Aligning Sales And Marketing
In the Digital Age, cohesion between departments is critical towards creating the seamless customer experience that consumers not only look for but expect, when considering new brands and businesses. A report by Forrester Research supports this by concluding that businesses with proper alignment see a 32% increase in revenue growth, while organizations with less alignment actually see a 7% decrease.
Organizational alignment is particularly important between sales and marketing teams, as these two departments are so closely connected throughout the purchasing process. However, aligning sales and marketing and achieving this level of cohesion presents a lot of obstacles for companies. After all, sales and marketing have always been kept in separate containers. They still remain apart in many organizations.
If your business still has this traditional structure, you should consider the powerful impact that aligning marketing and sales can have. Beyond meeting this new customer expectation, companies that have made this shift in their structure have seen 36% higher customer retention figures and 38% better success rates in sales opportunities.
This discussion will focus on the steps that companies need to take into consideration as they push for alignment between marketing and sales teams.
It Starts With Your Team
Your first step is educating your organization, particularly your salespersons and marketers, about what alignment means and how this change will affect their duties and day-to-day work life. For some, this will be a hard adjustment because marketing and sales have for so long operated in their own bubbles.
The key is showcasing how this change is going to affect the organization and promote a positive impact on revenue and growth. (Feel free to utilize some of the sales and marketing alignment statistics we’ve shared to justify the change to your staff). The truth that you need to get across to your organization is that times are changing — customers are changing. Adapting to these shifts is a matter of growth and survival.
Most organizations will face some level of resistance from staff during this period of increased alignment, whether this is intentional or not. Some employees may be actively against merging sales and marketing teams together because it challenges everything that they've come to know and learn. Others will be on board with this new direction, but just lack the mindset that it takes.
Unfortunately, you may have to make some tough personnel decisions. This means eliminating some staff and bringing in forward-thinking individuals that have experience working for an organization where marketing and sales work closely together, instead of apart.
Assign Leadership To This Newly Aligned Team
In the traditional, un-aligned model, sales and marketing departments each have their own leader (VP of sales, VP of marketing, etc.). As your company moves towards a more aligned organizational structure, this can create a lot of conflict.
Do you allow both department heads to continue existing as part of a team? Do you let one leader go and appoint the other as the head of sales and marketing? Do you create a new leadership role, like chief revenue officer, to manage the alignment between these two teams?
It’s best to have a single head to control both departments. While keeping both department heads may keep everyone happy in the short term, as no one has to be let go, if those individuals can’t effectively work as a cohesive, conflict-free team, alignment doesn’t occur.
Review Your Revenue-Focused Strategy
Alignment means treating sales and marketing as one entity. These once-separate departments now need to act with a singular, unified focus. The easiest way to achieve this is to focus your organization solely on driving revenue. This makes a defined path to guide both teams and ensure that everyone is marching in the same direction and with the same goals in mind.
An aligned strategy has many critical components that your teams need to research and understand before proceeding:
- What’s the target market and what types of buyer personas exist in that audience?
- What messages, channels, and tactics do these buyers respond to most?
- What separates us from the competition?
- How do we utilize sales and marketing together to produce more revenue?
Many of these questions your company has already answered, probably multiple times.
However, readdressing them with your newly aligned teams ensures that everyone is indeed on the same page. Sometimes, poor alignment occurs because sales have a different understanding of the target audience than marketing, or they view the brand's unique selling point differently.
Create A Seamless Journey
Customers just don't follow the traditional paths to making a purchase that they used to. This is part of the reason that alignment is so crucial in the digital age. Thanks to the Internet, consumers, and brands sometimes interact on over 13 touch points before a purchase is made. Some of these are marketing-focused, while others are sales.
Once you’ve created your cohesive strategy focused on producing revenue, you need to begin finding ways to utilize both sales and marketing touch points to facilitate a frictionless buying experience. Due to the sheer number of possible channels involved in a single customer’s purchasing journey, this is not an easy puzzle to solve. Not to mention, every touch point is unique in its own way, which requires lots of testing and learning to crack the code of each new platform.
Eliminating friction in this customer journey involves effectively tracking their progress across all of these different touch points. As you monitor their activity, you learn about their unique preferences, needs and behaviors, which allows you to produce a smoother journey. When sales and marketing are misaligned, it can often create an experience where the customer feels that they are starting their journey over and over at each new touch point. Not only does this result in a clunky journey, but it also severely disinterests them in shopping with your business at all.
Sharing Data-Born Insights And Business Intelligence Tools
One of the keys to unlocking the puzzle of the customer journey is data. If sales and marketing were the apocalypses, data would be canned food. Because so much of the customer journey takes place online, there is a lot of data being created. Within all of this data is everything you need to learn about your customers.
Extracting these customer insights from all this raw data, however, is a bit of a needle in a haystack conundrum. Two key obstacles get in the way:
1. The easy part: finding the right tools and solutions to help your organization collect, sort and analyze all of this unstructured data
2. The hard part: understanding which data points are most relevant and worthy of tracking to provide the answers to your company’s most pressing and revenue-producing questions
Misalignment makes these obstacles even more difficult. You have two departments asking their own questions and sometimes using their own data tools. Once you bring these departments under the same roof, it becomes easier to realize the key metrics that are most valuable towards furthering your organization’s goals. Though, “easier,” in this sense, means removing only some of the hay from that pile with the needle.
Communication, Communication… Communication
The best tool that an organization can utilize to achieve seamless alignment of their sales and marketing is simple communication. These teams, which have operated autonomously of one another for so long, now need to work side by side.
For example, marketing needs to create campaigns that aid sales' strategies, while sales need to leverage marketing's messages in their pitches. This produces that cohesive, frictionless purchase journey that organizations want to give their customers.
There's some simple, yet effective communication strategies that can bolster your organization's alignment. For example:
Team Meetings: No one likes large meetings, but in a properly aligned business, they are very essential. It's a critical time to reiterate the latest goals, look at the current metrics and discuss new ways that sales can support marketing and vice versa.
Feedback Loops: One of the more undervalued communication techniques is creating a feedback loop between marketers and salespersons. This creates an ongoing conversation about what’s working and what isn’t between these two, newly-connected teams. This feedback can quickly be applied and improve strategies in the immediate future.
Open Office Layout: Changing the layout of your office to mix sales and marketing professionals together makes it much easier for natural communication to take place, whether it’s asking a simple question or collaborating on a new campaign.
Aligning your sales and marketing strategies is all about removing friction from the customer journey to generate increased revenue and more loyal clients. Ironically, achieving this alignment can add friction to your organization and even produce tension among your sales and marketing teams.
By following the tips included in this discussion, you'll successfully complete this transition with less turmoil. Any dramatic chance of this caliber is bound to create some disruption, but your staff will quickly realize that an aligned business performs and operates smoothly and to more significant effect, in terms of growth, revenue and overall success.