In the midst of talking about optimizing Marketo, content marketing, social, inbound and outbound, I sometimes think we’ve lost track of what marketing is – we can’t see the forest for the trees.

This cartoon said it all.

Marketing enables a business to provide information about its products and services to prospective customers. You’re letting people know what you sell, what it’s for, why they might care, and the benefit they might gain from using it. Then they get to decide if it’s really something they can use and if the cost to get it is worth the value it might bring—and they decide that in conversation with marketing and sales.

There is no evidence that classic advertising, for example, ever induced someone who wasn’t already a potential customer to buy anything. If I don’t own a place to put it or have things that need to stay cold, I’m unlikely to want to buy a refrigerator. Only if I already have a home, business or other location where I need a refrigerator, am I likely to pay attention to advertising for that particular product and start to compare my options.

What classic advertising does, however, is inform consumers that products exist, that there are solutions to problems that those consumers might have, and the benefits of one solution over another. You can have the greatest, best product in the world, but if no one knows it exists, no one’s going to buy it—you need marketing.

Digital marketing has expanded our ability to deliver messages in new and novel ways, but in the midst of implementing new technologies, optimizing websites, and enabling sales, we need to remember what our core business is: to inform and educate those who might be interested in our products and services about their potential, effectiveness, and availability.

When we focus on our mission, we can see clearly how marketing and sales must be aligned in order to sell products. We know that we’re in it together, educating the right population, having conversations through different media, and ultimately, helping consumers make the best buying decisions to achieve their own goals.