By Katrina Olson
As a longtime marketer, I’ll admit: I’m biased. When I wrote the May 27 tEDmag.com Marketing Momentum article about the “Love-Hate Relationship Between Sales and Marketing,” I intended to follow up with an article about how sales vice presidents and managers need to listen to the marketing people—because they’re the experts.
But in the interest of “balanced reporting,” I interviewed both marketing and sales managers, you know, just to be fair. What I forgot was that in a product- and sales-driven organization, sales must play a significant role in marketing planning and execution because they are in the trenches every day with customers and know them better than anyone in the organization.
But what’s the best way to maneuver the relationship between these two organizations? Which department should take the lead and how will they be managed? The answer is… it depends.
It depends on your corporate culture, management style, leadership, and the talent you have available or are willing to hire—and the CEO or president will most likely decide.
Following are three distinct models that emerged for managing the sales/marketing relationship.
- Marketing or sales as driver:
In this model, one department “drives the bus.” Perhaps the marketing team plans and strategizes, develops campaigns and suggests tactics, some of which the sales team implement. Or, the sales team tells marketing what materials they need and then marketing produces them.
Desiree Grace, vice president of sales and marketing for Anamet Electrical, Inc. shared, “Sales needs marketing to provide the right tools at the right time for the right markets. If marketing doesn’t serve sales, you are wasting valuable marketing dollars and not earning the maximum ROI on your investment in collateral, trade shows, etc.”
Or, perhaps marketing calls the shots as with this (anonymous) Houston-based distributor. “Marketing has only been around as a department for three years. There was unnecessary fear at first, but I’ve found that once you’re able to ‘sell’ a sales person on a marketing initiative (e.g. direct mail, email blasts, e-commerce, promotions, etc.) the first time, they’re usually easier to convince the second and third and so on.”
- Sales as a client:
When I was director of marketing and PR for a large automotive group, I treated the company’s locations—especially the sales departments—as my clients. I advised them, supported them, and learned from them. By asking questions, talking with their customers, and understanding their business model, I could help them be more profitable—just as I had done in my agency days.
Most of the time it worked. But sometimes I felt like more of an “order taker” than a strategic marketer—especially when I was creating last-minute print ads or schlepping refreshments for an event.
As the Houston marketer shared, “I think the biggest disconnect between sales and marketing is that sales assumes marketing folks are simply ‘party planners’ until we can show them all the other strategic initiatives we can help with!”
- Sales and marketing as partners:
From a sales manager: “Our marketing group works very closely with the sales management team to facilitate promotions and sales events. Marketing also plays a key role when introducing new products to our existing customers and potentially new customers through social media and other means.”
In this model, two-way communication is essential. Sales can provide valuable market intelligence that helps identify potential clients and helps marketers better understand existing clients’ wants and needs. Sales can also serve as a sounding board for strategies that the marketing team is considering.
Of course, this requires more cooperation, compromise, and ideally a director or vice president who oversees both departments. And there may be conflict.
As one marketer revealed, “Occasionally the sales team will not give the marketing group sufficient time to order products for upcoming events.” And, “The sales team wants marketing to produce events for customers, but isn’t always willing to help out with the planning and doesn’t adhere to deadlines.”
Another shared, “Sales expects marketing to have an unending supply of giveaway items, especially apparel, without contributing to the budget or realizing that there actually is a budget.”
To address these issues, both sales and marketing should be involved from the beginning so everyone takes ownership of the marketing efforts, knows timelines, and helps implement them.
But, wait. What about those marketing experts? Marketing must still play a major role in the long-term strategy of the business by managing the brand, developing marketing plans and coordinating both internal and external communications.
Want to learn more about this topic, and many other marketing challenges? Register to attend the upcoming NAED AdVenture Marketing Conference in Chicago on August 10-12. Visit naed.org/AdVenture to join us!
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.
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