Analytics & Testing, Content Marketing, Customer Relationship Management, Sales Enablement, Search Marketing,

The Frustration of Marketing to the Sales Organization

Working with marketing technology companies provides us the opportunity to work with an array of organizations – from large companies who see very big picture and are working to adjust the impression of their brand over years – to the organization that is wondering why their phone isn’t ringing a month into their investment.

An analogy I’ve used for quite a while with marketing is fishing. If you’re a sales driven organization, you just want to get out on the water and throw your lure. The more rods you have and the faster you can get them all in the water, the greater the chances that something will bite. The problem is that the fish may not be where your boat is, may not like the bait you’re using, and as productive as you are – you may come home empty-handed.

Marketing is a process of trial, error, and momentum. The marketer’s job is to study where the fish might be, what the best bait is, and then to chum the water to bring in the big fish if they’re not there. That process can get pretty frustrating to a company that simply believes the means to getting more sales is simply by making more calls.

To be clear, I’m not knocking sales productivity and sales enablement. Having a great sales person out on the water fishing at the right time, with the right equipment, in the right water, with the right bait… is the perfect scenario. It’s just that getting there takes time.

If you’re a great fisherman and you visit somewhere you’ve never fished before, the first thing you do is find the guide who has. Even the best fisherman know that, if they want to be successful, finding the right guide will give them the best chance of landing the fish they’re after. Great sales people recognize this as well. Great sales people love to work with marketers to let them know what bait is working, what’s not, and whether the big fish are biting.

Marketing is this strange thing to the sales-driven organization that’s never done it before. They know when it’s missing, but they can’t figure out how to quantify the expense because it doesn’t easily fit into a spreadsheet like calls and closes do. While we honestly try to avoid working with sales-driven organizations, when they really push us to, it’s imperative that we provide great communication and reporting with the leading indicators they can connect the dots with.

  • Share of Voice – most of the time that sales-driven organizations know they need marketing is when the audience is always talking about their competitor and there’s just not a lot of chatter about their own brand, products or services. Utilizing a monitoring tool for mentions with good reporting can provide reports that show the new volume of noise about your company versus your competitors. It will also put the volume into perspective and show what kind of level of effort is being deployed by your competitors that you have to combat.
  • Supporting Sales Material – we were working with a sales-driven organization where we worked on their positioning first, then produced some brilliantly branded material for their sales teams. The problem was that they didn’t include the actual team members into the conversation… so months later we signed up for a demo and found ourselves observing the saleserson’s powerpoint that was being used before our work. The brand wasn’t being properly positioned, the graphics and fonts made them look like a high school project, and the sales continued their decline. Unless your sales team has buy in, is educated in your positioning, and is utilizing your marketing material in the sales process… your marketing investment is in opposition to your sales strategy.
  • Shares and Ranking – it’s my opinion that Google’s algorithms are the most sophisticated in the world on ranking an authoritative resource with the topic that a user is searching for. Ranking requires continued momentum of recent, frequent and relevant content that’s shared online. If you’re not producing great content, it’s not going to get shared. If it’s not getting shared, it’s not getting ranked.
  • Visitor Behavior – when we work with sales-driven organizations, our content production and focus often changes from a shotgun blast to a specific grouping. That means that the actual volume of visitors may be reduced on the site, but the relevant visitors increases. We’ll watch the pages per visit, the exit rate in and out of landing pages, and how many subscriptions and registrations are occurring.
  • Prospect Demographics and Firmographics – Is marketing changing the demographics (B2C) or the firmographics (B2B) of the leads that your marketing is attracting? Is it changing over time? If your sales team has an ideal client, you need to be able to quantify that the leads that you’re acquiring are looking closer and closer to the ideal client they’re seeking.
  • Sales Attribution – Stop applying that last attribution to a sale and start indicating what marketing efforts touched each prospect. Being able to analyze the infographic they came in on, or the page they found in search, or the whitepaper they downloaded, or the subscription they responded to will help you better understand how your marketing efforts influenced the sale. A great sales team and a phone are going to close a lot of business, but a great sales team calling a prospect that’s educated and influenced by your marketing strategies are going to close better.

Communicating these leading indicators effectively will help put the sales-driven organization at ease. While they’ll still be upset that their phone isn’t ringing from this marketing mumbo-jumbo that you’re doing… at least they’ll see the momentum that you’re generating. And applying a trend line of expectations for the future should make them optimistic that – not only can marketing assist their sales people close more deals – they’ll recognize that it helped them close more deals and greater deals with less effort.

Marketing will work long after the investment. We still have whitepapers we’ve developed for clients 4 years ago that continue to drive sales for many of organizations. This is important to remember. If you stopped paying your sales representative tomorrow, the phone stops ringing. If you stop investing in marketing, you’re going to continue to reap the benefits even though they’ll decline over time. Your best investment is in both – and always applying consistent marketing strategies to grow momentum and continue to drive down your cost per acquisition, cost per upsell, increase retention, increase word of mouth, and grow sales.

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