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Laurel MiltnerMarch 27, 20127 min read

Marketing Strategy v. Sales Strategy

marketing v sales strategy concept As more tools become available to tie marketing successes with bottom-line results, it becomes increasingly important for marketers to coordinate efforts, messaging and measurement with those of sales teams.

Recently, I've been talking with Trish Bertuzzi (@bridgegroupinc), president and chief strategist of The Bridge Group, an inside sales consulting firm, on this topic.

I wanted to dig into how a marketing strategist and sales strategist would approach the same situation. Would our recommendations be complementary, or combative? How much would it take to get us on the same page? 

Trish came across a LinkedIn question that she thought offered a perfect prompt (tweaked slightly below for anonymity) for blog posts on the topic: One that you're reading now (the marketing side), and one over on the The Bridge Group's blog (the sales side). Read Trish's sales take here

The CEO of a growth-focused company has hired you to oversee Sales & Marketing.

Her company is doing north of $10M in revenue and just took a Series A round of funding to “aggressively grow its sales and marketing activity.”

She has been focused like a laser beam on product and delivery. Marketing efforts consist mostly of tradeshows and webinars, generating leads for their Field team of 6.

There isn’t great consistency in terms of how Sales is talking about the product or whom they are targeting. She is concerned that the lack of a cohesive prospecting strategy won’t allow them to scale to hit new revenue targets.

What are your top three priorities for the first 90 days?

How Do Marketing and Sales Approach the Same Scenario?

Comparing responses, I found that both Trish and I focused heavily on discovery: Who are we, who do we want to reach, what can we offer them, and how? However, in reading her post, a key differentiation between sales and marketing became clear to me that is so obvious and important, yet rarely talked about or considered in marketing/sales discussions (at least that I see):

Marketing is from team-to-many, while sales is almost exclusively one-to-one.

Though marketing isn't the "spray-and-pray" it was of the past, and you want to connect with person, you still need to reach people.

In Trish’s post, she discusses that in addition to understanding buyer needs, sales reps must be 100% clear on how the technology they’re selling fits into the prospect’s world. She says that knowing “where your solution sits in the technology adoption life cycle … should dictate your entire go-to-market strategy.”

For marketers, a missed connection is just an “oops,” often for the team. Your message wasn’t quite right for that one person who found it—but hopefully it resonated with at least X percent of the others.

In sales, a missed connection here is lost revenue—that counts specifically against you.

This plays out in the "opposing" strategies in that: 

  • Trish’s sales take is zeroed in on knowing the person you’re going to reach, understanding exactly who they are, why they need you and how you’re going to guide them through to sale.
  • My marketing side, in contrast, attempts to cast a wider net: get focused messaging out to the type of people we want to reach, move fast to drive initial leads, and learn from the results to tweak activity in the future.

For marketing and sales to truly "get along," it is critical for marketers to understand this dichotomy. Know the weight of every call your company's sales reps make. How are you providing them with the best quality leads, and gaining intelligence on those leads prior to outreach, to help ensure closed-loop success?

For deeper insight, read (or skim) the marketing strategy below, check out Trish’s sales strategy, and let us know what you think in the comments on either.

The Marketing Strategy: How to Approach a High-Growth Campaign

Phase 1: Establish Ideal Marketing-Sales Process

Asses current marketing and sales processes to determine what works well, and where we’re falling short. How is current messaging differentiated among target audiences and specific leads? How is each group talking to prospects now? What resonates?

Marketing and sales should work closely to set goals and get expectations in line. Once monthly revenue goals are defined, answer the following questions to put a plan in place to achieve them.

  • Work backward. How many sales do we need to reach revenue goals? How many sales-qualified leads do we need to achieve that?
  • When is a lead sales qualified? How can marketing-led lead nurturing push leads further down the funnel and get them into the hands of the sales team faster?
  • Do we have the right marketing and sales teams in place to deliver on these goals?
  • What technologies (ex: analytics, marketing software, call tracking and CRM) and systems are needed capture, share, and analyze pertinent lead and customer information? Is everyone trained to utilize the software, and get the information they need from it?

Phase 2: Define and Prioritize Buyer Personas, Hone Messaging

These are the money questions that will drive all marketing and sales activity

  • Who are we trying to reach?
  • What problem does our product solve for them?
  • What are their common questions or concerns throughout the buying cycle? What are current answers to these, and how does our solution compare?
  • How can we speak to their needs?

Create clear buyer personas, and prioritize them. Hone your messaging for each target audience, and understand what resonates with them along the entire purchase path. Both marketing and sales will need to understand these archetypes and their key needs/desires, but speak to them in different ways.

Phase 3: Develop and Execute an Inbound Marketing GamePlan

We know what our goals are, and whom we want to reach. Now it’s time for an objective assessment of where we stand in relation to those goals, and a plan to reach them.

  • Brand: Who are we? What do we help customers achieve? What are our value and unique selling propositions? Perform an honest SWOT analysis and assessment. Ensure that brand personality and key messages are conveyed in all marketing and sales assets, and conversations.
  • Competitors: Where do we stand among the competition? Perform SWOT analyses of each, and determine what we can emulate, and where we can differentiate.
  • Website & Search: Does our site speak to target buyers? Is it optimized around their needs, or ours? It is user friendly? What does traffic look like, and how do they get there? Optimize the site for SEO, user experience, lead generation and nurturing.
  • Social: What did our buyer persona research tell us about their activity on social networks? Are we present where they are? Determine where to invest resources to reach the right people, and make the strongest connections. Create strategies for corporate accounts, and training guides for company representatives.
  • Content: What existing content do we have? Does it speak directly to target buyers? Do we have information that addresses needs at different stages of the buying cycle? Determine what can be repurposed, and where there are holes. Develop an editorial calendar for content development and distribution, considering multiple formats and needs of both marketing and sales.
  • PR & Advertising: What is our presence and perception in the market? How about competitors? What publications and blogs do our buyer personas read and trust? Develop a plan to use content, social networks and traditional media relations to gain editorial placements. If immediate results are needed and current reach is low, consider paid advertising options.
  • Mobile: What does a day in the life of our buyer personas look like? Can we reach them more effectively through mobile tools? Determine what type of mobile investment makes sense.
  • Traditional Marketing Revamped: What are the results and ROI of existing marketing activities, such as tradeshows and webinars? Determine how to enhance successful programs with online elements, content, PR and more.

All Together Now

Wrap mini-strategies up into an integrated, long-term strategic framework, and develop a tactical plan for Q1. To achieve sales goals as soon as possible, frame initial efforts on a two-pronged approach:

  1. Foundational, status quo work, and 
  2. A big-hit campaign to go live around 60-day mark that combines search, social, content and PR, ties in with any planned events or company news. Follow up with leads through lead nurturing and sales processes as defined in Phase 1.

With a clear understanding of goals and responsibilities, whom you want to reach and how to reach them, and a plan of attack, we can hit the ground hard and early, then adjust for the next 90 days based on results.

Your Turn: What do you think about marketing and sales alignment? How do you approach the processes at your organization? Do marketing and sales worth together, or in silos? Do you feel you're working toward the same goals? Can perfect harmony be achieved?