To many people, today’s word may look familiar, because, well, it is quickly becoming a standard term in the business lexicon. After all, it’s a standard of the way modern business must be conducted in order to be successful. Unfortunately, while the word itself and its application is becoming more common, the understanding of what it actually entails isn’t. So, let’s have a closer look at this often misunderstood term.
Though it is quite literally the combining of the words sales with marketing, the term doesn’t necessarily mean the total combination of sales and marketing. Looking back to the old way, marketing, often involving terms like “blanket” and “saturation,” and sales, often dealing with vague “leads” and cold calling, were inefficient and operated separately, which, like two different pipes haphazardly connected, led to suboptimal performance. What has changed the landscape for us is, of course, the Internet, specifically, social selling and the ability of potential customers to access reviews, ratings, and product information, essentially separating those who care from those who don’t, or, to put it in the seller-specific words of Seth Godin: “Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don’t.”
Still, recognizing that sellers are better at selling and marketers are better at marketing, the objective of smarketing is not to combine the two departments, but to allow them to work together for the benefit of each other. For example, through open communication, internal relationship building, and the free flow of data, marketing departments can apply sales data in order to fine-tune promotion to the right parties and develop better leads, and sales departments using marketing data can better address the concerns of potential clients, thus turning more clients into satisfied customers. Strengthening this relationship and – to reusing the pipe analogy – creating a seamless, synergistic pipeline allows for a better, more tailored customer approach and can dramatically reduce waste, lost opportunities, and lost sales.
For the term itself, as mentioned before, it is the combination of sales and marketing. Tracing its roots back through the Old English sala, the Old Norse sala, and the Proto-Germanic salo, our word sales, meaning ‘the act of selling or exchanging goods for a price’, first appears as a translation of Latin circa 1050 in the 1884 compilation Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies by Thomas Wright and R. P. Wülcker simply written as: “Distractio, ceap. Uenditio, sala (Distraction commodity/trade. Sale, Sale.).” The other progenitor of our term, marketing, originated via the Old North French market, itself derived from the Latin mercatus and, earlier, mercari, meaning, ‘to trade, buy, or deal in’, and, though used in 1455 in the sense of ‘selling at a market’, was first applied in the sense of product promotion by Adelbert Philo Mills in his 1922 work, Materials of Construction: Their Manufacture and Properties, stating that: “The ground grappiers are also separately marketed as a special cement known as grappier cement.”
When it comes to specific first usage of our term, there are actually several different possibilities. The first actual written usage can be traced back to the early 2010s and was coined by HubSpot, a company that develops inbound marketing and sales software. Beyond the word itself, it can be argued that the initial concept of smarketing should be credited to marketing specialists Dan Tye and Mike Volpe, who first came up with the idea in 2007; however, it can also be suggested that, independent of explanation or understanding, the advent of search engines (such as Google) in the early 2000s had such a profound effect on the amount of information available to potential customers that marketing and sales departments immediately began to evolve – call it proto-smarketing.
Sure, any term/concept that can save money, reduce waste, and lead to a better customer experience is always a benefit, but, hopefully, this has given a better understanding of the term, its actually meaning, and has started you thinking about how you can best apply it to your organisation.