Archive for

Love to Hate You: Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing With Marketing Automation

With traditional B2B marketing tools, it’s difficult to measure the impact of marketing on driving not only qualified leads but increasing revenue. One “common” complaint from Sales is that Marketing isn’t turning over “good” leads.

Enter marketing automation, where Sales and Marketing come together in a common and transparent goal. Not only does marketing automation allow both Sales and Marketing to work on generating and identifying the best leads for the company, it can also significantly reduce the lead to sales time and optimize your sales department efforts.

Here are 5 ways marketing automation can help create a collaborative environment between Sales and Marketing.

Note, I’m partial to Pardot as it’s the system used by my company and my clients, but the information provided should be basic to most marketing automation systems worth their salt.

#1 TRACKING THE UNTRACKABLE

Google Analytics is great at providing basic insight into your website visitors, but you’d be amazed at the depth of information provided by a marketing automation system.

Marketing automation allows to you see each website page a potential customer visited, how long they were on that page and the path they took throughout your website. This is invaluable information in understanding what products or services a potential client is interested in, making the Sales connection even more meaningful when it does happen.

#2 MORE QUALIFIED LEADS TO SALES

With marketing automation you can set a scoring and grading system for each identified person that your company interacts with. This allows the contact to go through the lead nurturing cycle at their own pace, giving them an opportunity to learn more about your company without pulling the Sales trigger too quickly.

With lead scoring, you can assign various points for each action a lead takes, from visiting a particular website page to signing up for a webinar to following one of your social media channels. This type of scoring is an easy way to follow the contact along the buying cycle as they become closer to being sales ready. The basic premise is the more a contact interacts with your company the more interested they are in your product or service. With 80% of website visitors not being sales ready upon their first visit, lead scoring reduces the risk of losing an opportunity by making contact too soon.

#3 BRINGING LAPSED LEADS BACK INTO THE FOLD

With the ability to track your leads’ activity, you can identify lapsed leads as they re-engage with your company. Here’s a real life example.

One of my clients tried booking an intro meeting with a contact several months ago, but had no luck. That contact stayed in their e-mail database and we’re able to see that they continue to interact with the company via email content. As the interaction increases and the contact’s score increases, we’ll identify the appropriate time for Sales to reach out to them again. Not only is my client able to stay top of mind with the lapsed lead, they can also track their interest.

#4 DEEP SEGMENTATION

Database segmentation is key to successful email campaigns, but many B2B companies aren’t doing it. Simply segmenting by vertical market / industry can make a huge difference in your open and click-through-rates (CTR). With one client’s segmented database, we see an increase of +10% on open rates when the communication is targeted to that contact’s specific industry.

Since marketing automation allows you to track an identified visitor’s path through your website, you have deep insight into their interest. With this insight you can tailor your communication to that visitor based on their needs. It’s as simple as creating a drip campaign geared specifically to their needs and guiding them through the buying cycle.

#5 LIGHTNING SPEED RESPONSE TIME

I’ve read statistics that lead to close ratios can increase by +70% if a sales enquiry is responded to within 10 minutes. With marketing automation you can set up a system where your Sales team is notified immediately when someone completes a Contact Us form. Not only does sales receive the lead’s profile in real time, but they also have a view to exactly what pages the lead visited, how many times they’ve been on the site and what other interaction they’ve had with your company.

This is invaluable information for Sales; as they start creating a relationship with the lead they don’t have to dig through their CRM system and hope all the information is up-to-date.

Less than 30% of B2B companies are currently using marketing automation, despite it’s demonstrated ability to bring more qualified leads to Sales and increase company revenue. Marketing automation is a powerful tool that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The Rhythm of Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing is a dance where you must be attuned to rhythm in order to succeed.

Have you ever heard of the term “sales tension”? This and similar phrases are used to describe the dynamic nature of sales and marketing, the constant back and forth that exists between yourself and your customer. In order to succeed, your job is not to force the customer one way or another but rather follow the natural progression of movement that binds both of you to the same process. Does that sound too esoteric for you? Here, then, are some concrete steps for you to take in order to make rhythm happen:

1. Be Aware: Listen and be receptive to what your customer is telling you. Gather information and do research before suggesting a solution. In sales and marketing you must first receive before you give. Be open to what is happening when your customer engages and then throughout the sales and marketing process. What do they need? What do they need to know? Before any move you make you must first gauge what your customer is saying and doing.

