Alignment – It’s More Than Marketing and Sales
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion hosted by Focus called “Building the Ultimate Revenue Machine”. My fellow panelist on the roundtable was David Brock, President of Partners in Excellence. David is one of the top thought leaders in Sales 2.0 strategies.
During the roundtable, the discussion inevitably led to how marketing and sales alignment could be achieved. During this part of the conversation, David stated, “In order to achieve buyer centricity, you must have the entire organization aligned.” A true statement indeed. As the B2B buyer continues to morph and drive change, it’s imperative that marketing understand that alignment must happen, not just with sales, but other groups within the organization.
Below is a list of some of those groups, and ideas on why aligning with them will improve buyer engagement.
1. Customer Support
The Customer Support group (or “Help Desk”, “Customer Care”, etc.) has a unique view into the life of your customers. However, that view is often overlooked. Marketers often ask me questions such as, “How can we find out our customers’ challenges, and how they view our product or service?” Certainly, going directly to the customer base, and asking them is a logical step. In addition, the support team is a great source for to gleaning this kind of information.
Let’s face it, Customer Support is often a “dumping ground” for the negative side of customer relations. As such, the support group has a better view than any other group of what’s NOT going right with your customers. Adding this insight allows you to see your customers’ product/service challenges, potential skills gaps, other key issues. These can be areas for which content messages can be developed.
It should go without saying that as marketers, it’s important to gain as much insight on your customers as possible, even if that insight is negative. Customer service/support is a clearinghouse for this type of information. Not using it to your advantage is wasting a valuable resource.
Yes, I know, I know. We spend so much time trying to box IT out and not allow them to impede progress. So you may be asking, “Why should I align with them?” The answer is simple: they can help get things done. Aligning with your IT department can pay huge dividends. And often, this just means inviting them to the conversation, and asking for their input. Over the years, I’ve experienced IT staff that believe it’s their divinely endowed mission to stonewall anything that had the mere scent of progress. Conversely, I’ve also had the pleasure of working with IT staff who understood that their role was ultimately to support engagement with the buyer. In both cases, success in securing IT’s support for integrating platforms, communicating with the audience, enhancing sales interaction, and securing business intelligence came from inviting them to the table and listening.
3. Product Development & Product Management
I used to run the global mid-market group for an enterprise software company. Our company made the decision to develop a “small business” version of our software. With millions of SMB’s fitting our target market profile, it was very enticing and seemed logical. So, we went for it. After two years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on development, marketing, sales, the product life cycle was over. We only had a handful of customers.
Why the crash and burn? Because marketing-sales was not aligned with product management/development. Marketing-sales saw what was thought to be an opportunity. Product management/development thought otherwise. Together, both groups failed to do what was necessary: seek to understand the market. Instead, we rushed product development, and then sped to market with a product nobody wanted. We were not aligned. Looking back, what seemed like a great idea probably should never have made it off the back of the napkin on which it was first drawn up.
Marketers who choose to align to their product development and management teams will help shape their service and product offerings. This in turn will meet customers’ needs and challenges, leading to revenue. Those who don’t, as I can well attest, will learn how to run “end-of-life” campaigns.
Grocery store chains were on to something when they started issuing little key chain store cards to their shoppers. Not only are they now able to see what we spend, but they can now view our spending patterns. They can slice and dice the data to determine how much we buy, when we buy it, and what purchase decisions correlate to others. (You think they issued those cards just to give you a discount?) This information is invaluable, allowing them to be very targeted and purposeful with their merchandising strategy.
In the B2B world, often times financial transaction data is not readily available to the marketing group. So, it’s incumbent on the marketer to see what they can do to obtain this kind of data. Having this information will be extremely helpful in developing targeted dialogue (nurturing) for your customers. The results will be longer lasting customer relationships.
Alignment throughout the organization is key. In the end, the purpose for aligning is to better reach and engage your customer, which will yield higher revenues.