The year is nearly halfway through, and you may already be feeling you're behind in reaching the organization's ambitious 2017 revenue goals. No reason to worry yet, but before your anxiety turns into a mid-year panic attack, it's a good idea to keep your eye on a few key strategic areas.
The following three, when ignored, become some of the most common mistakes that lead to the midyear panic attack.
1. Not Aligning Sales and Marketing Goals
Sounds simple and obvious, but so many organizations don't do it. Why—especially when, according to the TAS Group, misalignment costs B2B companies 10% of revenue per year.
Common symptoms are simply structural; these are two separate functions, and the CEO doesn't hold them accountable for being aligned. Another common reason is they view the sales and marketing relationship as a baton handoff instead of an ongoing partnership: Often, Marketing generates leads, gives them to Sales, and then Sales does its thing.
Steps to avoid misalignment:
- Agree on joint goals at the beginning of the year. If you haven't by now this year, get on it ASAP. As the adage goes, "you get what you measure."
- Have a common, agreed-upon definition of "lead." If you haven't done this in the past, you may need to reset expectations on lead numbers. Most organizations could benefit from having a higher bar for qualifying sales leads. The result may be fewer leads, but higher-quality leads that result in more business and a higher likelihood that Sales will follow up.
- Have a formally defined lead hand-off process. If the marketing department is backing up the lead truck to the sales department and dumping leads on Sales, it's time to redefine your process. What is the follow-up expectation? Within 24 hours? How many touches is the minimum before Sales moves on?
- Measure and refine. Quarterly reviews are recommended, as they give you enough data to see what is working and what is not. They also allow time to change course and affect the remainder of the year.
2. Under-Resourced Plan or Lack of a Plan
Anyone who has pitched the CFO for more money without citing tangible numbers knows that's as effective as fishing in a roadside puddle.
If the ROI of marketing and sales activities is not clearly communicated, then funds and attention are not dedicated for new tools or staff. Obviously, if you can attribute your activities directly to revenue, you'll have the most compelling of arguments. But that isn't always possible.
Try these places to start building a more compelling case:
- Measure Sales' use of your content. Sirius Decisions estimates that only 30% of marketing content is used by sales; if you can identify the other 70% and reduce waste, you'll make your CFO happy. CFOs like reducing waste.
- Get feedback on your marketing content from your sales reps. Though simple feedback may not be the "holy grail" of attributing content to revenue, it's logical that pieces of content with higher feedback ratings are probably helping sales reps move deals through the sales funnel.
- Deploy sales-enablement technology if your organization is more sophisticated and can do so. It will knock the socks off your CFO. With sales-enablement technology tied to your CRM and content, you can show which pieces of content move deals through the sales stages and ultimately result in new revenue.
3. Thinking That Sales Growth and Momentum Will Continue
Often, when things are going well and the company is in a growth phase, it's easy to become complacent. But before complacency becomes a killer, carve off a portion of your budget and start piloting new approaches.
Ideas to pilot, if you haven't already:
- account-based marketing (ABM). The concept has been around for many years, and it's now a popular topic in the sales and marketing blogosphere, but very few companies have implemented an ABM approach. Start small with your perfect target market and a small group of accounts. Allocate the right resources to truly customize the content and see what you can produce. It's likely that those who execute well will achieve higher ROI than those that don't implement ABM in the very near future.
- Increase your Sales tech stack. The Marketing tech stack has improved marketers' ability to automate and deliver highly relevant, targeted content during the marketing process. New Sales tech products are constantly hitting the market with the promise of doing for Sales what martech did for marketers.
- Start using predictive analytics. Many of the sales tech products are using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, to help tell you what to do before you know what to do. Even if your current strategy is working, wouldn't you like to know where your future strategy should go?
Pulling It All Together
At the end of the year, sales will be measured by revenue. Marketing should be measured against revenue as well.
In today's digital word, old tactics will continue to dwindle in effectiveness. Now, more than ever, your sales and marketing teams need to be collaborating to achieve common goals and using the sophisticated technology available to them. For most B2B organizations, that probably also means looking at processes to improve their sales execution, and they will need to take advantage of technology to automate sales activities, processes, and administrative tasks. A 2016 Gartner report predicts, for example, that by 2018 manual data entry by salespeople will be cut in half due to the adoption of sales productivity tools. If streamlining processes isn't on your long-term radar yet, now is also the time to start doing research.
So start mapping your long-term strategy and your short-term actions. And don't panic: 2017 is far from over.
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