2. Be Responsive: The worst thing in the world of sales and marketing is the cookie-cutter professional who is ready to prescribe solutions without listening to a word a customer has to say. Or, worse, pretending to listen and then prescribing the same old thing to each and every customer as if they hadn’t heard a word the customer said. Stop. Listen. Respond. Remember that you are engaged in a dialogue and not a monologue and that your customer is part of the process.

3. Be Flexible: Building on point 2, remember that sometimes the best agenda is to have no agenda at all. Like the Zen master says, “you cannot receive unless you first empty your cup.” True sales and marketing is consultative which means that you first assess what your customer needs and then prescribe accordingly. If you have the wrong preconceptions about what your customer needs and wants then you will end up stepping on their toes and ruining the magic of the moment.

4. Be Patient: Sometimes you will find that you know where the progression of steps in the sales and marketing process is going before your customer does. In sales and marketing the temptation becomes to start prescribing a solution without letting your customer discover your solution for themselves. Remember that your customer needs to learn your story and that there is a set number of steps that you must lead them through in order to be successful. Slow down and wait for them.

5. Be Guiding: Where the rhythm of sales and marketing differs from, say, ballroom dancing is that your purpose is to help guide your customer to a solution. What solution? One that you arrive at jointly as a result of your devotion to your customer’s best interests coupled with their trust in you as a result. Together you feel each other out and build a relationship based on finding out what works best to help solve your customer’s wants and needs. Enjoy the dance and remember that every step should either build the relationship or progress towards a solution.

When you understand the rhythm of sales and marketing every interaction with a customer or prospect becomes enjoyable. Some will dance with you and others will not. With each customer you will learn more about yourself as well as them. Follow your instincts. Do not force things. Observe everything, allow the process to unfold and very soon you will become a master at making business happen while making customers happy!

The Coexistence of Sales and Marketing, With a Dash of the Lakers

The discussion about sales and marketing and how the two groups work together has been around for decades. There are companies and business professionals who normally sit in one camp or the other. I’ve noticed over my entire career that one either classifies themselves as a salesman/saleswoman, or a marketer. You hardly ever hear someone describe themselves as both. This always struck me as curious, because I always thought about what I do with a salesperson’s hat and a marketer’s hat.

I started out my career as a marketer for a direct marketing company which specialized in developing, manufacturing and marketing collectibles. No one there had a title that said “sales.” Yet, as marketers, we were responsible for producing the direct sales for the company. From our mail plans, mailings, print ads, and eventually e-commerce marketing initiatives stemmed the lifeblood of the business in the form of revenue. So early on, I suppose I conflated the two functions together at least for that type of business – B2C (business to consumer), direct marketing – and the company was successful to the extent the marketers did their jobs well.

Then, I spent 5 years at Playboy as a marketer, but a different kind of one. I wore two different hats, officially. For some of my responsibilities, I was overseeing B2C Direct Marketing via e-commerce, print catalogs, online subscriptions and the like. For the other portion, the marketing hat I wore was a service hat to the external sales team selling to other businesses (B2B). On one hand, the company was successful to the extent that the marketers did their jobs in terms of bringing in revenue directly from consumers. On the other, it was successful to the extent salespeople could bring in advertisers leveraging the materials and services marketing provided. On paper, one didn’t trump the other, they were both very much key revenue streams.

To come full circle, I joined Epic Media Group four years ago and created from scratch a marketing organization that was wholly a service business. The company is predominantly B2B, and the success of the company relies largely on the ability of salespeople to bring in advertisers (there are several other success factors that are outside the scope of this discussion too). As marketing fits in the organization, it is a service business which services the entire company, Sales included. I’ve always felt, and the other executives do too, that our marketing team exists to enable all of our teams (Sales, Distribution, Syndication) to be able to more clearly communicate our competitive position, sell our services better, reach more prospects, and take care of existing clients.

