Tag Archives: marketing & sales alignment

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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Should Marketing Automation Customers be Pre-Qualified?

dead duckFor decades, the ONLY way to produce any type of printed material – ranging from sales & marketing brochures, to annual reports and informational flyers – involved a multi-step, time / people-intensive, costly process requiring a copywriter, graphic designer, a typesetter and a printing press.

That longstanding production method was made obsolete over a 5-year period, with development of “What You See Is What You Get” screen technology, combined with the invention of laser printers and graphic design software such as PagerMaker.

Introduction of this new technology called “Desktop Publishing” rocked the business world. It not only changed how companies produced printed materials; it also changed who was responsible for producing them. And that created a different problem.

Armed with Desktop Publishing, many companies failed to grasp that their new technology could not replace professional skills such as graphic design, copywriting, branding and marketing required to produce effective print materials. In the hands of people lacking those communications skills, desktop publishers generated materials that, at best, were ineffective, and often hurt their company’s brand reputation and sales efforts.

The error of many desktop publishers? Believing that the new technology was a plug & play solution, rather than a tool to make people more effective.

Fast-Forward to Marketing Automation: History Repeats Itself

Most marketers understand the evolution of Marketing Automation technology. In a nutshell: legacy sales management software (CRM systems), combined with the emergence of email and social media platforms, have provided marketers with new ways to reach and influence target audiences directly and indirectly.

That capability, bolstered by access to data regarding customers and their online behavior, has led to a proliferation of technology companies peddling a mind-boggling array of Marketing Automation platforms intended to increase consistency and precision during every stage of the customer journey.

The reality, however, is that the Marketing Automation industry has a failure rate of 60%*; not because of its potential, but because of the inability of end-users to harness the technology properly.

The error of many companies using Marketing Automation? Believing that this technology is a plug & play solution, rather than a tool to make people more effective. Déjà vu.

Can Marketing Automation Save Itself from Extinction?

To operate a motor vehicle, you need to possess some basic knowledge of proper behavior as a vehicle operator. You must also pass a skills test, to demonstrate your ability to apply the rules of the road; to use the technology in a responsible manner.

As an industry, Marketing Automation is in trouble for that reason. More than half (and likely many more) of the operators of Marketing Automation products are likely unqualified to use them. They lack a basic understanding of marketing fundamentals, and put their companies at financial and reputational risk by using the technology in an irresponsible manner.

Using the automotive analogy, too many marketers are attempting to drive an 18-wheel tractor trailer through busy, narrow city streets without knowing how to shift the rig’s gears or apply the brakes, and lacking side-view mirrors. So when they eventually crash the vehicle, or give up the keys because they can’t out of first gear…they will attribute their failure to the truck’s manufacturer, not to themselves.

With a significant failure rate, and despite the rosy outlook from vendors and consultants, fewer customers will be lining up for Marketing Automation. (Watch for industry consolidation as major players fight for their share of a shrinking market.)

So how does Marketing Automation save itself from extinction? Here’s a highly improbable solution: Require that prospective customers are pre-qualified to purchase your product. Demand proof that would-be customers understand marketing fundamentals, and can demonstrate the potential to succeed (and to become loyal, enthusiastic brand ambassadors) by proper application of your product. Customers who don’t measure up…can be referred to competitors.

Qualification Standards for a Marketing Automation License

Here’s a list of basic skills that Marketing Automation providers might require of prospective customers, in advance of a sale:

·     Know Who Your Customers Are – Many companies have only a fuzzy understanding of their target markets, or know why those customers should buy from them.

·     Work from a Written Marketing Plan – Here’s the acid test: if your marketing plan is not written down, then you don’t really have a plan…because there’s no accountability.

·     Create Effective Public-Facing Assets – Most websites are outdated, unappealing and incompatible with mobile devices. LinkedIn is also an important due diligence tool, but most companies display a hodge-podge of personal profiles, and demonstrate no consistency in how the company is described in those profiles.

·     Build Database Discipline – If a company lacks the internal discipline to collect and keep current its own database of clients, prospects and referral sources, how can it benefit from an automated system that requires that raw material?

·     Produce Exceptional Content – If a company can’t or won’t consistently produce relevant, interesting, non-self-serving content, then Marketing Automation will fail. Garbage out, garbage in.

·     Align Marketing & Sales – This is the toughest hurdle, because it’s cultural. Sales and marketing professionals must agree up front on lead generation goals and processes, and demonstrate mutual respect for each other’s roles.

·     Leverage Online & Offline Analytics – In addition to having access to online performance metrics, companies need to talk directly to customers and prospects on a regular basis, to ensure a connection between marketing strategy and business outcomes.

There’s no expectation that any company peddling Marketing Automation would ever apply any pre-conditions to a sale. And despite best efforts to educate and support customers, the industry’s failure rate is likely to increase as a result of the customer shortcomings reflected in this laundry list of prerequisites.

And if the history of the marketing function serves as a guide, there’s no expectation that companies will ever stop trying to make marketing a science. Or that marketers will stop wanting technology to provide easy solutions to a business discipline that will always require lots of human thinking, and lots of human creativity and effort.


*Editor’s Note: Admittedly, the 60% failure rate statistic that’s found online may be outdated, and tough to defend, in terms of research rigor. (For starters, how many companies are eager to admit a costly failure?) It’s certainly a statistic that raises the hackles of Marketing Automation companies.

To justify this article’s premise: here’s a more recent and credible insight from eMarketer into how highly companies rank Marketing Automation, which may reflect their level of success with that technology. It also raises other, perhaps more troubling issues, such as why “Social Media Analytics” is ranked so highly.


Filed under B2B Marketing, Key Performance Indicators, KPIs, Marketing Strategy, Uncategorized