I learned the importance of shared objectives early in my career when I was trusted with the largest product introduction of the year.
I led the efforts on all aspects of a product introduction you would expect. We developed sales literature, training modules, demo kits, merchandisers, a website, an internal sales spiff, distributor promotion, and a Total Cost of Ownership tool that dollarized the value versus the next best alternative. We had beta sites and user testimonials; we did full-page trade advertisements and direct mailers. We had conference calls (webinars didn’t exist back then) and regional sales meetings. I truly felt we had it all covered...well, almost.
The first issue I ran into was that I assumed. I assumed our sales team had the same sales goals, but they didn’t. I realized this after it was too late. I traveled with our account manager for our largest distributor. I was there for their annual planning meeting, acting as the product expert for all of their technical questions. After a full day, we left without concrete plans to stock the product, educate the sales team, or activate our promotion. Needless to say, we didn’t hit our number that year.
Lesson #1: Align goals across the company. Have you ever heard the phrase, “What is measured is acted upon?” The above story is a perfect example of this. Sales wasn’t being measured on the same goals that Marketing was being measured on. If Marketing doesn’t have shared, measurable goals with Sales and the broader organization, the plan never works.
Alignment is the most critical part of the marketing process, because success is dependent on many different areas of the business, from both inside and outside of the company. Some companies refer to these discussions as “handshake” meetings, and those who use them to align objectives benefit greatly from organizational synergies, and employee engagement.
Lesson #2: Develop “outside-in” marketing plans. Guided by marketing strategy and brand positioning, great marketing companies’ plans align to business objectives. They have a Plan Owner with clear performance objectives grounded in market realities that are tracked and reported. The Plan Owner aligns with internal stakeholders by bringing sales, operations and finance teams into the planning process. They work to get buy-in to the plan’s assumptions, deliverables, and team expectations by sharing information about market trends, competitive activities, incentives, customer insights and other advantages.
I believe internal marketing comes down to four simple steps:
1. Setting organizational alignment meetings with key stake-holders as part of your annual marketing process. Set dates with participants well in advance, and come to meetings prepared with appropriate market or customer data.
2. Limiting the scope to only the elements of the plan that will have the biggest impact on results. Examples include the top five new product introductions, top new accounts, customer participation in company events, participation in training programs, etc.
3. Basing sales commitments on customer/market data assumptions and limiting them to the top ones with the highest impact to your plan. Base Sales Commitment examples could include:
Selling new products. Converting a percent of an existing product line to a new product based on a clear value proposition. This rolls down to a percent of each seller’s account base that will generate a specific dollar target.
Increasing wallet share. Commit to increasing your share of existing customers by a percent based on improved sales mix, replacing competitive offerings and new products that will equate to a specific dollar amount that can be tracked at the account level.
Event participation. Agree on how many customers and prospects will attend events based on an agreed program and the participation objectives that drill down to the account level.
4. Set quarterly follow-up meetings to review progress to plan, and as needed, set corrective actions. Align your 2017 marketing plans with your internal stakeholders, with a “three month out” view. Instead of trying to align for the year, start with a campaign, product launch or event that will have a significant impact to your 2017 plans.
Marketing should be a cohesive unit that shares objectives with other areas of your business.
Ted Simpson is the V.P. of marketing at the Affiliated Distributors (AD) buying/marketing group, King of Prussia, PA. Prior to joining AD, Ted had a 16-year career at Philips Lighting. You can follow Ted on twitter @TedBSimpson.