For the Love of Marketing (and Sales): Why Alignment Matters

One of the sessions I attended at the SiriusDecisions Summit in Nashville last week posed the question, does alignment matter? It sounded like such a strange question because the very essence of our lives centers around alignment; alignment of body and mind, alignment of work and family, and of course, alignment of marketing and sales to company goals.

As our speaker explained, alignment (in the context of our discussion) was being defined as a common set of assumptions that marketing, product teams and sales organizations should align on in order to map activities and programs to the achievement of core company objectives. This common set of assumptions includes:
Identifying growth strategies, by markets, buyers, offerings, acquisition and productivity
Understanding where revenue is coming from, by segment, product and customer
Setting marketing coverage expectations, including brand, analyst relations, demand center, user conferences, creative services and analytics
Agreeing on marketing’s role in driving revenues, both sourced and influenced revenue
Defining and scoping marketing’s efforts, to include campaign portfolios, budget allocations, measurement cadence and reporting hierarchy
Developing and executing a functional plan encompassing campaigns, channels and marketing plans

So in other words, it’s really about alignment on what you’re doing (strategic alignment + goal setting), who’s doing it (marketing, product and sales) and how you’ll get there (marketing strategy + functional plan). The final, and most important aspect of alignment is actually taking the journey and adapting to change (execution + evolution).

The main focus of the alignment discussion though, was the reinforcement of a need for marketing, sales and product teams to join forces, conduct business reviews and assess the performance of activities together. Building a coalition of support across marketing, sales and product leaders is vital to bringing the teams together and aligning diverse activities to company objectives.

In the modern B2B buyer’s journey, where customers are progressing more than 60% of the way through a purchase before ever even engaging with a salesperson, organizations simply cannot afford to operate in silos. Marketing, sales and product teams must collaborate and leverage each other’s core competencies to achieve business goals.

What Does Sales Need to Do?
On the sales side, there needs to be a commitment to participating in the marketing planning process to ensure that sales initiatives are clearly understood. One of the more interesting recommendations I heard was to integrate a marketing person onto the sales planning team to drive this commitment.

What Does Product Need to Do?
Product teams should make sure that both marketing and sales organizations understand major product initiatives and how they can help. The guidance was to look beyond product launches and leverage a consistent cadence of programs to raise awareness and consideration for products.

What Does Marketing Need to Do?
On the marketing side, there must be a push for regular communication and increased collaboration with product and sales teams to reduce the likelihood of confusion, lost leads and missed opportunities. There must also be diligence on metrics focused on uncovering what’s performing well, what needs improvement, and what strategies should be considered moving forward.

Back to the original question of why alignment between marketing, sales and product teams matters, let’s think for a moment about misalignment. Misalignment isn’t a marketing problem, or a sales problem, or a product problem; it’s a business problem. And a business problem like this affects everyone in the organization, not just marketing, sales or product teams. Without alignment, a company simply cannot execute effectively.