We all talk a lot about integrated communications – a phrase that has different meanings to different people in different organisations. But do we mean integrated across marketing disciplines where PR, digital marketing, sponsorship and beyond work together in harmony – or something more holistic, where campaigns go beyond marketing to engage and work with sales and drive a wider business impact? The latter has to be what we aim for; it’s the only way campaigns designed for ‘sales support’ can be destined for success.
But we often fall at the first hurdle, with a lack of engagement from sales, or with marketing feeling leant on by sales to support ‘non-strategic’ customer engagements – in the form of entertainment, sponsorship or event-based activities. So what are the ingredients needed to address this and create a recipe for genuinely integrated comms success in the future? Here are my seven top tips.
The overriding imperative for marketers is to help build an atmosphere of strong reciprocal trust – not just with sales leaders but with the coalface of the sales organisations. Sales needs to understand the value marketing can bring (beyond a corporate credit card) and believe that we have their back and will support their business goals. And vice versa: marketing needs to see sales as a vital conduit to customer insight, a first port of call in understanding what they care about in a market where marketing content is only as effective as its ability to engage its target audience.
Key to building trust is understanding the drivers, needs, painpoints and metrics by which team is governed, and, indeed, the strategies we employ in our siloes to deliver them. Once we truly understand the way that sales works with customers to drive them through a funnel, it becomes possible to refine our campaign approaches to deliver the assets and tactics needed to directly support specific models and best practices for lead generation and customer engagement.
Once trust has been established a healthy collaboration can begin. This will allow sales to feed customer insights directly into a marketing planning process and enable marketing to create a programme of campaign activity that delivers tangible benefits at each stage of the customer lifecycle. Programmes can be developed that help pull customers into a funnel, nurture them through it and deliver them into the P&L in the specific way and on the specific issues your customers care about. This can all be defined, refined and tested through collaborative engagement with customers via the sales team.
Once a model for collaborative campaigning has been developed and the results tracked through a campaign or three, it’ll be harder to rationalise ‘random’ tactical activity. Sure, there’ll be some events where customers fight each other off to get pulled into your pipeline, but in the main, the focus will be on the high-value, strategic programmes of customer engagement that unify your brand storytelling and amplify the chances of valuable customer engagement.
A plan made in January may not last until July, and it’s only by going through this process and getting closer to the customer, working in partnership with the sales teams, that marketers can gain the savvy and agility needed to pivot with changing customer and market contexts. The days of a carefully orchestrated annual marketing programme are long gone; rather we have to be prepared to be a leaf on the wind, floating and soaring when pushed by the forces of customer needs.
6. Shared success
The days of siloed KPIs need to end, and we must find ways to aggregate our performance metrics across sales and marketing and be jointly measured as a combined team. These new measurement metrics should assess customer engagement throughout the lifecycle, and through each piece of activation across ‘traditional’ sales and market channels drive value back to each team.
7. Playing back into the comms plan
When these campaigns are delivered, it’ll often be the sales team – not the marketers – at the coalface of customer response and engagement. Capturing those insights and reactions and feeding them into the next round of planning is crucial.
No doubt there are other areas in which stronger trust and collaboration can be built between sales and marketers to drive key business impact; we’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Please continue the conversation below!*
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