Six tips to get sales and marketing aligned

If you walk away with one thing from our Partner Kickstart webinar series, it’s this: Sales and marketing are much better together. When organizations get strategic about marketing—they identify concrete goals for marketing and closely tie those efforts to the business’ growth targets—they can realize impressive results.

B2B industry studies show that companies with tightly aligned marketing and sales organizations grow 24% faster and see 27% faster profit growth than those without. They have 36% higher customer retention rates. They have 38% higher win rates. (Source – MarketingProfs Benchmark Study)

Unfortunately, the sales and marketing alignment that can deliver these results tends to be the exception, rather than the rule. In too many businesses, marketing and sales operate in different worlds. Sales feels marketing is disconnected from the day-to-day grind of moving customers through the funnel. Meanwhile, marketing feels like sales doesn’t appreciate the value of their efforts or support the creation of effective campaigns and content.

If this all sounds familiar, don’t worry. This disconnect plagues businesses in every industry, including many Managed Service Providers. But it doesn’t have to. Last month, we brought in David Pereira, Owner and President of GET LIFT marketing agency, for a webinar on this topic. (GET LIFT developed many of the Kickstart content programs on MarketingIQ, and they work directly with many Citrix partners.) David offered a wealth of insights to help partners get sales and marketing aligned. Here are his six top tips:

1. Put strategy before execution.
Marketing tends to be synonymous with “doing.” It’s right there in the name, after all: market-ING, a verb, an activity. Marketing teams spend most of their time on tactical execution—stage this event, launch this campaign, plan for these upcoming shows. Those are important activities, but too often, marketing focuses so much on “what,” they forget to ask “why.”

Before spending time or money on any marketing activity, understand how it ties into the larger business strategy. What’s the unique value proposition for these kinds of customers, in the region you’re targeting? Why should they listen? What can you offer that no one else can? Talk through these questions with sales. Document the answers and make sure the larger business strategy is driving your marketing tactics, not something you’re figuring out as you go.

2. Agree on customer segments and personas.
Everyone in the company (sales, marketing, executive leadership) should be in agreement on who the target buyer is. Going after financial services companies? Who, specifically, are you targeting? The Vice President of IT? The Director of Compliance? Line-of-business leaders? Everyone should agree on the key people in these scenarios. Create target “personas.” Get specific on what they care about, the pain points they’re grappling with, and how you can help them overcome those problems.

Do a similar exercise on the customer segments you’re going after. It could be by vertical, region, size. Within verticals, identify the types of companies where you can provide unique value. Marketing that targets “healthcare customers” is less effective than a message targeting “midsize clinics in rural areas with this specific set of needs.”

3. Identify and track joint KPIs.
Historically, marketing has focused too much on “vanity metrics”—metrics like click through and open rate, that make us feel good when they’re going in the right direction, but don’t actually have a big impact on business. The metrics that marketing should focus on are concrete indicators of the health of the business: how the customer pipeline revenue is growing and the customer retention rate. Marketing and sales should jointly determine which metrics to track. Then, have more fruitful discussions about the annual or quarterly targets for those KPIs and how to hit them.

4. Have Marketing listen in on sales calls.
One of the most effective ways to improve messaging is to have marketing sit in on sales calls. There’s no better substitute to understand what challenges customers are wrestling with—and what sales goes through when trying to secure deals—than listening to what customers say. When marketing knows what customers ask and complain about, and hear the objections Sales has to answer, empathy and context are gained. Both are invaluable in developing marketing that better supports sales.

5. Hold regular meetings.
It sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many businesses don’t lay the groundwork for good communication between sales and marketing. Often, the company holds a big kickoff meeting at the start of the year to discuss goals, and then everyone goes off to do their own thing. The most successful companies keep communication flowing—weekly, biweekly, whatever is appropriate.

When there are reoccurring meetings, sales and marketing stay aligned. They know when the launch of the next campaign, what new content is rolling out, which case studies and events marketing is working on. Meanwhile, marketing knows how sales is hitting their targets, where they’re struggling, where there are unique opportunities. The meetings can be short—even to review the status of jointly developed KPIs. But having people accountable to each other for action items will keep things moving in the right direction.

6. Collaborate on content assets to close the sale.
One of the most common complaints we hear (from both marketing and sales), is that marketing produces content that doesn’t get used. Things have gotten better in recent years, as marketing has shifted to more digital assets, with better tools to track how prospects consume them. But it’s another critical area for sales and marketing to think through the strategy together. What are prospects thinking about at different points in the pipeline and what messages are most helpful to sales at those times? By answering the questions collaboratively, marketing can ensure the content it’s creates provides real value in moving customers through the pipeline.

Build a better marketing engine.
When sales and marketing are aligned, everyone benefits. Sales spends much less time cold-calling, focusing instead on sales-ready leads that have been cultivated through a more effective marketing strategy. And, by tracking jointly established KPIs, sales now has visibility into marketing’s impact on advancing the business strategy.

Meanwhile, marketing can make better use of limited resources, because there’s a clear strategy for where to focus time and money. They enjoy a more productive, collaborative relationship with their sales colleagues. And, with their efforts tied to measurable KPIs with concrete impact on revenues and profitability, they play a more strategic role in the company.

Learn more
This is just a sample of the insights shared. For more advice on how you can get your marketing and sales engines humming together, check out the webinar: Tips from the Pros: Sales & Marketing Alignment + Case Study Development