Marketing, Lead Generation, Sales – The Blurred Lines of Business

What is the difference between marketing, lead generation, and sales? The blurred lines of business continue to get blurrier.

I have been in the marketing space since 2008. I started in Corporate America working for 2 very large, fortune 500 companies. I played the role of marketing manager, email marketing manager, and marketing consultant. For the last 5 years, I have been helping small businesses market and grow their business through creative small business marketing ideas and creating marketing processes to get more done.

Recently, I have noticed a massive swing in what people understand about marketing, lead generation, and sales. The confusion is happening because the lines between the three continue to be blurred.

For example, I will sit down with a potential client. We will start the conversation with their expectation. This conversation helps map the right marketing tactics to the needs of the client.

Some clients say they need to refine their marketing message because their lead generation is not resulting in sales. Others say then need more leads. Others just need to move the needle.

This is all fine and dandy, but marketing is not lead generation, lead generation is not sales. Yes, they all work together and make each other stronger (hopefully). But they are different.

What Is Marketing

What Is Marketing

Okay, let’s start at the broadest of the three, marketing. Marketing is the process of identifying what your customers actually want and creating the channels to gain interest for your product or service. This pertains to sales, but also product development, pricing, and advertising. Marketing includes market research, customer persona development, and distribution channels.

Marketing in a true sense is the ability to target the right customer, craft a message that will resonate with them, and get the product in their hands. In honesty, this is where most marketing agencies and businesses get it wrong. They create a targeted message and expect it to generate revenue. They do not look at the entire marketing ecosystem. Let’s look at the 4 Ps of marketing to get a better understanding of marketing.

Product – Your product is your actual product or service you are selling. From carpet cleaning to tee shirts, your product is pretty straightforward. Marketing will help you determine if there is a fit between your product and a customer base.

Pricing – How much are you going to charge for your product, including discounts and remain profitable. The ability to set the right price is going to depend on how much your targeted customer base is willing to pay. Marketing is going to help you determine if your customer can afford your product or service.

Distribution (Place) – How are your going to get your product to the customer. Yes, the internet is becoming the go-to place to shop and exchange goods, but it is not the only way to get your product or service to your customer. We also need to know the demographics of the customer to ensure our distribution plans meet the needs of the customer.

Promotion – Promoting your product is more than just giving 15% off your next order. Promotion is creating the marketing communications that are used in lead generation. Here is the handoff. Promoting your business is the tactics and investment you use to get your message in front of your targeted customer.

As you can see marketing is really all-encompassing. This is also why marketing is important to your business and it is not as easy as throwing up some Facebook ads or blogging for your business, it is about creating the right product for the right customer and making sure that you are able to explain the value you can potentially bring.

Remember, marketing is the future.

What Is Lead Generation

Okay, let’s make the bacon people. Lead generation what most companies are looking for, right?


The other day I was sitting at my boys’ basketball practice. The phone rang. The number was very similar to a large client of ours. So, I walked out of the gym to take the call. “Hello, I am Frank from Company X (let’s protect the innocent). Would you happen to be Steve Bo-Bo-Hole-ly?” One of the great things about having a really strange last name is that I can filter real calls versus spammers.

“You mean Steve Boehle (Bailey)?”
“Yeah, I would never have guessed that.”
“Sure, he is right here. Hold on a minute.”

I walked back into the gym and put the phone down on the seat next to me. After 10 minutes I picked the phone up. It was really loud in the gym.

“Hello, this is Steve.”
“I can’t hear you, I am in the middle of a basketball practice. Can you speak up?” I was not going back outside, it was 105 degrees out there.
“I still can’t hear you, hold on.” Another 10 minutes of gym noise and the caller hung up.

There are many different types of leads. Lead generation is the process of attracting and converting strangers that have shown interest in your product to qualified prospects or leads. Lead generation is the act of executing your marketing and getting your marketing to generate leads.

This is really where the rubber meets the road. This is going to make your marketing successful or not. Let’s face it, great marketing with no execution is wasted money.

Now, your tactics can range from being the dude at Company X, buying a list of “qualified” buyers to the inbound marketing methodology that earns interest from your buyers.

Lead generation is essential to any business. Without lead generation, there really is no business. But lead generation is not really marketing. Lead generation is part of marketing that produces leads. Good marketing will enhance your lead generation tactics and increase your return on investment.

Remember, lead generation is short-term.

What Is Sales

What Is SalesSales are the short-term, here and now revenue generator. This is every board member favorite part of business. We need sales in order to survive and increase profitability. This is why so many companies invest in sales first. Let’s place bodies on the ground and get in front of people. The problem is that every salesperson on the planet needs marketing in order to be successful. Marketing makes sales better.

Sales is the act of exchanging your product or service for money. This can be a contract, a handshake, or a transaction on your website. Sales and marketing need to work together to ensure that the products, pricing, distribution, and lead generation tactics are appealing to the right customers.

Again, your sales department is a part of marketing. Great marketing will help your sales department close deals faster with little to no effort. The more aligned your sales team and your marketing team are, the better the results.

Remember, sales is right now. 

The New Marketing

Okay, we are now on the same page. Marketing is not lead generation, sales is not marketing and everything in between. But that does not change the fact that most businesses need lead generation, not marketing.

Hear me out. As a business, you have already done the marketing. You have identified your product or service. You have identified your price. You have developed your distribution channels. You might even be promoting your business. You need more leads.

The trick here is creating the right promotion with the right marketing message. This combination generates leads that your sales team can actually close. This combination also creates a pipeline that does not require you to cold-call and network all day.

Your business needs to focus on the short-term tactics to generate cash. This is why most companies fail, they never stop talking about the marketing and start generating leads and revenue.

The new marketing is a marketing methodology that looks at both the short-term needs of the business and the long-term growth plans.

The New Marketing Methodology

Marketing today takes a new marketing is a methodology that moves faster based on the customer wants and needs. The ability to stay flexible and move faster is not just buzzwords being thrown around, it is reality. The ability to stay small, learn, and adapt is real.

Think of it this way. You need to generate demand for your business fast. Typically, this would take months. You would sit down with all your board members, create a small business marketing strategy, do some market research, validate your hypothesis, and then implement. By the time you get done the preference of the customer has changed. This are getting crazy out there.

The new marketing is always testing new marketing ideas and optimizing based on the data. The days of Donald Draper are gone. There are no more storyboards. There are a social media ad and targeted market. The data after 15 days of testing will tell you if your marketing theory worked. Not 3-months of testing.


The point here is that your customer is constantly changing and your marketing methodologies need to change as well.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

The ability to move faster leads us to need even more alignment between sales and marketing. As the preference of the customer changes, sales need to be able to help marketing pivot. The more alignment between the sales department and marketing department the faster you can test and optimize.

The ability to align sales and marketing is becoming easier and easier. Systems like a CRM software, email marketing, and analytics platforms are easier to integrate than ever. Alignment leads to speed, speed leads to results.


The lines between marketing, lead generation, and sales continue to blur as the customer continues to adapt and change. The ability to align your business helps move faster and produce better results. Use marketing tools will help you move fast and measure your results. Make sure that you know what you need, marketing, lead generation, or sales.

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