Three Things that Marketing Organizations Must Be Doing to Accelerate Sales

There are so many things that are defined as marketing today in the business world. The activities that come under the umbrella of marketing may include lead generation, branding, campaign management, Web 2.0, communications, customer relations, loyalty programs, sales support and even executive relations. Marketing organizations often are also responsible for graphic design, web site management, events, and corporate standards.

However, marketing organizations often fail to realize that their main function is to help accelerate the sales process. This means that three things must be occurring in marketing organizations to make this happen. First, the historic organizational divide between sales and marketing must be overcome. Second, if the marketing activities are not generating the critical customer behaviors, such as buying, renewing or upgrading, the marketing programs must be reprioritized. And third, the marketing team must raise its game by truly developing domain expertise in the vertical markets the company is targeting.

Let’s look at each in more detail.

The Historic Organizational Divide must be Overcome

The Harvard Business Review published a seminal article in July 2006 entitled “Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing.” The authors, including Neil Rackham, wrote, “Sales departments tend to believe that marketers are out of touch with what’s really going on in the marketplace. Marketing people, in turn, believe the sales force is myopic–too focused on individual customer experiences, insufficiently aware of the larger market, and blind to the future. In short, each group undervalues the other’s contributions.”

Yeah, well, it would be great if we all got along. However, marketing professionals really need to take a hard look at the goals of the firm and act accordingly. In 100 percent of the companies we’ve consulted to, the foremost goals have always been to make more money or grow revenues. We’ve never had a client who said that they wanted to be the number one advertiser in the industry or the number one direct mailer. Some of said they wanted to be the most well-known brand or the most trusted company, however those would be paths that lead to revenue.

Marketing Programs must be Reprioritized if They are Not Working

Marketers do not always understand the role they play in the firm and part of it goes to the lacking metrics tied to marketing deliverables. For sales to achieve its goals, revenue numbers or profit goals must be attained. In marketing, the metrics are often related to project completion. Is it a great marketing program if every marketing metric is hit, such as the targeted numbers of attendees for a seminar series, but no sales occur? Marketing excellence for the sake of marketing excellence is a waste of time unless the marketing leads to revenue reward.

Marketers are often tempted by the latest marketing tactics. The hot topics today are of course related to Web 2.0 and social networking. Blogs, wikis, and social networking strategies are popping up on marketing plans left and right. If done right and if consistent with achieving the corporate revenue goals, the latest and greatest can be important. Marketers are often tempted to put together a full plate of activities to show that everything is being considered so that no one in the company can complain that their favorite tactic is not being considered. A full mix of everything is often a huge waste of time and money.

For instance, we helped a client build a very succinct prospect list in a very specific vertical market. Once we were in agreement who exactly we were trying to influence, the main marketing program consisted of targeting networking. We deployed tools such as LinkedIn to help get introductions, however we eliminated other more general tactics since we were sure of the 100 or so people we were interested in meeting.

Develop Domain Expertise in the Verticals the Company is Targeting

Many times, marketing excellence is about nuance. Often there are dozens of companies in a market that seem to do the same thing. IT Services companies, for example, often find it hard to distinguish themselves. Frequently when we ask new clients what they do the answer is something like “anything for anybody.” Or if they sell software and we ask who their target market is, the answer is frequently something like “whoever needs it.” We often help our clients develop targeted vertical strategies so that the universe gets a lot more manageable. Even the largest companies in the world do not service every possible customer or market, so why should a small to medium sized company think that it can?

Once the vertical has been selected, such as government, healthcare, banking, or automotive, for example, marketing needs to take the lead and learn everything they can about the vertical. Where do the key leaders in the vertical meet? What do they read? What’s the history of the industry? Who locally is an expert that we can tap into?

By understanding the details of the industry and its nuance, the marketer can figure out ways to exploit holes in the market and places to find opportunities.

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