We believe this is possible, because we’ve seen this transformation take place in literally dozens of different settings. Here’s a necessary first step: Marketing must view itself as the front end of the sales process, rather than the back end of product development.
Sound simple, or like some sort of psychological sleight of hand? Not really. Before two groups can coordinate their efforts, they need to settle on one or more common objectives. We’ve already described Customer Focused Selling as a way of helping buyers achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need. Well, shouldn’t that also be Marketing’s objective, as well—to help potential customers understand how they can achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need with the company’s offering? If, in addition to creating the “view from 30,000 feet,” Marketing could contribute effectively to the conversations that salespeople have with their prospects and customers—the “view from three-and-a-half feet”—all would benefit.
But this can’t happen unless Marketing joins forces with Sales. To restate the imperative stated above: Marketing has to believe that they are the first car on the train of sales, rather than the last car on the train of product development. Marketing has to learn to face the customer, learn from the customer, and enable the customer, rather than look toward the lab.
Many marketing executives, of course, claim that they are already supporting Sales. They are handling messaging; generating leads for Sales (but what really is a lead?—see Chapter 9); creating collateral for product and service offerings, seminars, and trade shows; and, of course, cranking out PowerPoint presentations for senior executives. But the evidence suggests that whatever they’re currently doing, it’s not working. Feedback from the American Marketing Association’s Customer Message Management Forums indicates that between 50 and 90 percent of the collateral prepared by Marketing is not used by salespeople in the field.
Clearly, something new is needed. We suggest that the first change needs to be a shift of affiliation within the organization. This is primarily a psychological shift, but it can also take many procedural and even physical forms. (How is the organizational chart drawn? Whose office is next to whose? Which departments are physically adjacent?)
A second step is to formally charge Marketing with the responsibility for developing and maintaining the company’s core content—in other words, its sales messaging. Sales-Ready Messaging must be created to support targeted conversations with decision makers and decision influencers. As stated in earlier chapters, this cannot be accomplished with product information, it requires product usage information positioned specifically for decision-maker job titles within targeted industries. We strongly recommend to many of our clients that they consider creating the post of chief content officer. This is an individual who takes responsibility for all product usage messaging—the positioning of an organization’s offerings at all levels and through all channels.
In today’s business environment, most companies are trying to eliminate positions, and we don’t make this recommendation lightly. But think about the potential benefit that grows out of this kind of change. We now have a way to begin a natural, organic integration of the Marketing and Sales functions: Both Marketing and Sales share the common mission of helping customers achieve goals, solve problems, and satisfy needs through the use of the company’s offerings.
The sales and support teams in the field are closest to the customers and prospects. If a tool doesn’t work in making a call, they’re the first to know. They therefore have to serve as constructive malcontents—meaning that they have to suggest how messaging tools can be improved and kept up to date. They have to bring back from the field new insights into how offerings are actually used, and not used, by customers.
Marketing, meanwhile, must own the content. It owns the responsibility for achieving consistency of message and dissemination across multiple sales channels, multiple product lines, and so on. In the past 10 years we have seen technology increase the touch points that are now available to Marketing. Consider email, Web sites, Webinars, banner ads, CDs, and so forth. Adding the responsibility of Sales-Ready Messaging dramatically increases the scope of Marketing’s job, which is the reason we believe the title chief content officer is more appropriate.