There’s a lot of talk about the differences between demand creation (marketing), demand capture (sales), and brand (marketing). B2B companies’ approach each of these as if each needs its own strategy implemented separately, with different teams carrying the responsibility for each function.
Quite often these teams work in silos. One team may have an idea of what another team is doing, but what’s usually missing is collaboration and coordination in favor of the bigger picture of the customer continuum.
But at what cost?
The outcome of this disfunction is that demand marketing only has a 5% alignment with brand marketing, on average. Yes, this means that the efforts of the two marketing teams only overlap (reaching the same potential buyers) by that measly 5%. This indicates a lack of coordination between top-of-funnel and bottom-of-funnel marketing strategies.
Nearly as bad, B2B marketing efforts and sales outreach only overlap by an average of 16%. This means for all those buyers marketing engages, sales reps only interact with 16% of them. Who knows where the other 84% of buyers that sales pursue come from?
The report concludes:
“This is a problem worth fixing. The LinkedIn analysis found that high alignment can increase marketing generated revenue by 208%, increase customer retention by 36%, and reduce sales and marketing expenses.”
If this isn’t a wakeup call to capitalize on a holistic approach to creating and scaling demand — I don’t know what will make it happen. Working at cross purposes with unrelated actions is not the route to achieving sustainable company growth.
So, let’s get after it.
A Level-Set on Buyer-Driven Demand
The customer continuum refers to the buyer-driven process, end-to-end across the customer lifecycle. The role of brand marketing is to position the company to create awareness and interest within a specific market. The role of demand marketing is to amplify the work the brand team started by building relevant engagement and momentum for demand with the target market. The role of sales is to capture that demand to convert buyers into customers.
Note that for a full continuum, we need to include customer success, upsell, expansion, and retention, but that goes beyond this post.
Back to demand. Those three roles are not separate. They are part of a whole — a continuum. They build on each other to create an impact with our buyers. Without one of those roles in play, you won’t get the others to perform. Not easily or at the volume you’ll achieve when they all work together.
Brand represents your positioning and messaging in the marketplace based on the segments of customers you serve and your level of buyer knowledge. Demand executes programs that strengthen the brand. These programs enlist buyers by providing relevant guidance and thinking about why and how your solution is a viable answer to the problem at hand. And they build confidence in buyers to advance making a buying decision in your favor. Sales continues the story marketing started (or they should be) to help buyers resolve any conflicts, cement consensus, and make that final decision to become customers.
Random acts of brand, demand, and sales don’t cause those results.
We know this. So why are our teams so misaligned? Why are we accepting the huge costs that result?
The Huge Cost of Misalignment
Without shared objectives, B2B companies are wasting resources and missing their objectives for growth. Research finds that only 16% of B2B marketers say they have an integrated approach to brand and demand marketing. And only 44% say they actively communicate with sales to ensure leads are being followed up on.
One critical cost to companies is the loss of potential revenue. As stated above, the research found that high alignment can result in up to 208% increase to marketing generated revenue and a 36% increase in customer retention. What impact would that increase have on your company’s growth objectives?
Another cost is driving potential buyers away by confusing and frustrating them by sharing different stories and conflicting experiences. Research from Forrester found that B2B buyers view content as an expression of the value they’ll get from the vendor’s product. Most B2B buyers find content unimpressive. And not just net-new buyers as 69% of customers are unlikely to expand contracts if content isn’t valuable or helpful.
It’s important to consider that the content problem isn’t limited to marketing, it’s also with sales. Gartner finds that 53% of buyers say sales reps share content different than the story shared on the vendor’s website — further adding to the confusion.
B2B buyers already lack confidence in making buying decisions. More than half of deals end up with no decision made — and that number is climbing. Which may be why 72% of sales reps don’t expect to hit their annual quota in 2023.
Alignment between marketing and sales has been an ongoing discussion for as long as I can remember — and I’ve been working in B2B marketing for more than 23 years. But now to see that misalignment spread across B2B marketing functions is an eye opener. How can we be getting worse, rather than better?
Alignment must become a priority. We need to get on the same page. This is even more critical as sales reps get pushed aside as buyers choose to self-educate rather than engaging with them — at least until the end of their buying process.
The problem is it’s hard to build buyer confidence when we give them reasons to mistrust the information, experiences, and guidance we share. Fixing this problem is a huge opportunity for marketing as buyers rely more on digital experiences to guide them to which face-to-face experiences they choose.
Take Action to Unify Brand, Demand, and Sales
Create Transparency: Positioning, messaging, content, and programs must move out of silos to be shared, explained, and made useful across functions. If you ask a marketer or seller to explain the value prop and define your target market for a solution, the answers should be the same.
Transparency also applies to connecting the dots between the companies’ objectives to the programs we execute. Strategies are not standalone. Departmental strategies must roll up under the overall company go-to-market strategy, as well as align across functions.
Establish Collaborative Processes: You can’t align strategies or execution without communication and coordination. This means involving cross-functional teams in both. Given the corporate strategy, get marketing teams, product, sales, and customer success to work together to define target markets, ABM accounts, retention strategies, and other programs.
By inviting the different perspectives and expertise that lie within those functions, you’ll find you’re creating more robust programs that build momentum by working together. Don’t forget to make enabling each other part of the process. Given the goals and programs you’re implementing, determine what each team needs from the others to successfully execute their part of the process.
Stop Making Excuses: When asked why they’re not aligned, functions have a variety of reasons. I call them excuses. Siloed data is one of the biggest. So, figure it out. Don’t wait to implement a data warehouse or engage in territorial battles, decide what data you can access will contribute to a better outcome and agree to share it across functions.
Another excuse I hear is that “they just don’t understand” — in relation to another team or function. Get them to. What are they missing? What can you share to help develop a shared understanding across teams and functions?
A third is a bunch of unvalidated assumptions about buyers. If your content isn’t resonating, a bigger paid ad budget isn’t going to change that. You’ve got to quit putting it off and commit to really understanding your buyers and customers. Go talk to a bunch of them until you start hearing the same things. Look for the commonalities you can address.
Agree on Common Goals: Yes, each function has its own metrics to measure execution, but they all should be driving action toward shared objectives and outcomes. Taking time to align on outcomes will help align on metrics. Consider how each metric contributes to attaining the outcome. If it doesn’t, cut it and replace it with something else.
Plan for Iterative Optimization: B2B buying processes can take from many months to more than a year. Programs need to run the course in alignment with buyers to help them gain momentum. The kiss of death is a set-it-and-forget-it mindset.
Continuous evaluation of engagement with content, email — whether nurturing or sales — topics engaged with, and more, help you to fine tune and update content that isn’t working as well as it should. This process also helps you identify where buyers may fall off and the gaps you need to fill to keep pipeline momentum going. Change happens fast. There’s no room for complacency. Especially since digital is your buyers’ first choice.
Celebrate the Wins: Every person wants recognition for their contribution. When a program performs well and meets goals, it’s time for recognition. Help all involved stay passionate about what they’re doing and see how their work contributes to achieving goals and outcomes. You’ll also have less turnover which provides the opportunity for each team to improve expertise and capitalize on it.