Let's not waste a good crisis

There is nothing like a big recession to get management focused on the role of marketing and its relationship to sales.

Remember when the Internet bubble burst? With budgets tight and sales shrinking, executive attention quickly turned to sales and marketing ROI. This could have created some positive change, except that most of that attention resulted in reorganizations that created as many problems as they resolved.

Now that we have another crisis and more focus on a problem that has been lurking around for years, I want to suggest a solution that doesn't require a reorganization. Let's take the current organization, whatever it looks like today, and agree that everyone who contributes to the success of the sales and marketing effort needs to function as a team. Like a lot of other teams, this one doesn't need to report to a single executive. The strength of the team lies in clearly defined roles and accountabilities, plus a clear understanding of how each group functions in relationship to the others.

Complexity is a big part of the problem, so let's keep it simple.

There are four parts of the team, although smaller companies may combine roles.

1. Inbound marketing managers need to be entirely focused on understanding market problems -- spending enough time with buyers (not just customers) so that the team knows which concerns a market full of buyers deem urgent enough to spend money to resolve. This group should be directly accountable for the quality of the product business case and roadmap.

2. Outbound marketing managers need to be entirely focused on defining a strategy to generate maximum revenue from existing solutions --understanding how buyers within target segments evaluate and buy this type of product or service. This group should be directly accountable for the quality of the go-to-market plan. (Larger companies may have specialists performing this same function for different industries, or for solutions in addition to products.)

3. Marketing communications needs to be entirely focused on developing the marketing assets (programs, web content and sales tools) that move targeted buyers through the buying process. This group should be directly accountable for the quality of the marketing assets as measured by their impact on the buyer's decision process.

4. Sales needs to be entirely focused on closing individual deals and accountable for the same.

You might think that sales is the only part of the go-to-market team that isn't confused about roles, but you would be mistaken. Many sales people have become dependent on other members of the go-to-market team to help them close deals, combining the sales and marketing functions in a way that looks great in the short term but creates big holes in the efficiency of the go-to-market team.

Marketing budgets and personnel should be accountable for and comprise everything necessary to influence markets full of buyers. Sales budgets and personnel should be accountable for and comprise everything necessary to influence individual deals. 

Eliminate these distinctions and marketing won't have time to figure out how to influence markets full of buyers -- they'll be too busy being sales support people. If Sales needs help to win individual accounts, this role needs to be fulfilled through a sales support organization.

It is easy to see when all of the members of a go-to-market team are functioning in their separate but related roles. The company can launch new products, capture the market share it deserves, enter new segments, capitalize on opportunities from mergers and acquisitions, and get through a market downturn with significantly less stress than its competitors. 

To create a functional go-to-market team, try to get management to define these basic roles and responsibilities for each of four groups, regardless of their job titles or reporting relationships. Then use a clear description of the buyer, documented in a buyer persona profile, to focus the team on the task at hand -- doing something useful for the buyers who can get us out of this mess.

Topics: Product Marketing Redefined

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