Marketing vs. Business Development: What's the Difference?

Updated July 21, 2022

As you search for a business career, you may notice similar job descriptions and titles. To determine which best suits your skills and abilities, it's essential to understand the difference between each career. Marketing and business development are examples of two jobs that seem similar but can lead you down different career paths. In this article, we discuss what marketing and business development are and explain the similarities and differences between these two roles.

What is marketing?

Marketing is a process that helps a business understand its brand or marketplace from the perspective of its clients or customers, improving the business and leading the firm to be successful in the future. Successful marketing involves driving more customers to a company to increase sales and leads.

Marketing professionals can help businesses identify potential new customers and determine how to reach them effectively. Typically, businesses work on developing marketing strategies after building their development goals. To be successful in the field of marketing, professionals must have a blend of creative and analytical skills as well as the ability to advertise products and services in the right places using the right tactics.

Related: Sales vs. Business Development: What's the Difference?

What is business development?

Business development is the process of identifying and securing new opportunities that occur in a business environment. Often, this process focuses on developing short- and long-term connections and relationships with potential customers. Professionals who are involved in business development for a company generate viable leads and then pass those leads on to the sales team to complete business deals. A business developer should be broad-minded, strategic and collaborative in their approach to ensure they can utilize new opportunities to grow their enterprises.

Related: Vertical and Horizontal Business Markets Explained

Similarities between marketing and business development

There are a few similarities between marketing and business development, including:

Growth potential

Most companies coordinate their marketing strategies with their business development plans to generate better leads and promote products and services. These new, targeted leads may drive higher close rates that boost the success of the business. Business development focuses on improving customer experience through your brand, while marketing aims to create better content and messaging that can also attract customers to the business. When each process focuses on generating more leads, businesses often see better results in attracting customers through the sales funnel.

For instance, your business development team can use language similar to what your customers use with the marketing team. This can help the marketing team develop messages, content, promotions and events that will resonate with your target audience. In turn, the marketing team can also offer a common language that may help the business development team draft internal resources and sales strategies that help in attracting more customers to the business.

Increasing leads

Business development teams can gain better-qualified leads from marketing team members who operate with help from sales. The marketing team uses its communication skills to target key influencers and buyers and to create effective campaigns. Performing various functions in business development and marketing can help develop strategies that meet your client's needs and understand how to communicate well with prospects. You can also create campaigns that drive the most valuable leads as per stakeholder criteria.

The business development department may also use business analyst experts to find the best opportunities for different industries and customers. By bridging various data streams, they target partners, stakeholders and potential customers. The marketing team also brings together that ecosystem of partners, advisors, influencers and analysts to determine high-quality targets and assist the business development team in designing a comprehensive strategy for systematically pursuing them.

Finding opportunities

A marketing team's access to activities and social intelligence on social media keep them at the forefront of industry changes and help them stay ahead of the competition. Marketing and business development may adopt similar plans to ensure both departments benefit from dependable lead tracking through the entire sales funnel, better lead outcomes and consistent messaging. The ear-to-the-ground mentality of marketing also supplements business development by ensuring salespeople have access to suitable events and forums where they can engage influencers and customers.

These opportunities are similar to those enjoyed by the marketing team because they help generate leads through connections and positioning. Marketing managers may get similar invites to business events and use these chances to promote their company's products and services through their excellent communication skills. However, they should develop other marketing strategies that can market their product value.

Related: How To Start a Digital Marketing Business

Marketing vs. business development

Here are some differences between marketing and business development:

College degrees

Students who want to work in the field of marketing will often major in advertising, marketing research, sales management or public relations. Once they grasp marketing roles, they may choose a work specialty that suits them and declare it their study area. Alternatively, students may major in business management and choose marketing as their specialty. Upon graduation, these students may apply for marketing roles.

To specialize in business development, students can pursue a bachelor of science in accounting, business management, international trade, communication management, advertising or a related major to increase their business skills. Business development students may often take part in events that help them gain development and management skills and understand better strategies for managing customers. This may include taking part in student organizations within the business development department, student leadership and governance roles within the different academic clubs.

Differentiation vs. connection

Marketing is about identifying your key differentiators to establish your position within the market. The goal is to stand out to show how you are different or better than your competitors. Whether you are working on website content, promoting a specific event or drafting a press release, creating high-quality messaging strategies can help you market the company's services and products to new customers.

Business development, in contrast, is all about creating connections. It builds upon the company brand that has been established through marketing efforts to connect your audience to your services and products. Its main focus may be networking events, getting leads and converting those leads into customers via your sales team.

Creating relationships differently

Both the public relations and marketing team members need to create relationships with their clients. The marketing team may develop innovative ideas that connect them with customers and promote their products and services through excellent relationships with their clients. Integrating with many individuals in different areas can attract many leads and increase company sales. For example, they can organize a business development event that may incorporate other people and attract them to the business.

Business development also requires you to interact with people and partners while making connections. The way you interact with people determines the relationships you make to attract leads. While you may not get many opportunities to get into the field to connect with people like the marketing team, you can develop strategies that connect you to potential customers and improve your performance.

Timing of the impact

The marketing role is part of the day-to-day creation of revenue. As inbound leads increase, the marketing team members send them to sales. The sales team, in turn, review them and sends the best prospects on to the company's best closers. This process happens daily to keep the business operating. Most companies define marketing goals in quarterly or annual terms.

Business development is more of a long-term project. This sector works on strategic partnerships and new products that can take a year or more to succeed. It may take months or years before a business development plan begins to make a noticeable impact on revenue. It's essential to know that business development focuses on the long-term future of the business.

Focus on current vs. future products

The marketing department focuses on the current products a company offers. Its job is to sell customers products and services that can be delivered to customers immediately. The business development department uses technology and research to create future products or alternative solutions for their customers.

The marketing department in a company that sells tools, for example, would focus on marketing the current products and generating leads. The business development department, meanwhile, would focus on improving those products and creating new ones to offer in the future.

Related: What Is Product Development Strategy?

Method of attracting customers

Customers working with the company's marketing team are likely to be at one of the three stages of the marketing process:

  • Awareness: Customers in this stage are looking for solutions to their problems. Marketing your brands can create awareness among your potential customers. For instance, a customer who knows they need a hammer may research companies that sell hammers to see what their options are.

  • Consideration: Some customers are already aware of several solutions and are evaluating their options. At this stage, the customer evaluates the information you provide while marketing your hammers and compares it to what your competitors offer to determine which product best suits their needs.

  • Decision: Customers in this stage have decided on a solution and determined what they may pay for it. Your development team may use different strategies to convince many customers to buy products from your business.

The marketing team can adjust its messaging or strategy to reach more customers or to engage them more effectively. However, their efforts will always be limited by the company's current products and processes. It falls on the business development team to think of long-term ways to attract and retain customers. For instance, the business development team can work on new products, better designs, faster shipping and manufacturing timelines and improved customer service policies that will keep customers coming back.

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