“Isn’t that the department where they colour things in all day?”

I’ve heard this sort of thing a lot during my career as a marketing manager, and while it was always said in jest, there’s a painful reality behind it…

Marketing isn’t taken seriously enough.

In my experience, I’ve had to fight to get any airtime with the sales team because they’re so sceptical from being burned in the past. And while the CEOs/MDs are excited by marketing, they either want to get too involved in the detail or only seem interested when it comes to the big shiny conferences or getting coverage in the trade press, rather than establishing the day-to-day mechanisms that create a steady drip feed of leads.

The reality is that marketing is responsible for 2 things:

  1. Brand awareness.
  2. Generating pipeline.

But when it’s confined to operating in handcuffs, rather than being afforded the freedom to get on in the best way it knows how, the results are rarely going to hit the mark.

Research by Fournaise Group shows that 80% of CEOs don’t trust their marketers, the main reason being that they don’t believe the function demonstrates objective commercial thinking.

In my opinion, I think this is unfair. While I’ve been fortunate to sit on the senior leadership team when I’ve held senior marketing positions, I know this isn’t the experience of several of my peers. In fact, while sales always seems to have a seat at the table, marketing is rarely invited – and not even thought of as needing to be there.

This baffles me when you consider that marketing responsible for pipeline – surely marketing should have one of the most important seats in the room for a growing SME?

Lack of alignment is your biggest business issue

The trouble with keeping marketing at arm’s length, is that they’re not being allowed to help. Rather than looking at the end goal and saying:

“The business needs to hit £5m turnover this year, which means we need to close 50 clients, which means we need 150 sales-qualified leads, which means we need 450 marketing-qualified leads, which means we need to pump 1,350 leads into the top of the funnel.

“Working off last year’s figures, we can estimate that 20% of those leads will come from events, 45% through the website, 5% through social, 10% through account growth and 20% from direct campaigns.”

They’re forced to execute campaigns in isolation, simply hoping for the best – hoping that what they’re doing is going to be enough to help the business hit its targets.

It’s not good enough.

While marketing is responsible for awareness and pipeline, day-to-day its job is also to help support the sales team, so they can close the deals and help the business to grow.

And yet research from Kapost shows that 65% of sales reps can’t find content to send to prospects, which probably isn’t surprising when:

  • Research from the CMI shows that 54% of SMEs report their content marketing and sales teams are not aligned.
  • And a study by McKinsey shows that only 46% of SMEs have a content marketing strategy in place.

Well, if the 2 departments aren’t communicating, chances are that content doesn’t exist because marketing didn’t know to create it – instead, they’ve probably been focusing their efforts on more top of the funnel content, like blogs, to get more leads in.

This is basic marketing 101. If your marketing department doesn’t know what sales, and the wider business needs, it cannot formulate a strategy that’s going to support that plan…

Which means that it’s never going to hit the results it needs to, and deliver the value the business is expecting…

Which is when the MD starts to question the function’s commercial awareness, and the sales team grow sceptical about what marketing can do for them.

Why you can’t afford to ignore it

We’ve talked about how marketing gets a bad rep – well sales gets one too. Only the difference with sales is that it affects whether prospective customers want to talk to you. According to Acquity Group’s annual ‘State of B2B Procurement’ report, just 12% of companies want to meet in person with a sales representative.

“If we can just get in front of the customer, we know we’ll close the deal.”

You probably will. I have no doubt that you have a great offering based on the best technology all delivered by the greatest team, but if your prospects actively don’t want to talk to your sales team, how are you going to get in front of them to close the deal?

Data from SiriusDecisions shows that B2B firms with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve:

  • 24% faster three-year revenue growth.
  • 27% faster three-year profit growth.

While data from MarketingProfs shows that greater alignment results in:

  • 36% higher customer retention rates.
  • 38% higher sales win rates.

It starts with alignment

In one ‘simple’ act – alignment – you could transform your organisation, making everything so much simpler and giving yourself a competitive edge…

And yet I think we can all agree that aligning sales and marketing is anything but ‘simple’ because it involves breaking down the cultural barriers that have been established over time.

But rather than thinking about the end goal of total alignment, let’s consider a really small, simple step you could take today that will have a major impact…

Ask your sales team to write a list of content they would find useful to help them do their job.

In this simple act I’m pretty certain you’ll get a whole raft of ideas, from case studies to 1-pagers, white paper ideas or ‘how to’ guides – I even have one client who’s currently got their marketing team involved in re-writing their proposal template so it’s short, sharp and aligned with the wider marketing efforts to create consistency with every touch point.

And when marketing knows exactly what the business needs, it can plan better and deliver content that really adds value at the right moment, which in turn helps sales to convert and close, which then helps your business achieve its goals.

Because content is sales

I had an epiphany about a year ago where I realised that content and sales are in fact the same thing, which is why they have to go hand-in-hand if they’re ever to be effective and deliver any value…