Marketing is a realm of great ideas, a plethora of choices to engage with and often delivers questionable performance for most companies.
It is seen as a necessary part of the business; however, it is one of the first cuts people make in bad times. For many, its contribution is hard to understand, the channels to use are complex, and its purpose is often vague and shrouded with questions answered in such a way they create even more questions.
For many companies marketing must be a direct contributor to revenue generation and support the sales strategy.
First and foremost, understanding that each company is unique and has different marketing requirements, at various times in its lifecycle. For mid-sized companies with a sales force, marketing must always relate to the sales strategy first and then to the company strategy.
Marketing must relate to the sales strategy, the communication required between your sales strategy and the right target audience, and the best vehicles to achieve that cost-effectively. Companies need to turn marketing departments into sales-ready lead generation and business contributors with a direct contribution to strategy execution.
Understanding what marketing can do for a sales organisation is important for senior executives and sales management. These are some of the common questions we are asked when working to create sales and marketing alignment.
1. Why does marketing talk a different language to sales?
For many companies, marketing has remained in a by-gone era where they believe their content should be about features and benefits. Often related to traditional marketing disciplines where marketing’s role is seen as providing tools for sales to educate the customer on the product’s capability.
A large disconnect now exists between marketing and sales, as sales have moved on to business case selling and solutions. In fact, features and benefits can be a reason why sales are lost as there is an over communication of them, reducing the perceived value from a customer’s perspective.
Business demands the aligning of marketing and sales today, and marketing must communicate a similar message to keep customers engaged. Content writers must have a sales flair that translates to the customer experience and not just promotes the features of a product. Companies need to create a methodology of disseminating the right information through marketing and sales and aligning their language to connect with target customers.
2. What contribution should marketing be making to sales and demand generation?
Each business is different, and there is no simple answer to this. It all links back to your sales strategy and what you want to achieve. How that is planned and executed, as well as the cost of delivery, needs to be reviewed closely.
We often find that companies either have applied the wrong marketing disciplines following past practices or adopting the wrong contemporary approaches, have failed to invest sufficiently in the right areas or are just out of alignment with where the results are.
The sales organisation may well have applied the wrong sales process (not uncommon) – a process that is in conflict with the market and the requirements.
Correct marketing and sales alignment will minimise the costs of demand generation and servicing accounts.
3. Should we expect marketing to generate leads for sales?
Many marketing departments will communicate to you that they are generating leads. The quality of those leads is questionable according to whom you ask within your business. These are referred to as marketing qualified leads (MQL).
These leads typically are a name with a contact point of email or telephone. A touch or contact from a person reaching out is not a lead as most often attempt to communicate. For sales, these are unqualified and often a waste of their time.
Marketing must generate leads for sales, and those leads must be qualified sales leads (SQL) for the needs of the sales. More than just a contact point, the company name and person’s title to understand decision-making status alerts sales on how to best manage the lead.
The SQL leads directly contribute to the growth of the company.
Marketing must be aligned to sales, and the requirement of sales leads that support growth. A lead from marketing must fit a set criterion that will feed into the sales strategy. Marketing departments require lead budgets as much as they do financial budgets.
4. Should we be using marketing automation in our business?
There has been much press and buzz around automation software over recent years and its importance in marketing practices. The automation software is the tool to nurture contacts to (or “intending to”) create quality leads for sales.
The software is like any other software, one that requires considerable customisation and skill to create the right customer experience and not hostile users with excessive communication or the ‘automated’ feeling. More often, it can cause alienation of customers if not customised correctly and aligned to your target audience. In theory, this is an excellent marketing methodology. However, it does not suit all businesses and markets.
Automation is about nurturing and not spamming people the moment they provide their details. Some marketing agencies will engage in warfare with potential customers by spamming them with information daily and week after week until the person finally unsubscribes.
Well managed automation is aligned to the buyer’s process and offers information timely to a decision-making process. It assists in educating the buyer and assists in building a profile to create a sales-ready lead.
5. How can we better measure the effectiveness of our marketing?
The measurement of marketing is shrouded in conversations of why it cannot be measured. Many excuses may be given although with the correct methodology and tools marketing can be, and must be, measured effectively, no matter channel you are using.
