Marketing Week recently claimed that marketing and sales are pretty much the same these days (lead article on 12 May 2016). They are wrong. It is a dangerous idea. The more a company believes marketing and sales are the same thing, the harder they will need to push to persuade customers to buy. And if they think marketing is about persuasion, or even about communication, they are in big trouble. Real marketers start with listening to customers, not talking at them.

It’s understandable that the marketing media make this mistake. Much of real marketing is invisible: market segmentation; consumer understanding which shapes product and service development; positioning and proposition development. You can’t see these bits from outside. Some businesses are set up so the people with marketing in their job titles don’t see much of it either. That doesn’t matter too much, as long as it’s being done. The invisible stuff is the really critical work that makes sales easy. Decide roughly what your business is capable of doing. Find out who’s interested in buying that sort of thing – and why. Work out how to match what you can offer with what they seem willing to pay for. Repeat.

Proper marketing done well means the product is so well aligned to the customer’s need that it almost sells itself, to paraphrase Peter Drucker. No persuasion or deals needed – it already fits their need and the sales person can show why. Understanding the need leads to a good “product-market fit” – the term favoured in the world of tech start-ups and venture capital, which marketers could usefully adopt.

Then comes marketing communication. This is the bit your parents can explain to the neighbours when telling them just how well you’ve done. It’s important, interesting and often fun, and there’s lots of money being spent on it. No wonder it gets all the media attention. It also demands a lot of marketers’ time. Creating effective marketing communications is complex and demanding – but sometimes the best work looks effortless. Many marketers have to fend off endless challenges about budgets and ROI, as well as claims from half the people in sales and finance that they could have made a better ad.

Finally, after marketing communications, there’s sales. These are the two things that are getting ever closer. It’s sensible to make it easy for people to buy as soon as they are ready, and it’s one of the great things about the internet. Social commerce is when marketing communication is combined with the opportunity to buy. It’s not sales at all – it replaces sales activity. Effective positioning and targeted communication means the customer sells it to herself.

Also in May, the last ever issue of Marketing magazine was published. It’s been swallowed up by its sister publication, Campaign. While consolidation may be financially expedient, the stated rationale is that collaboration and agency-client integration are the name of the game.

Meanwhile veteran ad man Dave Trott, a Campaign columnist, recently wrote: “Advertising isn’t marketing. Advertising is the voice of marketing. But most advertising people don’t know that.”

The watch-out is for client-side marketers who could be at risk of neglecting the most important bit of the job. Campaign is right about collaboration – but the most important collaboration for marketers is with other functions inside their organisation, to make sure the right stuff comes out. That makes everyone’s job easier. Marketing communications will be more effective. Sales activity can be more efficient. Customers should be more satisfied. If they’re not, listening marketers will hear about it, and collaborative marketers can help the business to fix it.