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“Smarketing” Alignment and Digital Marketing Effectiveness

July 11, 2019
dave.schad@risdall.com

As a marketer, there is nothing more I would rather say than that an outside consultant or agency is the solution to all your digital marketing problems. While we can do a lot to guide you to remarkable achievement, we have found organizations that align marketing and sales have much greater rates of success. 

The facts don’t lie. When sales and marketing are aligned, good things happen. At the end of the day, they are responsible for the ultimate goal, bottom-line business growth.

  • Companies with good “smarketing” practices in place generated 208% more revenue from marketing efforts. – Hubspot
  • When sales and marketing teams work together, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates. – Hubspot

Alignment is easier said than done, right? As an agency, we don’t think so. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly and there are some key approaches we’ve found to be successful in creating alignment between sales and marketing. These are two different perspectives, but equally important roles within a company.

  • Sales is generally focused on selling products or services by building face-to-face, one-on-one relationships and closing opportunities. That is what they are measured on and obsessed with. 
  • Marketing is generally focused on overall business results, but with a perspective that is more about increasing brand visibility with audiences and shaping reputation and positive perception for the brand that offers those products or services.

When sales and marketing are working well together, it is great to be a part of but when they aren’t, there can be tension and lack of collaboration. These are a few of the things of the negative perceptions we’ve seen.

Sales perspectives on Marketing

  1. Marketing acts as the brand police and a support to sales 
  2. Marketing is not able to generate Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). They are good at awareness building.
  3. The leads marketing provides are not qualified and low value.
  4. Until we see a better approach, the way we network is familiar and still works pretty well so why change? 
  5. Consultation is the best way to derive client needs and establish a healthy sales relationship.
  6. Since marketers aren’t with customers everyday, they don’t understand what they really want or need.

Marketings perspective on Sales

  1. Salespeople don’t care about the awareness generated or the tools made available to them. 
  2. Sales doesn’t follow up on the leads provided.
  3. Sales is unwilling to consider new ways of reaching audiences.
  4. Sales struggles to define the target audience beyond general explanation.
  5. Sales tends to dictate messaging based on what they are trained to say about the product.
  6. Sales struggles to embrace new ways of measuring progress other than revenue or number of sales.

Most sales and marketing teams tend to be siloed, questioning their peers’ strategies, skills and perspectives. What we have found is they either don’t talk enough, don’t talk about the right things or don’t talk at the right times. 

How is your process working today?”

Take this survey by rating these things on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being awful and 5 being great.

  1. How often during campaign planning do sales and marketing communicate?
  2. How willing is marketing to involve sales in the marketing planning process?
  3. How involved are sales and marketing in shaping marketing initiatives together?
  4. How willing is sales to allow marketing to access their customers to conduct research?
  5. How involved is sales and marketing in collaborating to define the customer together and outline their decision-making journey – behaviors, needs, and what resonates with them? 
  6. Do marketing and sales find alignment on brand purpose, key messages and proof points for each of their customer segments?
  7. Do sales and marketing define what an MQL (marketing qualified lead) and SQL (sales qualified lead) is together? 
  8. Do sales and marketing agree on each other’s role in impacting MQLs and SQLs?
  9. Are both sales and marketing willing to review and share marketing and sales plans with each other?
  10. Do your sales and marketing teams determine together various levels of success from top-of-funnel to bottom – success metrics/KPIs pertaining to each initiative?
  11. Do sales and marketing have a shared ROI outline?
  12. Do sales and marketing have clearly agreed upon shared and exclusive attribution for SQLs?
  13. Do sales and marketing conduct monthly sales and marketing meetings to foster communication, promote understanding and report success?

If you scored lower than a 3 on any of these you need to be concerned. If you scored a 3 or 4, you still have work to do. If you scored a 5 on all, you can stop reading.

Suggestions for improvement

Below are some disciplines we have found helpful in bridging the gap that often exists between the teams We refer to them as disciplines because they need to be regularized in your organization in order to be effective long term. In many cases it falls to senior leaders to reinforce them.

The  ultimate goal is to foster better communication, collaboration and understanding between sales and marketing. That may be uncomfortable for both teams but it will prove invaluable. 

Disciplines for better alignment

  1. Creating constant points of communication, collaboration and alignment
  2. Clearly defining the marketplace
  3. Clearly defining a brand’s purpose and social mission together
  4. Clearly defining the audiences’ decision making journey and the content that meets them in their journey
  5. Setting clear marketing goals together. Clearly define KPIs together. Clearly define an SQL
  6. Clear agreement on attribution

Let’s explain each one of these in greater detail and why it is important.

