Who owns the customer within a business: marketing or sales?

By Drew Nicholson, CEO OgilvyOne dnx

Sales vs. marketing

In the 80s the typical hierarchy saw sales teams take the lead and Marketing Directors subjugated to exhibition stand design and brochure and signage production.

At that time many organisations started to see the disconnect between sales and marketing such as unaligned objectives, dysfunctional and often antagonistic interrelationships. As a result, we saw the rise of the Sales & Marketing Director who was often a combination of the creative entrepreneur and the hard driving sales machine – not always an easy balance to achieve.

Ultimately, that model wasn’t sound, but as organisations continue to evolve, is a conjoined sales and marketing function now more relevant than ever in a large B2B organisation?

Marketing throughout an organisation

Marketing is becoming more pervasive throughout organisations, McKinsey describes how ‘the chief marketing officer collaborates with the chief executive and other senior-team members to nail down a shared approach for designing, building, operating, and renewing customer touch points’.

The nature of marketing and sales activity has changed too and now revolves more around the customer experience and journey. It used to be the case that Marketing would pass largely unqualified leads through the hatch to Sales who would then largely ignore them. Latterly, as content and ‘self-feeding’ grew, Marketing was minding more of the journey and lead qualification and improvement grew healthily for Sales to focus more on conversion. Now, Sales and Marketing teams (should) share data, analytics and customer insight and build it into activity which ultimately means a smoother experience for customers, and the same experience regardless of channel.

Multiple channels also leads to a huge increase in the customer data companies collect and particularly in the speed at which it arrives. This requires a previously unknown intensity of analysis to process the data and requires teams working together both to achieve this, and further, to ensure that insights are drawn from the data and indeed acted upon.

This all means that rather than putting more leads in the funnel, we’re seeing more collaboration ‘through the funnel’ where Marketing and Sales sit in the same room and look at which levers to pull to achieve a sales result.

Marketing Automation done properly (i.e. regularly maintained not just set up and left to run) can ‘operationalise’ certain aspects of outbound, social and content and also drive marketing transformation throughout organisations.

Measurement and Success

Key to the success of Sales and Marketing teams integrating and working together is having tightly defined and shared responsibilities. Shared dashboards are built on the same data and allow shared KPIs in terms of both revenue and conversion.

Sales operations teams are also critical again and are increasingly appreciated as more than just report builders. Their strength lies in their analytical skill and ability to inform the data- driven, decision-making now demanded by Sales and marketing.

 The future?

The ultimate internal combination is a powerful triangle of Sales, Sales Operations (who know the targets and analytics) and Marketing who have the voice of the customer – a voice they are getting better at interpreting every day.

The future owner of the customer is us all.

“We’re all marketers now”, (McKinsey, 2011)

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