How to Align Marketing and Sales to Grow Your Business
Today it is more important than ever to make sure your sales and marketing efforts are aligned to help your business succeed. Marketing and sales have a history of not getting along mainly due to each being managed in a separate business silo lacking a well-defined and integrated strategy.
Marketing efforts would be ineffective without sales to prove its ROI. Sales would flounder without marketing to support the lead generation and digital presence now required for any successful company. While companies continue to pour a vast amount of resources into digital marketing, sales software, and omnichannel alignment in other areas, many still struggle, falling short of their goals and failing to prove value in critical business metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Marketing and sales both depend on effective lead generation. But how do you know what you should be spending? When you begin to budget lead generation, you will want to consider what you should be spending concerning industry averages to make sure you aren't overspending or wasting money. See this guide from Hubspot for cost per lead.
Leading and Aligning for Best Practices
In today's digital landscape, marketing and sales alignment is essential from every possible angle. Websites, mobile apps, social media channels, search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), and customer service, must rally around the brand story to present a united front. Customer expectations and user experiences matter so much that any misalignment reflects poorly from a prospect or customer perspective.
Behind the scenes, it's an even more challenging situation. Most marketing and sales organizations do not have tight alignment and open communication. Misalignment means not only increased costs, but missed business opportunities and wasted resources. In fact, decreased sales productivity and wasted marketing efforts due to misalignment costs a whopping $1 trillion a year
Businesses with effective sales and marketing alignment achieved 208% higher marketing revenue than organizations with disjointed teams. (Source: Hubspot)
Making sure marketing and sales work together is essential to assure success, but if you are at a loss as to how to accomplish this and you have sales and marketing teams pointing fingers at each other, it might be time to dig in. Ultimately, to lead sales and marketing teams to success, you need to understand how all the elements fit together, develop a plan of action, modify your processes, and set expectations for each team. Many times working backward from your sales goals, the sales process will yield a plan that requires more leads from the marketing process will be necessary to support the sales objectives set for the company.
In this first series, we will examine sales and marketing alignment and best practices, then discuss ways to put them into action today.
Marketing and Sales, Past and Present
Marketing and sales roles, even ten years ago, were vastly different than they are today.
Traditional marketing techniques like branding, press releases, paid publicity, print advertising, and trade shows, simply don't have the same impact as they have in the past.
One of the biggest challenges with a traditional approach is measuring the success of a campaign. These methods were notoriously difficult to track, especially as today's value lies in a much more diverse range of attributes, like impressions, audience engagement, and brand recognition. For example, traditional magazine advertising made it impossible to measure if traffic came to your site as a result of an ad in a magazine.
In the traditional sales realm, a salesperson was responsible for the entire sales process, including prospecting, qualifying, making presentations, having meetings, overcoming objections, and having conference calls. While these activities are still essential, they are time-consuming and often fruitless, meaning that the typical salesperson spends a lot of time spinning wheels.
What's Different in Sales Today?
These days, sales and marketing look and perform differently than they have in the past.
First, salespeople are no longer the be-all-end-all of product information. Customers typically do most of their pre-purchase research online before connecting with a salesperson, so sales have very little influence in the initial stages of the effort.
In the 2018 Buyer Preferences Study, 70% of B2B buyers surveyed said that they were well into the buying decision process before engaging a seller.
This holds true for the average consumer as much as it does for the B2B buyer. In the case of the latter, buyers now tend to be committee-based, so the sales effort needs to be laser-focused to accommodate diverse needs, opinions, and biases. Also, not to overwhelm buyers with too much information or "analysis by paralysis"!
Marketing and Your Online Presence
In terms of marketing, many functions have transferred from what used to be part of the IT department. Also, marketing is precisely measured on ROI for every prospect and customer touch and contact. If you can't measure it, you shouldn't be spending it!
Marketing departments are tasked with managing sophisticated websites and online channels while creating specific content focused on lead generation based on buyer profiles to help move the prospect along multiple points in the buyer journey, and finally converting them into a customer.
Conversion rates are measured for each stage of the lead process until the prospect eventually becomes a customer. For example, one Business to Business (B2B) sales model breaks down the systems, processes, and lead stages to move leads along in the lead funnel before transferring them to sales at a predetermined point in the funnel. Marketing automation plays a significant role in advancing prospects through this process to speed up the buyer's journey by delivering relevant content based on predetermined interactions.
Web design and optimization depend on the ease of using your website (website UX/UI), content, and marketing automation to deliver the right content at the right time, having the right keywords in your content, and the many other factors that play into results. With marketing best practices in mind, these efforts will support the sales process in many ways.
For example, to satisfy the need for pre-sale research, you want to make sure that your site is the go-to resource for that information. Being that voice of authority positions you as the expert, meaning that you will attract more potential customers by merely anticipating their needs and appear higher in search results.
