Tag Archives: Korn Ferry

How To Make Marketing An Invaluable Function

In its landmark 2018 Pulse Survey of 220 Chief Marketing Officers, the executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry reported that, although financial results were the most important factor in their performance-based compensation, “52% of CMOs say they cannot make a direct and obvious correlation between marketing efforts and company performance.”

At small and mid-sized businesses, the heads of marketing rarely receive performance-based compensation related to financial results or related to any quantitative metrics directly associated with company performance. Their compensation and tenure are often based on fuzzy or subjective factors, including the ability to generate earned media, maintain an effective website, produce relevant content for social media or score highly in brand awareness or customer satisfaction surveys.

By design or default, most marketers are so far removed from the revenue-generation function that they cannot claim to add value to it. Or they find it impossible to demonstrate any role they play in achieving goals that are important to their CEO. In my experience, the sales team typically forgets to ask prospects how they’ve learned about the company or product. And when asked directly, prospects often claim that they can’t recall. Neither of those endorsements, however, would provide strong validation for marketing’s return on investment.

Regardless of company size, the marketing function will increasingly be at risk during tough economic periods, and will never have a permanent seat at the management table, unless CMOs and marketing VPs redefine their role and establish tangible ways to associate their efforts with revenue generation. To survive and grow in their current position, they need to invest more time on tasks that will affect the company’s top-line revenue and less time on what amounts to window dressing.

The Holy Grail of Sales and Marketing Alignment

Marketing and sales alignment must be the highest strategic goal for every marketer. This is no easy task.

Because sales reps have a more direct line of measuring revenue generation, it falls on the CMO’s shoulders to fix the sales-and-marketing culture clash — that is, where sales reps don’t believe in marketing’s ability to hand them worthy leads, and where marketers don’t believe that sales reps know how to properly manage those leads. In this culture clash, there is far less incentive for the VP of Sales to affect that change.

Here’s how marketing leaders can begin to establish a new way of working together with the sales team, and in the process, improve their company’s performance, as well as their professional stature and job tenure:

• Make yourself part of the sales team. Depending on the amount of rancor that currently exists between sales and marketing, it may require some triage or finesse to tell your sales counterpart that you’d like to better understand their world. Do not explain that you are on a mission to “align sales and marketing,” which might be met with suspicion. Instead, simply ask for guidance on ways you can improve communication and practical assistance. Suggest that combined marketing/sales meetings be held on a monthly or quarterly basis.

• Gain a firsthand understanding of the sales process. This requires shadowing on sales calls, which may not be met with enthusiasm by the head of sales or by individual sales reps. If marketing can gain a sense of what actually occurs on sales calls — ranging from how the product or service is described, to the prospects’ questions and objections — it will be in a much better position to craft tools and tactics that are based on market realities, rather than sales reports. Or it may result in a mutual agreement regarding the definition of a qualified lead.

• Gain a firsthand understanding of customer needs and issues. With or without the help of the sales department, find ways to stay on top of customer sentiment. Go deeper than automated online surveys. For example, spend a half-day every month listening in on calls that come into your customer service center. Better yet, reach out to current and former customers by phone (with the approval of sales) to gain an appreciation of why they are customers or why they’ve left.

• Build trust and partnership in small, meaningful ways. The degree of mutual cooperation between marketing and sales depends largely on the personalities involved, and how well they like and respect each other. That relationship can be strengthened over time if marketing finds ways to be helpful without encroaching too far onto sacred sales territory. This can include everything from their pitch letters and PowerPoint presentations to case studies and demos. The initial task is to discover the “safety zones,” where sales will welcome assistance from marketing. 

• Ask for feedback and find ways to compromise. Ed Koch, the legendary mayor of New York City, was known for always asking his constituents, “How am I doing?” What made Koch a great mayor was that he listened to their responses and found ways to address positive and negative feedback. Marketing and sales will always view the world through a different lens, so simply acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers is a necessary starting point for effective teamwork.

There are countless books, articles, research studies, educational seminars and consulting firms devoted to sales and marketing alignment. My guidance is neither unique nor comprehensive. For CMOs and marketers who spend their days creating content that no one reads, and generating campaigns that fail to create customers, I’m simply suggesting they should keep their resumes up to date.

