In my last few columns, I have talked a lot about blogging and its potential as a marketing and communications tool. For the next few weeks, I am going to turn to a much more “traditional” set of marketing topics, aimed mostly at small to mid size companies in their early stage/start-up, or spin-outs of larger companies with brand new, possibly revolutionary products.
The main theme of our discussion is how the marketing decisions you’ll make today define your future possibilities and will eventually drive, for good or ill, the decisions the company makes two … five… and if it is lucky, 10 years from now.
The positive abstract of this is: 10 marketing decisions you can make today, and make your future. The negative (think Ebenezer Scrooge) is: the 10 things you’ll wish you did two or three years from now. You decide 🙂
Our first topic: Integrated Sales and Marketing strategy focused on Sales Opportunities. Marketing is more than just generating leads and Sales is more than just getting a purchase order. Yet there is a tendency to reduce them to these functions, with marketing’s box at the front of the sales cycle, followed by some hand-off point, where it becomes a sales lead and thus the province of the Sales Department. Eventually no matter how close the two teams were when it was just one marketing guy and one sales gal, the two departments develop into fiefdoms with little or no MEANINGFUL communication about the task at hand. This dynamic is hard to change once it gets a stranglehold on your teams, so prevent it. How? Here’s my prescription
- Make dead sure that Sales and Marketing are EQUAL functions in your organization, and that everybody supports this from the CEO on down. Yes, of course, in the early days, Sales will be more critical than the longer term view represented by Marketing. If you don’t get the sales, there is no long term 🙂
However, even as the sales are rolling in, your brand is being defined and not simply by what YOU say and do – customers, prospects, the general public, etc. all influence the brand. So, don’t wait too long before you take charge of your brand’s future. That’s the Marketing job.
What happens if you don’t have balance? If the Sales perspective is the sole perspective, your business strategy becomes a series of reactive, 6-month sales plans. And the reverse, if you focus too much on brand and long term strategy, and not enough on sales, you probably won’t have as many sales. In the early days, this could mean the success or failure of your business.
You need both functions, in balance.
- Insist that your Sales head and your Marketing head work as a team to develop the business plan. Make certain that this does not end up with one function driving the plan and informing the other of what it intends. See warning above about lack of balance between the two functions. Develop an integrated sales and marketing plan with input from BOTH organizations, and not just at the top level.
- Develop a mantra that informs everyone that Business Opportunities belong to and are the responsibility of EVERYONE in the company. Everyone is a lead generator, evangelist, sales person, customer service representative; it’s just that each of us has our specialties and specific day to-to responsibilities for which we are compensated.
- Resist resist resist the temptation: when business is good, and the orders and leads are flowing in, it is very easy to let the Sales Department degenerate into an order taking machine and to allow the Marketing Department to morph into a lead generation/sales support organization. DON’T LET IT HAPPEN. You need the maintain a high quality sales organization that is capable of feeding itself and closing business… even when it becomes harder as you move through the product lifecycle. You must have a marketing organization that is capable of thinking long term about the future needs of future and untapped markets as well as feeding the current machine.
I cannot guarantee that your business will be successful if you do this – there’s a lot more to it than just having a well oiled sales and marketing machine. However, I truly believe that you create a far stronger foundation for success with integrated and balanced sales and marketing teams that work as colleagues, instead of viewing each other as competitors.