Marketing Web-Focused Responsibilities
● User Experience/User Interface (UX/UI) - By understanding how the customer uses the site, improving the on-site customer experience, applying analytics to reduce bounce, increasing time spent on the site, and tweaking content and layouts boost performance.
● Landing pages, Forms, CTAs, A/B Testing - Generate leads through persuasive content and messaging, simple lead capture forms, compelling CTAs, and test continuously to find what works best.
● Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Best SEO practices include keyword optimization, content creation and publication, social proof, and a combination of on and off-page techniques to boost organic (unpaid) traffic.
● Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) - A robust SEO strategy is critical to driving traffic to your website. However, if your site is not converting visitors to paying customers, you're leaving money on the table. Applying the above techniques and strategies, testing rigorously, and applying analytic insights will help.
● Search Engine Marketing (SEM) - SEM is advertising you pay for outside of social media. It's the ads you see above search query results when you are researching a topic. Effective SEM requires a strong focus on keywords and key phrases to ensure your ad is served to the right audience.
● Images and Videos - Images and videos play a critical role in online marketing. People remember what they see more easily than what they read, so having good-quality images to accompany your text is essential. The right image will improve CTR and increase engagement.
● Paid Advertising - There are many types of paid advertising to consider; banner ads, Google Ads (formerly AdWords), retargeting, guest posts, and advertorials, the list goes on. What's an appropriate venue for your industry niche?
Marketing and Lead Generation
Beyond the website, marketing is critically involved in lead generation, helping to fill the sales funnel with qualified leads that reduce the sales cycle.
Automation is key to this process as it eliminates time spent on repetitive tasks. Modern sales and marketing platforms, like SalesForce and HubSpot, integrate the sales and marketing processes to support the buyer's journey and nurture the customer beyond the initial engagement.
Key Elements of Marketing Automation
● Ideal customer personas help both factions understand their target audience better.
● Automated emails and workflows move the customer through the funnel.
● Messaging is based on the customer's stage in the cycle and their persona.
● Content creation focuses on each stage in the cycle and is specific to each persona.
● Webinars, video content creation ups the value.
● Social media, blogs, whitepapers, and content provide continuity and offer value.
● Branding represents the overarching message, establishing an emotional connection with the audience.
● Public relations provides continuity across all channels with just-in-time messaging.
All of these efforts circle back to the brand as the ultimate authority. Results are measurable and deliver accurate metrics to help you prove ROI.
The Role of Sales
Sales models, both B2B and B2C, depend on marketing to support an efficient and effective process. Though the ultimate goal of sales has not changed in the last few millennia, the approach to achieving those objectives has.
Technologies have emerged to support these approaches, shorten the cycle, and make sales efforts more efficient. However, even with those supports, salespeople need to be on their toes. Though most of the grunt work is complete, once they're in front of the prospect, it's game-on.
Here are few of today's most effective sales techniques and how to align marketing to support that particular sales process:
● Account-Based Sales (ABS) and Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
A B2B tactic that shortens sales cycles and helps companies achieve their targets by applying a coordinated effort across several departments within a prospective company. Usually reserved for enterprise-level sales efforts.
90% of marketers recognize the value of account-based marketing (ABM), rating it as "extremely" or "very" important to their overall marketing efforts, a recent study shows that only 20% of companies surveyed have a full ABM program in place.
● Sales 2.0 leverages web and social selling to qualify leads and support the sales cycle.
Sales 2.0 is about taking the insights about customer engagement from the company's websites, marketing data, and social media platforms and creating rich interactions between sales teams and their prospects at the right time and between the right people.
● Business Development Representatives (BDR's) qualify leads for sales and are responsible for shortening a lead's lifecycle. This is generally a function of larger companies and is aimed at optimizing a salesperson's time. They are many times a step between marketing and sales. This is when conflicts can arise if detailed processes and alignment are not in place. BDR's should work with marketing to help them understand what content buyers might need to hasten the buyer's journey, but they also work with sales to convert them from leads to sales deals. Throughout the process, marketing content supports the sales effort by moving the lead along in the lifecycle until they are qualified.
We will be sharing more about sales and marketing in the future so stay tuned. We will discuss metrics and KPIs you can apply to prove sales and marketing alignment and prove ROI.
Contact us to schedule a free marketing analysis to discuss your sales and marketing alignment.
About Moon Mission Media
Moon Mission Media is rethinking marketing. We dissect your marketing efforts to build or turnaround your brand into a long-term success story. Moon Mission Media is a boutique strategic marketing advisory group with a network of specialists who have been guiding brands collectively for over 50 years. With expertise in technology, franchising, fitness, health, and wellness, the principles of Moon Mission Media have advised and managed leading global, national, and regional brands on strategy, marketing, creative, technologies, and communications successfully for years.
Article by Moon Mission Media Team Member