CASE STUDY - MARKETING & SALES ALIGNMENT -
Depending on the wind and with whom you speak, your business is “Sales-led” or “Engineering-led” or “Finance-led” or “Name-your-powerful-department-led.” But rare is the case where a company is “Marketing-led”, and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing because Marketing, like all of these functions, is complimentary. Many successful businesses realize this relationship and balance of responsibility (and reward), but some more “traditional” organizations still struggle with aligning the various business functions, especially when it comes to marketing and sales. One industry-leading energy company was no exception. Experiencing the growing financial fallout of a misaligned organization, the executive leadership team was tasked with taking a hard look at how the business was failing its customers as a result of cultural and functional silos. The result: a multi-year business realignment effort, including greater integration of the marketing and sales functions.
Industry - Energy | Business Type - Corporate | Revenue - $750MM
Business Challenge With decades of year-over-year growth, international expansion, and an unmatched depth of subject matter expertise, this energy business was forced to face its inefficiencies and lack of process when oil prices experienced a severe and sustained drop. As long as “business was good,” the mantra was “don’t fix what isn’t broken.” But with mass layoffs, increasing competition from smaller, more agile competitors, and new levels of transparency and accountability for targeted, new-business growth … something was unmistakably broken.
While the business originally focused almost solely on its regional sales team performance, that investigation led upward to Sales leadership, their partners in Finance, the supporting IT infrastructure, and eventually to how Marketing was actually tied to Sales, if at all. Surprise! Besides some expensive tradeshow efforts, it wasn’t.
Yes, there were big annual strategy meetings over a weekend at a lodge somewhere, but following those meetings, it was simply business as usual. Ultimately, it was determined that marketing and sales leadership didn’t really know each other; weren’t held accountable to interrelated goals; and didn’t really understand how either division did their job or measured success. What the business realized was that it had allowed both Marketing and Sales to grow in budget, headcount … and, unfortunately, unfettered autonomy. As a result, the business experienced disjointed market messaging, inconsistent customer experiences, staff turnover, and lost market share. Enter heyMATTER.
heyMATTER Solution Contracted to specifically address the alignment of the marketing and sales departments, heyMATTER’s remit was to guide the energy organization through a 6-step process to bridge the gap between marketing and sales (leadership, staff, process); drive alignment between the sales plan and the marketing strategy; and ensure maximum return on its marketing investments and sales efforts. The 6-step process includes:
heyMATTER Benefit We will look at each of the steps in the 6-step process to discuss the benefits, however, there is a preface required. It was apparent, after meeting with the executive team, that the siloed departments had been allowed to grow so independent one from the other that the effort needed to bridge the gap would require consensus on a multi-phased plan, transparent project timeline, and dedicated resources. This is worth noting as, although heyMATTER could help facilitate, we would be part of a larger team to support the effort.
Reintroduce - Based on the belief that all departments and employees succeed and fail together, the first step to reconciling Marketing and Sales is like an awkward 7th grade dance. We all go to school together, but now we have to talk … in the dark … and dance (at arm’s length). For the company, this materialized as a series of seemingly informal, yet highly structured and intentional, offsite discussions between the marketing and sales department leaders, both formal hierarchy leaders and boots-on-the-ground cultural leaders. The purpose of these meetings was to reintroduce them to each other as people with similar passion for success, for the company, their teams, and themselves. These initial informal meetings were followed-up by more formal onsite meetings held where the other half worked, which meant in corporate offices, cubicle areas, field offices … and in the field. The primary takeaway was that each department did indeed need and impact the other, and that the company’s success was based on their ability to plan and execute together.
Define - Like most relationships, much of the challenge lies in semantics, definitions, what we mean by what we say. The second step to aligning the energy company’s marketing and sales teams was to define a common language, to remove the simple misunderstandings and miscommunications, especially those that arise from digital communication (e.g., CRM updates, email, job tickets, Skype, Slack, etc.) versus person-to-person. For this organization, the majority of effort was around defining leads and the lead development/conversion process (e.g., contact, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, conversion). Sales only interacted with the CRM and Marketing only interacted with CRM exports and its marketing automation system. It was self-evident that the two departments didn’t understand the other’s designations, but, more importantly, neither shared how a lead is developed and eventually converted into a customer. Each department had their own plan on how to grow and convert customers. To ensure all parties were on the same page from here forward, a lead generation and customer conversion process flow was developed, replete with an accompanying lexicon. Although the process flow could not illustrate every possible lead generation variable, it created a visual and contextual reference that all parties could hold themselves accountable to.
