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ROI shouldn’t stop sales and marketing seeing eye to eye

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A blinkered focus on results can cause conflicts between sales and marketing. But they can share a vision, says Hexagon PPM’s Ljubica Radoicic.

We know businesses thrive when sales and marketing teams work together. They can feed each other valuable insights to help meet customers’ needs. But too often it feels like they see the same world differently, and these two vital business functions can become estranged.

The idea of silos is synonymous with a lack of collaboration and power struggles leading to lost productivity and diminished effectiveness. This is something Ljubica Radoicic, Marketing Director APAC for Hexagon PPM, has witnessed.

“I’ve seen conflicts, lack of trust and misunderstanding between the two,” Radoicic says. “There have been instances when sales felt like marketing was trying to take their glory and didn’t understand marketing’s role at the strategic level, or how it can drive value for sales and vice versa. But it goes both ways.”

This goes back to the very core of the two functions: how they are managed and defined by the business. Sales is focused on delivering immediate results, while marketing is seen as focused on the strategic long term.

Sales and marketing need a shared vision and clear goals to work and collaborate effectively.

The need for accountability – short and long term

When organisations work to remove friction between business functions, ROI is a simple, shared metric that seems like a panacea. If there are two functions in a business focused on delivering and driving revenue, they are sales and marketing.

Adding to that, market uncertainty, disruption, increased competition and the ability to gain deep insights into performance put pressure on marketing to be more accountable and show tangible contributions to the bottom line.

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Hexagon PPM Marketing Director APAC Ljubica Radoicic

“Overall, there’s definitely greater pressure on marketing to deliver short-term results or immediate ROI,” Radoicic says. “With businesses focusing on high growth even in mature markets, this often deviates management’s support on achieving the long-term value marketing delivers.

“Alignment is most effective when it brings the customer to the centre.”

“It comes down to clearly defining short-term and long-term goals, setting the right KPIs and providing adequate resources to achieve both. And with the advent of marketing technology, there’s a lot more transparency and accountability in terms of how marketing operates.”

While marketing accountability is a positive thing, a laser-like focus on immediate sales return can cause marketers to engage in short-term thinking. “While I agree that marketing needs to demonstrate its value and ROI, there needs to be a balance between the short term and long term,” Radoicic says. “Some things are not as easy to measure, such as brand equity, so there needs to be different KPIs for different objectives.”

Customer-centricity closes the gap

 Radoicic reports on marketing’s contribution to pipeline and related metrics such as cost per lead, cost per click and cost per acquisition. “At the end of the day it’s about the numbers, but I think that’s really what creates conflict because each function is stepping on each other’s feet and there’s no real clarity of goals,” Radoicic says. “There’s no shared goals, no shared vision across sales and marketing.”

The only “true source of alignment” is not numbers but customer centricity. “Alignment is most effective when it brings the customer to the centre,” she says. “There’s definitely blurring lines between sales and marketing because the buyer’s journey is no longer clean cut. Sales is not just involved in closing a deal but also involved in, for example, building relationships. [It’s also] involved in social selling [and] promoting thought leadership.”

Method in sales alignment

Account-based marketing (ABM) for prospecting has created a need for joint planning, thinking, alignment and sharing of goals between sales and marketing. It’s led to a unified approach centred on the customer, rather than the competition.

While the measurement of immediate revenue covers the short-term focus, the team as a whole has to consider customer lifetime value and work together to maximise it. Radoicic says Hexagon PPM’s maturity in ABM is “still evolving” but she acknowledges it’s the keystone to alignment.

ABM makes sharing information about the customer throughout their journey essential – and this communication between marketing, sales, field-service and customer-service teams improves customer experience and breaks barriers down between teams.

“With some organisations, that alignment even goes as far as, for example, sales and marketing sharing operations,” she says. “To the back end and realignment around CRM data management delivery. We’re aligning across various activities and looked at aligning across the buyer’s journey and the whole marketing funnel.

“That’s where I’ve seen sales and marketing work as one team, rather than going in different ways because they’re just focused on a single metric or single number.”

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 Further reading: Sales and marketing alignment in action

Photo: Krista Mangulsone on Unsplash

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