So, having decades of experience 1) running sales teams, 2) running marketing teams, 3) overseeing revenue, and 4) overseeing service businesses, I’ve seen a lot of dynamics at work independently and together. Therefore, it bugs me when professionals make an attempt to “rank” the two organizations based on where the revenue comes from. It is short-sighted in a few ways. The fact is depending on the business, marketing can drive revenue, sales can drive revenue, and marketing and sales can drive revenue together. Trying to compare the two is really apples and oranges; the right way to look at it is they’re both fruits and they belong in the same fruit bowl.

Let’s focus on marketing as a services business in particular (the latter example above), since people who disagree with my way of thinking about the two functions are quick to point to that scenario when diminishing or dismissing the importance of marketing. From the service side, here is how I look at it:

Poor Marketing teams don’t do much to assist or boost the sales teams efforts in generating revenue and gaining clients, and can actually hinder their efforts.

Strong Marketing teams can do a whole lot to assist or boost the sales teams efforts in generating revenue and gaining clients, and can actually be a critical part of those efforts.

If you have a poor sales team (luckily, I’ve never been around one, but do know of them), Marketing can actually help make up for a lack of productivity. In a sense, marketing can create an environment that pushes the sales team to a higher level of achievement than they would have attained without them. By coming up with clear marketing collateral, creative designs, one-of-a-kind events and entertainment, and using strong social media and PR, marketing has the ability to in a sense deliver a Salesperson’s pitch indirectly.

I’d say all of that is important.

Another thing people often underestimate when evaluating the importance of marketing as a service business is that it can be turned into a revenue stream, and not just a cost center or order taker. I have personally done this and seen it happen. What are some services that a good marketing team provides in-house, to sales, and to sales’ clients?

Creative Services and design. Client events and entertainment. Branding and brand development. To name a few.

Not only do good marketing teams provide these services, and plenty more, to a company and to its partners, they can provide them to the outside world and charge for them. They can provide in essence agency-like services for a fee. If you’re good at what you do why not, right? This way, not only is your marketing team providing everything they normally do, but they also can reap the rewards of turning themselves into direct revenue-producers too. Need that next great flash creative? Hire marketing! Need to run an event and sell sponsorships against it? Hire marketing!

By turning your services into revenue producers, you are also acting as a new lead generator for your sales team. You can see how this might play out. If marketing is promoting their services out of house, and gets hired by a new client and does a good job, it creates the possibility for a future relationship with your sales team from the goodwill built up. Marketing can open the door for more business for sales. I’ve done this with teams before, so yes, it does happen.

Overall, I think the comparison of sales and marketing, or even the argument that pits the two against each other, is tired and old and increasingly irrelevant. I’ve sat on all sides of the aisle and I can definitely say that in every single type of business, marketing has its clear role and importance and sales has its. Sometimes, sales relies on (good) marketing; other times, it’s flipped.

In either circumstance, I guess my takeaway is that people in Sales and Marketing have to check their egos at the door when working together. To use a basketball analogy, Kobe Bryant is the leader and best player for the Los Angeles Lakers; most of the on-court strategy flows through him and for the team to win largely the responsibility is on him, but equally important – with much less of the limelight – is Pau Gasol and the 6th Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, and the others on the team. In a big game, Kobe doesn’t always take the last shot; if he gets double-teamed, he needs to pass the ball to someone with a clearer shot. Whoever that person is needs to expect that they might have to take the last shot, and then make the shot.

Using this analogy, sometimes Sales is Kobe. Sometimes, Marketing is Kobe. Either way, if you’re one of the other “guys” out of the spotlight at any given time, you need to play just as important a role as the superstar and when called upon to step up, be able to do so. The Lakers haven’t won championships because of Kobe, though he’s been a major contributor. They’ve won them because of the Coach, and the entire supporting cast. If the supporting cast was poor, they wouldn’t have won a thing, and sometimes Kobe plays a supporting role too.

I’ll close by simply saying it is not a good idea to make broad generalizations when referring to Sales and Marketing. There are simply too many dynamics at play in most businesses, and so hopefully you’re carrying a much more balanced mindset with you the next time you are contemplating the roles of both functions at a company.

And in an act of journalistic integrity, I chose the Lakers analogy even though I’m NOT a Lakers fan.