Align - With the energy company’s marketing and sales departments theoretically on the same page and speaking the same language, Step 3 in Marketing and Sales alignment is where theory transforms to skin in the game. Prior to the joint development of the marketing/sales strategy, both Marketing and Sales must align their primary goals. This means Sales cannot have sales targets that don’t have specific supporting marketing strategies; and there can be no marketing effort that is not specifically, measurably supporting a stated sales objective (excluding the occasional executive directive). Easily said, we know. The groundwork laid between the department and senior leadership as part of the first two steps, really pays off here. The energy company was able to leverage that established good will to realign its approach to achieving its quarterly sales goals by creating agile teams consisting of a product manager(s), regional sales director, marketing manager, IT lead, and financial analyst. Each team member was equally responsible for the creation, execution, and success of the team’s forthcoming marketing/sales plan (see Step 4).
Plan - heyMATTER was brought in halfway through the fiscal year, so we had first-hand experience with the misalignment between the marketing and sales departments. By being brought in this early, we were able to help the energy business reintroduce, define, and align prior to its next year's planning. Now, when stepping into such a large organization, it has its defined revenue and operating profit goals driven by the market, shareholders, etc. So, we aren’t talking about trying to alter or influence those targets. What we are talking about is creating a plan that makes achieving those outcomes realistic. Sales knows where the potential revenue sits, while Marketing can help them open up and close on those opportunities. For the energy company, the following year’s sales targets were set, but how they were supposed to achieve those, per market, per regional sales director, per product/service line, per salesperson were not. Again, decades of success had dulled a sense of urgency and need for strategic (and tactical) planning. For each sales plan sitting in the lap of a regional sales director, heyMATTER pulled together the previously identified teams and, over the course of approximately 4 weeks, backwards engineered a marketing/sales plan to drive the sales outcome. The plans varied across markets, product/service lines, etc., but all required collaboration, buy-in, and accountability. In this way, plan success, or failure, became transparent and shared.
Communicate - All of the investment to this point would be largely wasted if frequent, clear, and concise communication was not the foundation of this effort. But we all know that communication, as easy as it is, is one of the most difficult things to do well. And this international energy company knew it. However, to help these newly formed teams succeed, a simple communications schedule and protocol were needed. There are many ways to establish communication cadence and protocols, depending on available toolsets, existing meetings, team dispersion, etc., but for this business, we created a communication plan built on a roll-up model. Meaning, we began with each small team and defined the types, channels, and frequency of communications needed to execute, report on, and modify their individual plans. It’s worth noting that these communications did not supercede or replace any internal department communications, but were specific to the marketing/sales plan. We took those communication plans, which included bi-weekly status reports, and rolled up to the Sr. Director or VP level twice per month. Feedback from that meeting was passed back down to the individual teams, which allowed for much needed transparency and quick course corrections. Through this cadence and transparency, the regional sales plans became regional marketing/sales plan, and the plan success, or failure, became shared across the team of supporting, complementary functions.
Succeed - Now for the best part … succeed. Does every marketing/sales plan blow your sales targets out of the water? No. But when they don’t, the opportunity to learn and iterate is significant. This sounds like a great thing to say, but it’s true because this energy business’s sales team did not succeed or fail in a vacuum. Its marketing team did not succeed or fail in a vacuum. Instead, through respect, collaboration, and deep sense of shared ownership, each of these small teams drove shared success for their plan. And when something wasn’t working, popped up unexpectedly, or simply missed, the team could communicate and iterate. Cumulatively, this had a huge impact on the company’s market agility, customer experience, and revenue.
Business Outcome This large energy business stumbled due to its own success, unable to see the departmental and cultural silos that had grown in the shadows of years of great revenue. But when the time came to act swiftly, the executive team was willing to do whatever it would take to put things right again. As a result of its willingness to seek outside support, including heyMATTER, and realign its teams to overcome many of its self-induced challenges, the energy business has achieved more integrated and collaborative marketing and sales functions, and returned to increased year-over-year revenue by more quickly and successfully delivering new products/services to the market.
Contact heyMATTER Does your company struggle to align its marketing and sales efforts? If so, you are likely leaving revenue on the table. Let's talk!