Marketing vs. Business Development vs. Sales – What’s the Difference?

Marketing vs Business Development vs Sales
October 14, 2023

In the architecture, engineering, and construction industries, marketing, business development, and sales are typically all lumped into one word: marketing. Although these three areas are closely tied and must work in collaboration, they are very different departments within a business. They have specific functions and each usually requires a different type of personality/skill set/employee. It’s important to realize these differences, because you don’t treat each department the same and don’t measure them the same.


Marketing involves everything that happens before the client meets an employee within your firm. It’s before face-to-face or virtual-to-virtual interaction. Marketing helps prospects become familiar with your firm and warm up to it. Marketing includes branding, advertising, website, social media, and sponsorships. It’s important to be consistent in your marketing practices, because there aren’t instant results. It takes time to build your brand and your image. Research shows that a prospect has to see your brand thirteen times before he or she remembers it. Be consistent! That is the secret sauce to marketing.

In the past, marketing success has been difficult to measure but with the addition of all the digital marketing tools, it’s become easier to see results. Marketers can see Google analytics (website traffic – Make sure you have GA4 installed on your website. Check out our blog about GA4.) and social media platform insights, which shows what pages are being visited, how long they are on your website, what pages they are reading, what social media platforms are being used, how visitors get to your website and social media platforms, and how they are engaging with your social media platforms. There are also other programs you can install on your website to track visitors more precisely meaning where (company) they are searching and what specific paths they take on your website. With email campaigns, marketers can also see who opens the emails and where they click to through the email. These measures are constantly changing because of the technology and laws, but marketers must be aware of the impact we can make by showing principals and owners the tangible success of digital marketing.

Recently, there have been some announcements about cookies, so this will be something from the digital side of marketing we will need to keep a close eye on.

Business Development

Business development is building relationships with prospects and clients consistently. This is face-to-face interactions or virtual meetings with prospects and clients. Business development occurs every day in your business (or at least it should in some capacity). Whether you have a full-time business developer, project managers, principal, or owner who are in charge of business development, your employee(s) are building relationships every day with the work they produce. Every employee is really responsible for business development, because they are going to create the repeat clients when delivering great projects. Business developers are typically responsible for making cold calls and being the face of the company at various community, client, and prospect events. They are opening the door for the project managers and owners to close the sale. Business developers aren’t usually technical people as it’s rare to find an architect, engineer, or construction professional with those skill sets. If you are lucky enough to have this unicorn in your office, give that person the opportunity to shine in that role! And provide them training and direction.

Business development can be measured through direction and accountability. A detailed business development plan gives the individual the firm’s direction and target audience, so they know where they need to spend their time developing relationships. A business developer can attend multiple events in a day but if it’s not where your target audience spends their time, then you are wasting the business developer’s time and the firm’s resources (i.e. money). Setting those expectations is important, so owners and principals see the results they want. It’s not immediate that you’ll see results, so you must be patient. If you have given a detailed plan and set realistic expectations and still don’t see results in twelve months, then you probably don’t have the right person in charge of business development for your firm.


Sales is confirming the deal and signing the contract. Many times the owner, principal, or project manager closes the sale. Marketing and business developers aren’t responsible for closing the sale. They are responsible for shortening the sales cycle, building your firm’s brand, supporting the technical team, and giving the technical team insight into what the prospect/client really wants or needs. They are like the outside spy for your firm! The sale usually happens during the presentation/interview for the project, in which the owner, principal, project manager, and/or superintendent are involved. It’s up to this team of individuals to close the sale and make it a no-brainer to select their team for the project! The scope of work and fee are determined and the contract is signed. That’s the marketing-business development-sales cycle.

As you can see, it takes a team effort from all three departments — marketing, business development, and sales —to make a project a reality. It also takes operations to continue the successful sales cycle. The individuals working on these projects and producing quality work will get you MORE work from that client. Then the marketing and business development departments can enhance the fantastic work performed and delivered by the technical team. By strategizing, collaborating, and implementing these areas of your business, you will increase profits and build your business.