Measurement is not only about expense control. It is more about return on investment and understanding campaign performance. Providing the appropriate control and reporting mechanisms that report on the effectiveness and results of any marketing activity is paramount to any organisation that is committed to increasing sales and revenue.
Companies need to install specific marketing measurement providing clean one-page reporting of the effectiveness of marketing and its alignment to the sales strategy. The metrics marketers should be reporting on must provide pertinent information surrounding these strategic objectives, such as leads generated, marketing costs versus lead generation, marketing to sales closing ratios and finally marketing spend vs. the cost of customer acquisition.
Social media can contribute to your revenue and profits when effectively managed. The critical element is to employ tactics that are customer-centric and able to deliver meaningful interactions with your customers. Social media marketing can be resource hungry in the absence of effective tactics.
With the multitude of social media channels available, it may be difficult to decide which ones will serve your organisation more efficiently. It is imperative to place social media marketing into perspective. Initially, it was abounding in the hype and an over-emphasis placed on it by marketers as the new holy grail to success.
As social media matured, it is increasingly becoming a paid channel to reach your target audiences. Companies such as LinkedIn and Facebook now have extensive filtering, enabling you to target specific groups of people or individuals, increasing marketing’s overall effectiveness.
Marketers must review their social media to align with your target audience, the quality of communication and strategy being applied. A much-forgotten component is the ‘salesmanship’ used within the copy to ensure the right actions are taken by those engaged with your company.
7. How can content marketing benefit my business, or is it just another marketing mania?
The marketing landscape has dramatically changed over the past decade. Just like modern selling, marketing is moving away from buying or begging for new customers and has shifted into a new paradigm of thinking.
In the past, companies relied on their sales teams to develop new customers solely by traversing their territories and develop new business. It still may play a role in your overall sales strategy; however, customers are now making purchasing decisions well before interacting with your company. They will have conducted research and often short-listed, even selected the supplier, before making their interest known to the company.
Today, content marketing is the new paradigm shift in the way companies generate new business and interact with their customers. Blogging is one of the cornerstones of a great content marketing strategy; it is the process of disseminating useful and compelling information that your ideal customer is searching to find.
The premise of inbound marketing is to draw customers to you rather than to shout out with the hope of a response. As such, the content published should be engaging, relevant, meaningful and produced consistently. Content marketing is best defined as
“Content marketing is the process of creating engaging and relevant information that your ideal customers are actively searching for via the internet. Via this process, prospects are drawn to your website where they become actively engaged with your company and the services or products you offer.”
This process is by no means simple. Simply posting articles or stories to a blog, just does not cut it. Content marketing will also have a dramatic impact on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and Google’s algorithms will punish for tardy writing and content.
There are many tactics required to ensure success, including keyword optimisation, blogging strategies, content writing and providing downloadable content that will allow you to develop and nurture customers with the ultimate goal of demand generation.
Each of these components must be carefully integrated and defined in a communications strategy that customers benefit from. Customers time is valuable, and if you ask them to invest their time on your site, they must receive value in return.
8. How much time and effort should marketing apply to brand building and equity?
A failing brand puts at risk diminishing or stagnant revenue, customer loyalty and retention. It directly affects the value of the company through brand equity.
Brand equity is the commercial value that derives the customer’s perception of your brand name of a particular product or service, rather than from the product or service itself. Brand equity contributes directly to the value of your balance sheet.
Branding should not be managed alone by marketing or sales. It requires a higher level of expertise to govern the factors that contribute to its equity and its subsequent contribution to the company’s value. Branding must be regularly audited to ensure it is being leveraged to maximise customer goodwill and their propensity to spend more with your company.
The power of the brand should not be underestimated in its capacity to influence customer buying behaviours. All communications, including brand management, should present a consistent message to the customer and contribute to the building of brand equity.
For companies looking for growth, the approach to marketing starts with the sales strategy. The strategy sets out the demands and requirements for lead generation to support sales forces, reaching the ideal customers with the required level of purchasing power.
With efforts focused, you can flesh out the communications plan establishing tactics and other actionable tasks that will serve both sales and the businesses brand.