Senior Marketing Manager and copywriter for Articulate Marketing. Specialist in writing about writing, marketing, strategy, technology and geekery. Writer of puns and the words between puns. They say talking to yourself is the first sign of content marketing. Expert parenthesis user (so it is said).
The Difference Engine
An Articulate Marketing Guide
Get notified about our upcoming book: a strategic step-by-step guide on how to build your marketing machine.
There is a spit of land in the Scottish Highlands known locally as ‘Smisery Beach’. Backpackers camp there, hoping for a pleasant stay.
In fact, the defining features of the place are bone-deep chill, midge-thick air and, horror upon horror, no WiFi. The ‘S’ in ‘Smisery Beach’ does nothing to hide the true nature of the place: Misery.
As Smisery is misery, so, too, is “Smarketing”. Truly, smarketing is smiserable. We hate it.
And we’ll tell you why.
Smarketing is a nonsense term
First of all, the word itself is an affront to good sense — and to good words for that matter. Kipper. Wellington. Vestibule. Simply put, smarketing can’t compare.
Apparently, it was coined by HubSpot in the early 2000s. Like crop tops and cargo pants, it’s rather hideously come back into vogue. And we’re speaking as an agency affiliated with HubSpot, being a HubSpot Diamond Partner. Hey, partners don’t have to agree on everything. In this, we are opposed. But let’s clarify the terms and see on which side you land.
Smarketing is all about merging sales and marketing teams and activities under one umbrella, powered by constant communication and collaboration.
That doesn’t sound bad, right?
Well for starters, we like to call this process “doing good marketing” and “doing good sales”. When Sales and Customer Service teams join forces to upsell to an existing customer, you don't call that effort “Smustomer Services”, do you? That would be silly.
There’s more to it, of course. Let’s dig deeper.
Why marketers and sales people hate smarketing
Beyond semantics, marketers and sales people don’t actually like smarketing, either. They operate differently, and each team tends to have wildly different approaches and priorities. Though their processes can and should be aligned, sales and marketing simply do not fit under one umbrella. (Have you ever tried to share an umbrella and it just ends up that you both get wet? That.)
‘Diversity is the art of thinking independently together’, said Malcolm Forbes. Our differences make us better. And, actually, there are risks involved if you merge the two teams.
There is no need for marketers to sit through hours of deal board reviews or proposal calls. And you don’t want a sales person who doesn’t know anything about marketing managing a marketing team. They’ll disagree on which activities take priority and what metrics matter, guaranteed. Only 12 percent of sales executives believe that Marketing Qualified Leads are important, despite the fact that inbound leads are cheaper to sell to, more likely to buy and more likely to become loyal customers.
Sales people do not care about the ins and outs of marketing (seriously, they don’t). Yeah, they want good marketing assets to help them inform and inspire prospects. But mainly, they want lots of good inbound leads that they can sell to. We’d argue you need Sales to be single-minded in this way to succeed in their role.
Of course, there are reasons why things can become disjointed between sales and marketing teams. We’re just not convinced smarketing is the magic bullet that solves everything.
You don’t need to merge these distinct business functions. Instead, good processes, communication, resource allocation and expectation management will go a long way to aligning sales and marketing, while celebrating what makes each department great.
Why things get tense between marketing and sales
1. Process issues
87 percent of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth. Motivation isn’t the problem, then. But processes often are.
If you lack organised processes, then you can end up in a situation where no-one knows who is responsible for what. That means opportunities fall through the cracks. Then, the blame game starts. Mistakes, inefficient workarounds, delays and bottlenecks: these cause bitterness, lost revenue and can even negatively impact the experience of prospects and customers.
The solution: Discussion, documentation, compliance. Talk about the processes you need to implement, write down what you agree on, and then do it. Probably, you’ll want to start with something around handing over leads from marketing to sales.
2. Poor communication
Filmmaker Charlie Kaufman said ‘constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.’ You don’t want to be wasting away hours in meetings. But no communication, or miscommunication, is also ruinous. There’s got to be a happy medium.
The solution: You need to establish the key areas where communication is vital and then find a way to make those touchpoints as efficient and mutually beneficial as possible. For example, marketing benefits from a feedback loop from sales: who downloaded which offer, and did they find it helpful? In exchange for this insight, sales may want to know what new offers are available to add to their roster of content assets. In fact, we found only 25 percent of sales people have the collateral they need to persuade prospects, so this is something they really need. A win-win.
3. Unbalanced resource allocation
We see this all the time. Most businesses have more sales people than marketers (according to data from our High-performance marketing scorecard). There is a tendency to invest more in sales because the outcomes are so clear: customers, money.
The solution: Invest in inbound marketing. This casts a wider net. You get more traffic to your website, you grow your brand visibility and the leads will come to you, not the other way around. Find out more about inbound here.
4. Misaligned expectations
Marketing expects sales to have diligently worked all the leads they sent over. Sales, instead, dismissed them because they were a poor fit. A common experience.
What sales people expect from marketing are the types of leads they target with outbound activities, which are already segmented by all sorts of things like sector and company size and so on. Newsflash, not every lead marketing gets will be spot on, but some will be.
It’s up to sales to assess their inbound marketing qualified leads and narrow the pool. And, once they’ve done so, they’ll find those golden opportunities: leads who are a good fit and are super engaged with your business’s marketing materials. These are so much more likely to buy than someone you’ve cold-called 20 times.
The solution: Establish some Service Level Agreements between marketing and sales. For example, marketing may agree to hand over 50 leads every Monday, of which some percentage should be a good fit. Sales may agree to qualify those leads by Wednesday. Measure this by the conversion rate from Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) to Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). This way, everyone knows what to expect.
How to actually align sales and marketing
Thankfully, we’ve already written on this topic quite extensively. Read these articles, next: