Achieving better alignment between marketing and sales is not a new challenge, but social media could drive an even greater wedge between the two departments if companies fail to develop a unified social media strategy and metrics.
This comes as social media spending as a percentage of marketing budgets is projected to more than double by 2018, according to research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and the American Marketing Association.
The research, presented in "The CMO Survey" report, finds that, on average, companies allocate 8.4 percent of their marketing budgets for social media; in the next five years, this will jump to 21.6 percent.
But companies continue to struggle to figure out how to use social media because "of the way in which it was adopted in many companies—outside of [their] strategy, outside of typical organizational structure, and outside of typical pathways of development for marketing managers," says Christine Moorman, director of The CMO Survey.
It doesn't have to be that way, though. The message is the message regardless of the marketing medium, says Bob Apollo, founder and CEO of sales and marketing performance consultancy Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners. "I see a refreshing number of clients who are starting to try and master [social alignment]," he says. "The organizations that seem to be doing a better job are the ones that already had a belief in good collaboration between sales and marketing."
Historically, sales and marketing have butted heads over marketing's alleged failure to produce qualified leads and sales' subsequent failure to follow up on leads in a timely manner. However, there were indicators that helped determine sales-readiness, such as a prospect requesting more information about a company's products or services through a company's "contact us" page.
In social media, lead qualification can be determined by a number of indicators, such as a person's number of friends or followers, the number of site visits that came through social media, or even a prospect's measure of social influence via platforms like Klout or Kred. Companies are moving from using social media metrics that only define direct financial impacts to more of an evaluation of referral metrics, The CMO Survey found.
To manage the impact of social media, marketing and sales will need to measure social activity and apply it to a single contact record.
John McGee, president of OptifiNow, a sales and marketing optimization company, says there are technologies available for sales teams to better leverage social media. For instance, Salesforce.com integrates with InsideView, which offers the Sales Intelligence and People Insights solutions that connect social media contacts with CRM.
Other platforms, such as Hearsay Social, give salespeople access to a social content library filled with marketing-generated content they can publish to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Foursquare, as well as a Sales Module to measure leads, referrals, and retention rates. Nimble's Social Relationship Manager helps sales and marketing teams import social leads, measure marketing investments, and determine which leads converted to sales.
Regardless of the technology, improving sales and marketing alignment and making effective use of leads generated by social media requires both departments to speak a common language. "Marketing needs to be measured on value-add and not just on activity," Apollo says. "In many situations, you can argue…that actually generating fewer leads that are of higher quality and that convert to opportunities or sales would be a much better use of everybody's time."