satisfaction the iPhone reached the “tipping point”, and the rest is history.

The transition from selling to marketing for any entrepreneurial founder is difficult because they envision themselves as a super salesman which is what got the company to where it is. However, there are only so many hours in a day and at some point in the evolution of any company the strategy that the company was founded upon starts to falter. This is the time when the management team has to revisit the value proposition and begin to promote the brand and adopt more of a targeted marketing strategy.

Brands exist in the mind. The only way anything gets into the mind is by displacing what already exists. Marketing then is the battle for the customers mind. So a brand must own a position in the mind like the iPhone displaced the cellular phone and is now being displaced to some extent by Android and other smart phone technologies.

This battle for a position in the mind of customers requires any company to employ marketing strategies to begin to create an “emotional bond” with the brand in the customers mind. The most successful companies have established a brand equity with their customers and reinforce their value propositions to maintain that position. In so doing they grow the value of a customer.

Founders/CEO’s of growing firms must make the transition from selling to marketing if they are to sustain and grow the value of their brand.


Robert M. Donnelly is the author of: Guidebook to Planning - A Common Sense Approach, an educator: Professor of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Saint Peter's University, and a brand builder and marketing expert. His new book: Personal Brand Planning for life is a guide for anyone w...

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