In many cases, the difference between a company that is enjoying success and one that is struggling is the degree of integration and cooperation among the functional departments. If the relationships among Engineering, Manufacturing, Purchasing, Finished Goods, Accounting, and so on, are poorly defined, you can have anything ranging from disorganization to chaos. CEOs are hired, in part, to create and maintain effective relationships among functional organizational “silos,” and—in the best of cases—to break down the walls between those silos. And most CEOs will tell you that they’re pretty good at that role.
Our professional experience has focused us on the interface between two of these functional areas: Sales and Marketing. (We’ll use the generic term marketing, but in this and subsequent chapters, our focus is on product and tactical marketing rather than, say, institutional marketing, strategic marketing, or consumer packaged goods marketing.) We believe strategic marketing means looking at the convergence of market factors, technology trends, productivity improvements, and the like and asking questions like “Who and where do we want to be 3 years out? Five years out? What decisions must we make today to position ourselves for where we want to be in the future?” Tactical marketing’s mission is to figure out how to achieve today’s revenue targets with today’s offerings.
In the business-to-business (B2B) world, our experience tells us that the interface between Sales and tactical marketing is often neglected, and frequently tenuous—limited, in some cases, to a lead’s being passed from one to the other. On the face of it, this most common touch point is a weak reed to lean on. Imagine if the VPs of Sales and Marketing were each asked to define a lead. How closely do you think those two definitions would resemble each other?
If we dig deeper, we believe the root cause of the problem between Sales and Marketing is a lack of formal awareness and process to gather knowledge about how customers use their offerings to achieve goals, solve problems, and satisfy needs. In most organizations, product development is also culpable. How many technology companies have been founded by a technologist who created a solution that was looking for a problem?
Later in this resource we are going to show you how to create an organization’s “core content”—content that will enable business conversations with decision makers and influencers. Content that will enable Web visitors to understand how they might use your offerings. Content that will permeate the rest of your tactical marketing vehicles—white papers, brochures, advertising, trade shows, and so forth—and make its way into your customer and sales training.
We believe that a key component of creating B2B core content is tapping the experience of our client’s customer service people and professional services people. These are the people who are responsible every day for helping customers use their offerings to do their jobs and satisfy their needs. They have the customer usage knowledge we need to help them create Sales-Ready Messaging.
In virtually all organizations, Sales and Marketing are expected somehow to collaborate. These two functions within an organization ultimately drive top-line revenue, and yet few companies have a working definition of how they are supposed to interact. Further complicating things is the fact that in many organizations, marketing activity is neither clearly defined nor readily measurable. This overall lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities contributes to what is frequently a strained relationship. In the extreme, when revenue targets and market share numbers are not achieved, the result is a rash of finger pointing.
An all too typical example of how each side views the other, when things get testy:
Sales on Marketing: Ivory-tower big-picture people with no clue as to what customers need!
Marketing on Sales: Overpaid order takers who will promise almost anything to get the business!
The executive to whom both functions report—most often, the CEO or another senior-level person—is sometimes called on to “referee” their relationship, especially after the finger pointing sets in. This is a difficult and unpleasant role. Who’s to blame for the fact that revenue objectives are not being met? We’ve already seen how selling (in most organizations) is a pretty haphazard activity. And inside the walls of the organization, the assessment of Marketing’s performance is almost entirely subjective.
Often, in the early stages of our interactions with a client CEO, we find an opportunity to ask him or her to describe Marketing’s role as it relates to sales. Usually, there’s a long pause, meaning that the executive doesn’t have a ready answer to this question. (There would be no similar pause if the question focused, for example, on the relationship between engineering and manufacturing.) After some hemming and hawing, we tend to get responses like the following:
They support sales.
They position our offerings.
They generate leads for sales.
They create collateral for our offerings.
They run our seminars and trade shows.
From the CEO’s perspective, the good news is that over the past several decades, many companies have made huge progress in establishing clear and effective processes to govern the relationships among Accounting, Engineering, Manufacturing, and so on. The bad news is that Sales and Marketing have resisted this kind of progress. By any measure, this is an enormous lost opportunity. These two functions define, almost exclusively, the company’s relationship with its customers, and ultimately are responsible for driving and achieving top-line revenue. Think how much a business could benefit from putting processes in place that would get these two functional silos—traditionally uncooperative—to (1) work together, and (2) work for the good of the customer.