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Improve Marketing Contributions to Sales Performance

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What does marketing actually deliver to sales, and how can you improve marketing performance and contributions?

Many companies leave their marketing strategy as an afterthought or dismiss it altogether. It is understandable why companies operate this way, as often sales efforts were instrumental in the initial growth of the company. Over time securing larger accounts and achieving a good footprint in the market with an excellent reputation.

For many companies, that burst of initial growth often occurred some time ago against fewer competitors and markets that were active. The company rode the wave of good times. The marketing department’s efforts were considered as brochures and logos and played only a small part in the overall sales strategy. They were not seen as a direct contributor to sales results.

Like all companies, over time, the business slows as it reaches maturity, and companies turn to product innovation to create a new point of differentiation. But getting the message out there beyond their loyal customers is slow and costly. Sales results are disappointing even though the product has substantial merit.

Today, it becomes necessary to consider how to improve marketing performance and contributions and apply a marketing strategy to stimulate sales. Sales alone will struggle to reach enough people timely to generate sufficient interest for new products before competitors arrive with similar solutions. CEOs must look to new and innovative ways to support sales and stimulate demand, and in today’s market, growth is often led by marketing efforts more than sales efforts. Marketing is creating differentiation and expediting your product to market. Highly competitive environments demand differentiation and speed to market.

This is essential to gain a competitive advantage. If you are too slow to market, competitors quickly learn from your challenges and can appear with a similar product with a perceived better offer; from a customer’s perspective. This problem is compounded when the products produced or sold by a company appear similar, or there are numerous substitute products. One of the critical requirements of marketing is to improve marketing effectiveness to seek and leverage your unique selling proposition and communicate this to the target audience.  

Additionally, the way in which companies do business has changed. The days of the weekly or monthly sales calls are becoming tenuous, and your key customers have less time for these sorts of interactions. Your customers are now avid users of the internet and will often perform searches to solve their business challenges. The customer experience starts with the website, and your website visitors are now equally as important as someone that the sales team has reached out to. If you do not have a digital strategy in place, you are outside of their consideration set.  

This shift has brought about a dramatic change with a new view of marketing organisations and their contribution to your company’s performance. The marketing team’s role is not to produce brochures or organise your next tradeshow. Their responsibility now lies as an integral part of your strategic plan and must contribute to strategy execution.

To capitalise on a digital marketing strategy, tactics such as email marketing campaigns, search engine optimisation, content creation, data management, and automation must be included in the marketing plan. Customers must be ranked into buyer personas, creating more personalised and tailored communications with them. Social media plays an important role in communications too.

Without the use of these tactics, your exposure on the internet will be limited. In addition to your digital strategy, a professional marketer should be involved in new product releases. It is critical that products and services be communicated using a customer-centric viewpoint and not derived from internal perceptions. To achieve this, market research is often required to validate the unique selling proposition.

Marketing and sales must work harmoniously as sales leaders need marketing to assist in filling the sales pipeline with quality leads and opportunities. The marketing costs should now be considered as a cost of sales as they play such an integral role in producing sales revenue. In most companies or small businesses, this may be as simple as selecting an appropriate sample from your existing customers and running an online survey to test the research hypothesis.

Alternatively, in large organisations, and where budgets permit, you would consider qualitative research such as running a focus group.  Many companies that have not invested in a marketing strategy are often deterred by the perceived lack of accountability that results from marketing expenditure. The marketing budget must demonstrate return on investment (ROI) and dissect it down to individual campaigns. Their contribution to total revenue, the variable costs, and the fixed costs of the departments are as critical as sales team members. This may have been true in the past, although, with the advent of digital, marketing activity can be tracked and measured for performance.

As a CEO, you can expect reports that illustrate conversions and revenue attribution. To improve marketing performance and be effective in business-to-business markets, their primary focus needs to be on the short-term and long-term contribution to the sales effort. This implies that their primary goal is to nurture prospects into a state of buyer readiness, which then is provided to a salesperson for closing. Marketers must always be introspective and consider their activity and ask, how does this campaign contribute to increased revenue and profitability?

To review your marketing contribution to sales and understand how to achieve a measured return on investment, please reach out to our office.

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About the Author: Adele Crane

A leader in Implementation Consulting.
CEOs and Managing Directors have relied on Adele Crane to solve challenges with the performance of their sales and marketing since 1990. Her consulting experience in delivering results in 90-120 days is unprecedented by any other known sales and marketing consulting professional in the world. As an author of 3 acclaimed books, appearances on major media, and publications in USA, NZ and Australia, Adele’s experience brings fresh thinking and contemporary practices to business.