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What Marketing and Sales Alignment Means for B2C Companies

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by: Todd McCormick (@TMcCormick2011)
20 March 2015

The sibling rivalry between marketing and sales is legendary. As a sales executive in the marketing automation industry, I've had a front-row seat to this ongoing turf war. I've heard all the stereotypes, jokes and complaints that these two departments make about each other, and I understand where both groups are coming from. But it has to end now. In the digital age, consistent messaging can make or break a brand. To earn customers' trust and loyalty, it's important that the teams responsible for external communications are on the same page.

In B2B organizations, this means aligning sales and marketing teams. From firsthand experience, I know it's not an easy job, though I’ve been very fortunate to work with a great team that sees the relationship between sales and marketing as a partnership. For B2C companies, which don't usually have inside sales departments, the challenge is to align marketing and sales strategies. In other words, in-store and online retail data must be used to inform marketing, increase sales and create a seamless shopping experience for customers. Here's how:

1) Ensure Experience Consistency Across Channels

Only 35 percent of marketers are giving customers what they want: a seamless shopping experience across Web, mobile and brick-and-mortar stores.

Consistency in pricing, information and communication is important to retail shoppers, especially when they're dropping big money on your products. One of my colleagues recently complained to me about a communication snafu with one of her favorite department stores. When her washing machine broke, she went to the store the next day. Hoping to avoid extra costs for delivery, she borrowed a truck from a friend and arranged to have a neighbor help her unload the new machine when she got home.

A week after this ordeal, she received a promotional email from the same department store advertising the item she'd just purchased — for 25 percent off and with free delivery. "It was a slap in the face after I trekked all the way to the mall," she told me. "To add insult to injury, I paid for the washing machine with my store credit card, so they knew I'd just bought this item. They should have been sending me deals on new dryers. I might have taken them up on that. Now I'm just annoyed."

2) Get Your Data in One Place — and Get It Right

The only way to avoid snafus like this one is to have complete profiles of your individual customers that include their stated preferences, online behavior and in-store shopping history. To do that, you need a robust marketing automation platform that collects all the data available on each customer and puts it in one place.

This doesn't just keep your marketing team from embarrassing itself, but it creates new opportunities to drive conversions online and in stores. For example, let's say you work for a large electronics store. If you arm sales-floor associates with iPads that connect to your customer database, they can approach shoppers, ask for their email addresses, and see all the information the company has on each one. An associate can then say, "I see you have a Sony television on your online wish list. Would you like to see the model in person? I can also show you a few similar models. And since you're a rewards customer, you get 10 percent off today."

Now, that's personalized service — the kind most large retailers haven't been able to offer until now.

3) Operationalize Upsells and Cross-Sells

When you know what your customers really want from you — not just what they say they want, but what they actually buy — you know exactly what items to promote next. For example, if a customer buys a new coat from your store, you can follow up with an email offer: "Our stylists tell us this scarf looks great with the coat you just purchased. Buy accessories now and receive 15 percent off."

The more data you collect on your customers, the more powerful these upsell opportunities can be. For example, my wife loves jewelry. If I buy her a necklace for Valentine's Day and the jeweler knows our wedding anniversary is just around the corner, that's the perfect time to suggest I pick up a matching tennis bracelet or earrings.

4) Create Internal Processes to Keep Teams Connected

Well-aligned marketing and sales teams in B2B companies traditionally have weekly meetings. They talk about what each department is working on, share helpful insights they've gleaned from conversations with customers, and create processes that will help attract new customers and nurture existing ones.

In B2C companies, salespeople, marketers and merchandisers don't usually work in the same location, or even during the same hours. Weekly meetings aren't always feasible, and if departments have access to the same data, such frequent check-ins probably aren't necessary either.

That said, communication between customer-facing departments is still important. If you’re arming salespeople with tablets and data, their feedback and customer insights should also be looped back to marketing. Also, in most retail companies, the CSO and CMO are the same person, which gives that executive a lot of power. This is good news for sales and marketing alignment, but CMOs can easily develop marketing tunnel vision without insight from other departments. Therefore, it's a good idea for leadership to keep in touch with store managers who know what's happening on the front lines and operations experts who can share best practices.

The bottom line is that marketing automation technology can go a long way toward aligning your sales data with marketing strategies, but it helps if the people within your organization are just as connected.

Related Resources:

1) Blog: “3 Ways Behavioral Marketing Improves Sales and Marketing Alignment

2) White Paper: “Know the Score: The Ultimate Guide to Scoring Customers and Prospects

3) Blog: “6 Tips for Approaching the Revenue Attribution Discussion


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