It’s no secret that I am a fervent evangelist for marketing automation, and at our agency we see the real-life benefits every day in the form of clients generating higher conversion rates, more qualified leads, and shorter sales cycles. But marketing automation can also have an impact on a more strategic level, addressing the frequent disconnect between marketing and sales, and also by helping to make marketing departments more accountable.
Recently I sat down with Barbara Angius Saxby, founder of Accelent Consulting, to discuss the role of new technologies in helping companies achieve what Barbara calls “process excellence.” Barbara’s firm helps clients achieve business growth through strategic marketing management, sales leadership, and business process alignment. She has nearly 25 years experience in strategic marketing, management, and international business development, the past ten as a consultant.
(HS) Barbara, what are the most common disconnects between marketing and sales that you see in your work with clients?
(BAS) This is overly generalized for this discussion, but most tech companies begin by being either engineering or sales driven and as a result marketing is often viewed primarily as a cost center that collects names for sales people to call. Lead generation is an important function of course, but there are many other strategic components, like branding, that require longer term vision and execution. Sales management and executives, however, are focused on hitting monthly and quarterly targets. By nature this is a very short sighted goal and this misalignment inherently impacts processes and business results.
(HS) Where do you see as the greatest opportunity to improve marketing and sales processes?
(BAS) I am pretty excited about the advances in marketing automation systems with built in analytics. Companies like Eloqua and Marketo have 1-click integration into CRM systems that make it easy to synchronize marketing and sales processes and lead data. Marketing teams gather, pre-qualify and nurture leads and provide sales with vital updates on the behavior, interests, and intent of prospects, in real-time. Everyone can agree on how sales opportunities are qualified, distributed and cultivated. As a result, sales reps thrive. Marketing is directly impacting revenue and higher close rates. And executives can now monitor end-to-end process flows from “Offer to Order” to improve efficiencies.
(HS) What do you mean exactly by “Offer to Order,” and why it is important?
(BAS) In a nutshell, executives need to track what happens during the whole process from when marketing sets the strategy, creates a campaign, captures a name, qualifies it as a prospect, turns it over to sales as a lead, and then how sales moves it through the pipeline to the quote stage and then to an order. Today, lead management in the CRM system starts when sales get the lead. Now that process can be tracked from the beginning including the campaign strategy and prospect profile. One of the key benefits of marketing automation is that with limited budgets, businesses can analyze program effectiveness and identify target customer profiles more easily. As a result, marketing is turning over more highly qualified leads that convert to sales faster. Marketing can now be viewed as a revenue generator rather than a cost center.
(HS) What trends are you seeing regarding the adoption of marketing automation solutions and are there any pitfalls?
(BAS) I think the marketing systems are maturing and becoming more easily integrated into leading CRM packages like Salesforce.com and Oracle CRM On Demand. Sales force automation is still the essential function in the CRM but more and more companies are seeing the benefits of integrating the marketing – and customer service – processes and data more tightly into the CRM. I think the biggest pitfall is the lack of pre-planning when these processes are implemented. For example, just getting a centralized contact database created that includes both prospects and customers across the regions is a monumental task and is often bypassed in favor of expediency. Marketing automation can dramatically increase the ability to upsell to the current installed base and unless these systems and processes are more integrated, this will still be difficult.
(HS) What advice would you give to marketers looking to build a better bridge with the sales department?
(BAS) Communication is the key at the both executive level and in the trenches. I have been called a Pollyanna before, but I still believe that if people take a “team” approach and everyone understands their role in the process for building the business, and systems are put in place to automate this, we will in fact be able to track Offer to Order. Getting consensus on terminology is a great first step at the tactical level – agreeing on what a name is, a lead, a suspect, a prospect, a customer, etc. There should be complete understanding on both sides on how to score a lead and how sales rank these in the pipeline. A tip for you marketing professionals: take a sales guy to lunch – ask him what he does all day and how he uses his system then help him be successful and you will be too.