During the pandemic, small business weaknesses were exposed. Many failed because they did not align their marketing and sales functions into an integrated process. By this I mean that marketing, the sales personnel and all of the company employees must work together in the areas of strategy, tools, and customer acquisition to maximize the business profit potential.
Your Sales and Marketing strategy is your plan for reaching, engaging, and converting target prospects into profitable customers. It’s the charter that guides Marketing and Sales in their daily activities, helping them clarify shared objectives and how to achieve them. Without a strategy, all your Marketing and Sales activities and tactics might be for nothing. After all, if they don’t all work in concert to drive pipeline and customer acquisition, what’s the point?
Savvy companies realize that a Sales and Marketing strategy is the next most important thing after the overall business plan. It outlines how Sales and Marketing will orchestrate their efforts to achieve your key business goals, helping shape your organization’s success and future. So what’s holding organizations back from achieving their alignment visions? The core of the problem is that Sales and Marketing are built to see the world differently. They consult their own sources for information, and follow different guidance when it comes to their targets and incentives.
It’s no surprise that Sales and Marketing refer to different data sets – they use different technologies and tools to manage and track their activities and interactions with prospects and customers. While marketers use data management platform (DMP) and marketing automation systems, sales groups largely rely on customer relationship management (CRM) systems. And this lack of shared data is tied for the top challenge to alignment in The State of Sales & Marketing Alignment in 2018 report – up from fourth place in 2016. Let’s face it: the data you consult day in and day out shapes your perspective.
Marketing’s number-one marching order is to generate and nurture leads. As a result, they’re focused on sending large-scale campaigns aimed at generating leads and getting prospective buyers to raise their hands and move down the purchase path. The marketing data that indicates success is response rate and an optimal Cost Per Lead (CPL). Sales is focused on developing relationships with buyers to ultimately drive purchases. Sales success is reflected in data around pipeline health, forecasting accuracy, and closed deals. In other words, they speak different languages. Sales talks about pipelines, while marketing talks about funnels. The fact that CPL is a major marketing measure only exacerbates the alignment issue. CPL isn’t a business objective – it’s a tactic tied to a cost-center mentality. At the end of the day, a low CPL is meaningless if those low-cost leads don’t convert to customers and revenue.
Marketing and Sales have embraced different perspectives of the same world. This goes a long way toward explaining why it seems the two groups continue to butt heads and struggle to get on the same page. They don’t even look at the target audience the same way. As a result, they miss out on a tone of valuable opportunities.
Given their different filters, it’s no wonder opinions diverge in terms of how well the two groups are achieving important goals. As it drives a growing number of leads, Marketing believes it’s exceeding its lead generation goals. Meanwhile, Sales is frustrated at a lack quality leads. In fact, sales folks routinely ignore 80% of marketing-generated leads due to lack of confidence in their colleagues’ methods and information. Plus, both teams are missing many opportunities to connect with promising prospects. Imagine that 80% of your work as a marketer is going to waste! If Marketing and Sales don’t see the target audience through the same lens, how can they possibly be aligned? And if they aren’t aligned, how can they serve up a seamless experience to prospective buyers?
Due to these basic differences in how they’re oriented and view their worlds, Sales and Marketing work in parallel rather than in tight collaboration. We’re not saying animosity and adversity are par for the course between the two groups. In fact, many Sales and Marketing teams enjoy a friendly working relationship. They might even meet jointly to discuss and update buyer personas. In fact, they might feel the lead handoff goes smoothly. But that’s often the best it gets…even though there’s potential to do so much better. While these three disconnects are no small matter, it is possible to close the gaps. It starts with a jointly developed strategy to connect with, engage, and convert today’s buyers.
How to Develop Your Sales and Marketing Plan
We know it can feel daunting to develop a strategy for achieving your Marketing and Sales goals – after all, the entire organization is relying on your teams to drive revenues and fuel growth. That realization alone should be a catalyst for putting in place a solid plan for hitting your targets. Let’s walk through the core elements of an effective Sales and Marketing plan.
Align on Business Objectives and Shared Budget
Alignment is about heading in the same direction – toward focusing on promising prospects, closing deals, and generating revenue. However, one study found only 30 percent believe their Marketing and Sales goals are well aligned. In many organizations, alignment is considered to be agreeing to the same definition of the ideal customer, and the lead qualification and handoff process. While the shared objective might be seen as revenues, most marketers are still measured on leads while sales is measured on revenues. In fact, marketers are still tasked with generating leads while sales is charged with closing them.
Alignment simply doesn’t go far enough to drive a collaborative approach and integrated efforts. The reality is that Marketing and Sales should be involved every step of the way, from acquiring and nurturing leads to closing them and driving customer success and advocacy. In other words, they should be working together throughout the buying cycle and customer experience. After all, in a complex B2B purchase, different stakeholders appear at various stages of the buyer’s journey and Marketing and Sales must work jointly to both execute and close deals.
Now for funding the joint strategy and work. If Marketing and Sales are working together to achieve shared goals, it makes sense they pool their financial resources for the good of the common cause. Interestingly, in our survey of Marketing and Sales professionals, only 16 percent agreed that a shared budget would improve collaboration. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a smart approach. If your organization chooses to go with a shared budget, take steps to get buy-in.
Align on Ideal Customer Personas
Once your Marketing and Sales teams agree on goals and budget, it’s time to get clear on who you’re trying to sign as customers. As illustrated above in the target audience gap, most Marketing and Sales teams view the same universe of buyers in different ways. That can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and arguments – never mind missed opportunities with prospects. An effective approach is to define and align on ideal customer personas. These describe the customers who are relevant and profitable for your company to work with, including the detailed demographic and psychographic features that they share.
Establish Your Differentiators
Your strategy will include market positioning and messaging. This will guide Marketing activities including advertising and content development, and Sales activities such as email outreach and conversations with buyers. To set up both teams for success, figure out how your company and offering are different and better than the competition. This might even include how you price. Interview customer-facing employees for insight into what information prospects need and what messages resonate most with them. Your findings will form the basis of your messaging platform, which will fuel every piece of content, every ad and landing page, every social media post, and every conversation.
Map Your Full Buyer Journey
To understand when and how to best engage prospects and customers, map their complete journey with your company from the time they first learn of you until they part ways with you. From acquisition to retention to churn, determine what the experience looks like from your prospects’ and customers’ perspectives. Be on the lookout for opportunities to improve that experience at every stage, such as delivering different content, hosting events, streamlining a process, or better coordinating efforts among different departments.
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