Creating constant points of communication, collaboration and alignment

Meeting regularly Creating a cadence of interaction is the best way to begin to have alignment between sales and marketing. Having marketing people sit in on sales meetings and having sales people join marketing meetings will begin to foster a greater understanding and sense of team.

Providing marketing overview for new sales people and vice versaThis is often overlooked but is very important. Just as an outside agency or consultant must explain their role, approach and capability, it is essential new sales team members have a clear understanding of marketing. The reciprocal should be true for new marketing people. They should be given a sales orientation. 

Planning meetings Any major effort would benefit from the presence of both sales and marketing at the table. This collaboration will lead to richer information sharing gathering, ideas being shared and to better outcomes. Workshops are a great way to gather information and draw out information that would otherwise not be shared. Focusing on three areas; audience needs, marketing journey roadmap and desired Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) takes the focus off what marketing does or what sales does and puts the focus squarely on what is best for reaching customers. 

Regular meetings Set up a meeting cadence. You should meet at least once a month using this time to review progress, clear any hurdles that have presented themselves and analyze results.

Clearly defining the marketplace together 

How big is your marketplace? Where is the greatest concentration of opportunity – are there regions or audiences that are more target rich? Are there timing or trends impacting sales? What are the current sales strategies? What are their goals? Who is the competition and what are their advantages? What differentiates our brand/product or service from our competition. 

These are some of the questions that sales and marketing should explore together in initial discussions. Including sales and marketing in a discovery workshop will build a better understanding of the competitive landscape, and define target audience.

Clearly defining a brand’s purpose and social mission together

Much of the time the focus is on the “what” in selling a product or service and not necessarily focused on the why. Defining the “why” a company is in business separates companies that sell products in the same category and helps create a deeper emotional connection to a product or service with an audience. A social mission can be very empowering for a brand, demonstrating a commitment to community, the environment and the general greater good. Working on these two areas will help differentiate your brand and elevate your messaging and purpose for all marketing communications.

Clearly defining the audiences decision making journey and the content that meets them in their journey

95% of buyers choose a solution provider that provides them ample content to navigate the buying journey. –Marketing Essentials

By defining our buyer personas together in marketing terms, marketing can help sales understand the ways marketing approaches defining various needs, and the information that impacts the decision making process at each stage of the buyer journey. By doing this in a collaborative workshop, sales will see that marketing is genuinely concerned with impacting audiences beyond building awareness – developing strategies to deliver the right content to navigate each stage of the buying process and shorten the sales cycle.

If you are constantly promoting new offers and content, it’s important to keep the sales team up-to-date with these promotions so they know what recent offer their leads are receiving.

Setting clear marketing goals together. Clearly define KPIs together. Clearly define MQLs and SQLs

Keeping your team focused and united requires setting clear marketing goals and defining KPIs that everyone can agree to. It helps to think in terms of the marketing funnel and define KPIs accordingly. 

A general example of KPIs could be:

  • Awareness: Website visits from a search 
  • Consideration: Time on page and links to additional information

MQLs – Marketing qualified leads

  • Intent: Form submissions for product information downloads 

SQLs – Marketing qualified leads

  • Purchase: Sales contact form submissions for product demos, free trials and consultations

Nurturing and cross-selling

  • Loyalty/repeat: Marketing automation email opens 
  • Advocacy: providing a positive review of a product or service

Having clear KPIs defined at each stage of the buyers’ journey will allow sales and marketing to rally in support of both functions.

Clear agreement on attribution

Successful attribution requires having the right technology, people and processes in place to measure multiple touch points along the customer’s journey. 

As marketers, we need to understand which content and campaigns are driving the best results and leading to sales. Regular reviews of campaign metrics with the sales team allows you to share information and data and allows them to provide feedback on lead quality.

Multi-touch attribution will require a disciplined approach to data capture and analysis, requiring sales and marketing to have an understanding of the technologies that measure various touch points during customer journey and agree upon their weight (significance) in influencing customer behavior.

Further, since customers don’t always buy immediately it will be important for sales and marketing to define latent conversion KPIs that might be triggered by email or a retargeting campaign and a new offer. These activities may happen after a sales contact and determining the credit can be a challenge. Agreement on KPIs for the entire journey and the attributabution of an initiative is critical for sales and marketing to share credit appropriately and optimize efforts for greater effectiveness.

Companies with tightly aligned sales and marketing departments see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates. – Hubspot

If you have reached this point and feel the need to develop a more collaborative relationship between sales and marketing, Risdall can help. We offer strategic  planning workshops designed to establish the structure needed to collaborate better and market more effectively. Contact us today to talk more! 

Let's get your sales and marketing teams aligned!