This article was originally published in Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2021/01/08/how-to-make-marketing-an-invaluable-function/?sh=4846c08874f5

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Sales and Marketing Alignment: Facing Professional Culture Clash

quote-i-don-t-like-that-man-i-must-get-to-know-him-better-abraham-lincoln-17-61-18The most recent survey of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) shows that not much has changed over the past 10 years. CMOs continue their struggle to make the connection between marketing activity and company performance, and they continue to shift the blame for their failure.

Despite the fact that financial results are rated as the most important factor in a CMO’s performance-based compensation, executive recruitment firm Korn Ferry’s CMO survey found that the majority of senior marketers claim they cannot make a direct correlation between their efforts and company performance.

The reason CMOs give for the disconnect? Nearly a third of the survey respondents suggest that their CEO “doesn’t understand the CMO role.” Specifically, they feel their boss fails to understand the complexity of brand building; the importance of a customer-centric approach; and the correlation between marketing and revenue generation.

Averaging job tenure of just 4.1 years – the shortest of all C-suite positions – CMOs are unlikely to win either sympathy or contract renewals from CEOs (with average tenure of 8 years), who are increasingly impatient with CMOs’ lack of results and accountability.

Tactics and Tools Fail CMOs

An oversimplified description of the CMO’s role is to promote the brand, and to generate viable leads for the sales team. To accomplish those necessary goals, and create some tangible evidence of their contribution to their company’s top line results, CMOs continue to rely heavily (or exclusively) on a large and growing inventory of marketing tactics and tools.

In addition to traditional methods such as advertising (a/k/a “paid media”) and public relations (a/k/a “earned media”), the marketing tool kit now includes everything from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs and Marketing Automation software, to Account-Based Marketing (ABM), which is the latest shiny object promising to deliver ROI Nirvana to CMOs.

Unfortunately, as the complexity of the tools and tactics increases, they become more difficult for CMOs to manage (and explain), and more likely that their CEOs will believe that marketing is disconnected from what they believe is most important…which is revenue generation.

Attitude Adjustment Required

If the most measurable portion of the CMO’s role is lead generation; if the sales force is an essential asset to convert those leads into clients or revenue; and if clients and revenue are what’s used to determine CMO compensation and tenure…then why does “marketing / sales alignment” continue to be a significant challenge for most companies?

The simple answer is that there is a longstanding culture clash between marketing and sales professionals. Sales reps believe that marketers are disconnected from customers and marketplace realities, never get their hands dirty, and provide them with leads that are worthless. Marketers believe that sales reps are self-interested, don’t understand the company’s strategy, and waste the leads and tools they are given.

In this ongoing tug-of-war, marketers will always stand to lose, because revenue trumps branding in the corner office, and because sales reps can more easily claim direct responsibility for revenue generation.

Amy Edmondson, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, studies people and teams seeking to make a positive difference through the work that they do. Her research suggests that fixing this marketing and sales professional culture clash starts with an attitude adjustment, and requires a new way of working together.

Lessons from a Chilean Coal Mine  

At a recent TED conference, Professor Edmondson explained the concept of “teaming,” where people come together to solve new, urgent or unusual problems. Recalling stories of teamwork on the fly, such as the incredible rescue of 33 miners trapped half a mile underground in Chile in 2010, Edmondson shares the elements needed to turn a group of strangers into a quick-thinking team that can nimbly respond to challenges. At many companies, sales and marketing teams are strangers to each other.

Here are three key points from Professor Edmondson’s TED presentation (well worth 13 minutes to view) that CMOs should consider in any serious effort to work effectively with sales professionals:

  • It’s difficult to learn if you believe that you already know the solution to a challenge or opportunity. Situational humility – simply acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers – is a necessary starting point for effective teamwork.
  • We need to be genuinely curious about what others think and bring to the table. The key to success in building an effective team is learning the strengths of others, and conveying what you can contribute to the effort.
  • Society has conditioned us to view each other as competitors. To wit: for me to succeed, you must fail. This underlying cultural bias needs to be eliminated, in order for sales and marketing teams to work together effectively.

There are no simple solutions to the challenge of marketing and sales alignment. But it’s more likely to be improved within a company by focusing on the hard work of listening and communicating, as Professor Edmondson suggests. CMOs need to begin that journey by looking inside themselves, and not to outside providers of marketing technologies.

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