The one thing that is as important as your product is your messaging about it. In some ways, messaging is more powerful because if no one knows how great your product is, you’re toast. To illustrate my point, let’s investigate the phrase “the medium is the message.” Originally coined by Marshall McLuhan, Marshall tells us the the medium (product) and message are one of the same. Your message becomes your product and your product becomes your message. Your success depends on your product (medium) and message saying the same thing at all times.
My coworker Tom made a powerful inaugural post about this very subject. One of the most hard hitting tidbits I gleaned from his advice was this:
But messaging is hard. You’ve got to get buy-in from everyone. You’ve got to validate it with customers and analysts. You have to enable + certify your entire field organization on it. You’ve got to test it via your website, paid search, email, etc. Don’t underestimate how difficult and time consuming that’s going to be. But when done right, a compelling message cuts through the noise and amplifies everything else you’ll want to do.
Messaging is hard
I have to agree with him that this is hard to get right. It’s near impossible to get right if your marketing and sales teams are not aligned. I speak from experience because I’ve seen misaligned marketing and sales teams. In some cases, marketing and sales are downright adversarial to each other. They blame each other for missed revenue targets or lead generation.
If this happens in a startup, it dies. If this happens in an established organization, it stagnates.
So how do you align sales and marketing? Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s as hard to do as defining your message, but it can be. When I see misaligned teams I often think a few things, but I usually look to the top leadership first.
What kind of leader does the organization have? Is he/she a team builder or a team divider? Everyone says they’re a team builder but many are team dividers. They divide teams in the spirit of free market competition. They hope that when every team competes, it will drive more revenue. They can’t be more deluded.
Marketing and Sales are complimentary
Marketing and sales are complimentary teams. You can’t match them against one another and expect the money to roll in. You must foster a continuous feedback loop between them.
Sales is in the trenches, they hear what the customers are saying. If they sell, then great. If they fail, that’s great too. Why? No one likes to fail but failures are a great way to help marketing adjust their messaging. Sales sends feedback to marketing, marketing adjusts messaging, and sales executes with more wins.
Likewise, marketing is also in the trenches. They spend their days analyzing the market, crafting the message, and producing collateral. They’re findings help the sales team craft their opening salvos and engage with prospects. They provide the “leave behinds” that sales gives to interested prospects. They provide direction for sales where to focus their time, money, and energy at.
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Aligning Sales and Marketing
Going back to my original question, so how do you align sales and marketing?
You must have leadership that builds teams instead of paying lip service to it
Everyone on the team must know that they are part of something that CAN’T work if they’re not working together
A feedback loop must be put in place and used
Remove obstacles preventing you from aligning. This could include removing some people
Never stop massaging the medium or the message for that matter