Can Sales and Marketing Ever Get Along?
Everyone knows the legendary feud between sales and marketing -- in many organizations, the Hatfields and McCoys would have been considered Facebook buddies, by comparison -- but more and more companies are taking steps not just to call a truce, but to work toward an amicable and productive integration. According to a recent study published by technology research firm the Aberdeen Group, the integration of sales and marketing technologies is becoming a huge priority within enterprises. Surprisingly, 73 percent of Best-in-Class companies reported using a "formalized process" to communicate and share information between sales and marketing, a number much higher than anticipated. But Best-in-Class enterprises only represent 20 percent of the market, which means the rest of the industry has a ways to go.
The study, entitled "The Convergence of Sales and Marketing Technologies," surveyed 315 organizations earning annual revenues that ranged from under $50 million to over $1 billion. The top 20 percent of the respondent pool -- Aberdeen's Best-in-Class performers -- shared three key traits:
- 49 percent increase in year-over-year annual revenue;
- 33 percent improvement in return on marketing investment (ROMI); and
- 21 percent increase in year-over-year lead-to-sales conversion rate.
According to Ian Michiels, the author of the report and senior research analyst of sales and marketing at Aberdeen, the Best-in-Class companies are not only leading the way -- they're likely to "exemplify where we're heading in the future."
The idea is spreading that the turf warfare may be headed for a ceasefire, according to Michiels. "It's what everyone's talking about now," he says. "They're talking about integration because there's value in this proliferation of marketing channels out there." The average organization has at least two to four marketing solutions (marketing automation, email, analytics, etc.); when each solution is provided by a different vendor, that organization has a very difficult time getting a holistic view of its processes. Sounds logical enough -- you need to see where your money's going in order to gauge returns and to determine if you're spending those dollars properly. Of the Best-in-Class, 60 percent said they wanted integration to drive top-line revenue growth, and 58 percent wanted to improve ROMI.
But just because it's logical doesn't mean it'll be easy. "It's expensive to try to pull together a solution," Michiels says. "You need IT support right now and that's why marketing is starting to adopt a lot of solutions that are on-demand, things that they can own and manage by themselves."
Unfortunately, many companies now are pitted with the challenge of digging themselves out of their inflexible -- not to mention expensive -- existing systems. "It's hard to pull out a legacy system because it's rooted in the organization," Michiels explains. "But to try to make these legacy systems work -- put Band-Aids on them, stick toothpicks and rubber bands like MacGuyver -- it doesn't work." Instead, companies should look to invest more in technology to find the necessary components that will tie everything together. According to the report, Best-in-Class companies are making investments to not only improve existing technology, but also to fill in any gaps within and between existing applications. The future is likely to see far less customized, in-house technology and a greater reliance on outside vendors and integration modules.
In the report, Best-in-Class performers showed impressive numbers after integration:
- Marketing effectiveness -- or at least respondents' perception of it -- increased an average of 36 percent.
- Sales productivity increased by 26 percent.
- Time-to-close was reduced by an average of 16 percent.
Almost every technology vendor is likely to claim the ability to integrate seamlessly with your existing platform. However, the reality of the industry, Michiels says, is that integration isn't as easy as end users were led to believe -- though he's quick to point out that integration can
work: Some Best-in-Class companies have managed to put their puzzle together and have achieved great results.
Ultimately, the integration of sales and marketing is what companies should be striving for. Currently, Michiels isn't aware of any one vendor that can provide an overarching solution. The industry has seen many acquisitions as companies get increasingly specialized, focusing on what they're good at and strategically adding functionality. This approach, however, has yet to prove itself.
Eventually, perhaps, integration will involve the entire organization. But as of now, for companies of any size, the integration of sales and marketing is more than enough to get a leg up. "[Business is] all about sales. It's all about generating leads. So how do you do that more effectively?" Michiels asks. "Through integration."
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