I once worked in an industry where brochures were king. Glossy and resplendent with symbolic photos and copious text, these printed pieces ruled our marketing universe. My company created collateral about each of hundreds of products and services, features and functionalities. The team spent more than 75 percent of the budget reprinting items to reflect updated design and copy. I devoted hours every month to keeping a tally of the boxes of inventory housed at our warehouse, and sending directions for destruction of obsolete items.
Supply of brochures was depleting at a regular pace, so one day at our marketing department staff meeting—to which nary a sales rep or manager was invited—a higher-up made this pronouncement in response to the latest stats:
“It’s great to see that we’re really giving our partners in the field what’s needed day in and day out.”
And in the same breath, she proposed implementing quotas limiting each salesperson’s brochure usage, in the name of “cost control.”
On the flip side (I learned much later, over a beer with a sales manager), sales reps snickered at the eventual introduction of such quotas.
Why? Because sales didn’t even want what marketing was “protecting.”
Reps were using the brochures, my buddy confessed, because they were the only materials available. But because the product fact-driven pieces didn’t reflect the solutions-oriented discussions being conducted with customers, they almost never played a role in moving a deal along. Collateral would be handed over at the end of a sales call as an afterthought—like a dull period punctuating the end of an otherwise exciting sentence. Or worse, supply might not even make it beyond reps’ car trunks. And ultimately, I learned—confirming my suspicions—if salespeople really needed something helpful, they’d create it themselves.
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Not exactly marketing and sales joining hands around the water cooler singing “Kumbaya,” now is it?
A costly disconnect
Until organizations realize that traditional, disconnected functional roles—marketing creates the collateral and lobs it over to sales to use what’s provided—don’t work in today’s customer-centric business environment, they will continue to impede business growth.
Today, unfortunately, the disconnect remains the norm. The American Marketing Association’s CMM Forum has found that:
- As much as 90 percent of the materials marketing creates for sales goes unused in the field.
- More than 97 percent of these materials are irrelevant to the customers they were intended to attract.
And this disconnect has obvious costs. Beyond the hard-dollar impact of print inventory waste, it’s impossible to ignore the revenue impact of maintaining a product-centric collateral system:
- Marketing inefficiencies are perpetuated. Time and effort are spent on silo-sustaining activities like press checks and inventory-taking that have little impact on the sales process.
- Sales effectiveness is diminished. Opportunities to accelerate deal pace and maximize deal size are missed when selling tools don’t match the needs-driven way in which customers buy.
Clearly, marketing and sales can and must become more collaborative when it comes to sales assets.
A bit skeptical? It can be done! Consider the case of a major commercial bank. Its real estate capital markets group historically had used printed “tombstone” sheets and similarly-formatted advertisements announcing recent financing deals to solicit the interest of prospective customers. Marketing was devoting countless hours and budget to creating such materials each time new deals were secured, and relationship managers were wed to this approach. But the efforts weren’t delivering the desired results—new business.
So with some urging, the team took a look at the medium and realized that at such an early stage in the sales process, its audience probably didn’t have the attention span for opening and reading items sent via “snail” mail. In fact, the team deduced, this kind of mail was most likely opened and discarded by an administrative assistant, never even reaching its intended audience. And even if it did and a recipient was interested, the mail format didn’t make it easy to respond.
With research and thought, the team determined that email offered a more appropriate way to deliver quick hits of information and was a format in which prospects were most comfortable responding. Because email is best suited for tailored, one-to-one communication, marketing developed a graphic “tombstone” email template and enabled relationship managers to pick and choose—using a marketing/sales effectiveness application—the specific deal announcements to fill in the template based on the prospect’s industry, geography and other criteria.
Response to the tailored, customer-centric sales assets was overwhelmingly positive: More than $50 million in incremental deals were inked in less than three months, and all originated out of the email approach that marketing and sales devised together. With those kinds of results, the team not only sang Kumbaya, it also danced the Hora, baked a cake and raised a glass in a toast!