By Michael J. Pallerino
Back in the day (you pick the day), marketing’s role was to create a halo of awareness for brands and drive the attention of new customers into the sales funnel. Sales, picking up the lead, was to engage one on one with actual customers and move them through the funnel, showing them various types of content designed to stimulate rational choices. The goal – get them to buy.
Pretty simple, right?
You didn’t think it was possible to talk about the long contentious relationship between sales and marketing and not kick the hornet’s nest just a bit, did you? Amid all of the finger pointing, he said/she said diatribes and “this-is-my-silo-get-your-own” mentalities, the stated goal of the sales and marketing departments has always been to work hand in hand for the good of the cause.
I’ll give you a minute to take that in.
But, now more than ever, sales and marketing must be consistent in the stories they tell about their brands and products. With the proliferation of media sources and methods for customers to learn about (and even purchase) the things they want, no two customers navigate the funnel in the same way. In today’s complex business landscape, customers don’t often navigate through a linear sales funnel that goes from discovery, to education, to comparison, to purchase.
Enter smarketing – the new buzzword that is finally pulling together the worlds of sales and marketing. If you want an actual definition, Hubspot defines smarketing as: “…the alignment between your sales and marketing teams created through frequent and direct communication between the two.”
Tom McMakin believes that technology has caused sales to morph into marketing and vice-versa. Whereas marketing once drove awareness and desire in a potential buyer, and sales pitched and closed the deal, that can happen all at once when someone clicks through on a Facebook ad and makes a purchase using their stored credit card information on Amazon.
The game has changed. “With more and more advertising images flooding the zone, the half-life of any one of these impressions is growing shorter,” says McMakin, CEO of Profitable Ideas Exchange (PIE), and author of “How Clients Buy: A Practical Guide to Business Development for Consulting and Professional Services.”
McMakin says that means the window in which we can sell is shrinking. “If pitchers are throwing the ball faster across the plate, sluggers need to increase the speed of their swing in order to connect with the ball.”
Wrap your arms around this – sales and marketing no longer reside in separate silos. Today’s buying process dictates finding a new recipe where B2B buyers can go through self-discovery and engage sellers when and how they want. The concept of smarketing is designed to tear down those silos.
“I live in the world of professional services sales, where the person delivering expertise is the product and is most often the chief salesperson,” McMakin says. “Marketing needs to understand the community the professional is focused on serving, and then narrowcast thought leadership, events and visits to this specific group of buyers.”
In the professional services sale, the number of buyers who can cause a business unit to double in size is small, so efforts to broadcast brand can be money poorly spent. “The priority for a marketer helping the professional services provider is to help them shrink the pond,” McMakin says.
The endgame: Define the small niche where their track record gives them a competitive advantage over other firms, and then communicate with that small group often and with domain expertise.
Sounds easy. All a brand has to do is change the perception that sales and marketing professionals have been weaned on. Don’t do it like that anymore, do this.
If that type of cynicism is driving your sales and marketing meetings, try this approach. Remind your teams that establishing common ground makes the process of acquiring leads and converting them easier. Fragmentation, i.e., business as usual, will just confuse the consumer.
Deb Gabor has seen it happen all too often. As the founder of the branding strategy firm Sol Marketing, she has sat down to discuss these types of scenarios with the likes of Microsoft, NBC, and Dell. Her goal in any conversation is to help her customers understand the deep existential questions at the core of their business.
“The typical consumer can remember only about three to five brands in any category off the top of his or her head,” says Gabor, who also wrote the book, “Branding is Sex: Get Your Customers Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything.” “In the brand asset management business, we call this recall, and consistency of messaging is the key to registering recall.”
Gabor says that customers rarely have the faculties to differentiate between marketing and sales messages, especially when they’re hit from every conceivable direction. “They can hardly differentiate one brand from the next. It’s ludicrous to assume that they can tell which messages are correct and important to them if they come from various sources within your company.”
If you’re not reading “fix the process now,” there might not be much more to say. “Disruption to sales and marketing is coming at breakneck speed from unexpected places,” Gabor says. “The kind of technologies and communications channels we’re using today to drive awareness, consideration and purchase of brands look nothing like what they did even 10 years ago. Ordering food off Facebook. Buying coffee from your smartphone. Are either of those functions the sole domain of either sales or marketing?”
The key to the future of smarketing, like anything else, rests in the brands driving the change. That means hiring smart people who are flexible, adaptable and open to change. “The only thing that’s certain about the future of marketing and sales is that this future is uncertain,” Gabor says. “On the whole, though, I’d be looking for smart, strategic marketers and sellers who prioritize their customers and their customers’ hopes, fears, dreams and dreads ahead of their own, no matter what.”
3 ways to build your smarketing department
- Try department building – Get sales and marketing together to develop an “avatar” of whom your brand is ultimately for. Who’s the most highly profitable and most pleasurable to serve? Identify the problems the ideal customer is most likely looking to solve with your brand and products.
- Find your brand swagger – Why does your brand exist? Get everyone on the same page: Why does your customer use your brand? What is it that he cannot get anywhere else? What story is your ideal customer trying to tell you? Who is the hero of that story?
- Walk the walk – Brands exist in 360 degrees, which means that everyone, not just sales or marketing, own the delivery of your brand promise. Once you’ve worked together to define the brand story and messaging, get everyone indoctrinated to the messaging.
Source: Deb Gabor, Sol Marketing