The 6 Hallmarks of a High-Functioning "SMarketing" Relationship

Sierra Calabresi
Sierra Calabresi



two-peas-podThis post originally appeared on the Insiders section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Insiders.

I have a new favorite power couple.

No, I’m not referring to “Brangelina” or “Kimye,” I’m talking about “Smarketing.”

If this is the first time you’re hearing of Smarketing, let me break it down to just four words: marketing and sales alignment.

It’s no secret that Marketing and Sales have never had a history of playing nice together. But picture a world in which they actually do. A world in which Marketing and Sales work so closely together that they never miss a beat. Think about how powerful it would be to have those two teams fighting to reach the same goal.

In today’s post, we’re cutting down the barrier between Marketing and Sales, and showing you the six steps you can take to build a strong Smarketing relationship.

Getting to Know One Another

Meet your sales team: They know the competition, can recite proposals like their favorite song, and know how to be clear and compelling with their messaging.

Meet your marketing team: They are content masters, they are ‘best friends’ with your company buyer personas, and they meet and exceed deadlines that impact company goals.

More often than not, we’re guessing the conversation between these two sounds a lot like this:

Marketing team: “You aren’t working my leads hard enough!”

Sales team: “You aren’t generating enough quality leads!”

Here’s one simple resolution: Instead of complaining, bickering, and pointing fingers, think of what your whole company could accomplish and achieve if that barrier was gone. Not only will your prospects and clients see an increase in your overall customer service but, you’ll also drive real business results.

It takes time and a number of different techniques to build a strong Sales and Marketing partnership. But, we can promise that the end result will be well worth the time and effort.

1) Communication is key.

An essential first step to any collaborative relationship is communication. It’s how we build trust, sustain the relationship, and how we improve. This is by far the most important aspect of a high-functioning Smarketing relationship, but certainly applies across every aspect of your business.

Your company mission, vision, goals, objectives, and values should align with both teams. This keeps customers and prospects at ease because they don’t receive mixed messages, and they get a better understanding of your business and the solutions you offer.

Here are a few tips that our team has found to be really helpful in keeping communication flowing effectively:

  • Set a monthly meeting that invites both teams to sit together and talk strategy.* Talk about what’s been working and what hasn’t. This gives both teams a stage to voice their opinion and feel like they’re being heard. It also helps both teams understand how they can improve and effectively reach their goals, both as a team and as separate departments.
  • Mix up your seating. If your marketing and sales teams aren’t already sitting together, then play a little game of musical chairs. The best way to improve Smarketing in your office is to break the desk barrier; the more opportunities they have to communicate with each other the stronger their relationship will become.

*We recommend that the teams meet individually on a weekly basis so that they have a hand on the pulse at all times.

2) Collaborate on your buyer personas.

A successful Smarketing team not only understands their buyer personas, but they work together to develop them. Every successful inbound marketing company has a solid understanding of their audience and who they’re targeting; and both Sales and Marketing bring something unique to the table.

With that in mind, if both Marketing and Sales collaborate on building out personas, you’ll have a much broader view point of the target audience pain points, aspirations, and compelling messages that will attract them to your business.

Need help developing your personas? Download this free template to help you get started!

3) Determine what's generating leads and customers.

Inbound marketers spend a tremendous amount of time developing content tailored to our buyer personas, and optimized for search to attract new visitors and convert them into leads. It takes some effort, but it's one of your most powerful assets.

But, we also know that not every topic will totally resonate, or get as much traction as expected to generate those quality leads. Does that mean you stop? No. It means you see what is resonating and change course as needed.

While we can pull data out of our marketing platforms, there’s nothing quite like getting direct feedback right from the source -- your sales team. While they can see what marketing offer this lead was generated from, their conversation isn’t going to revolve around content. They’re going to be asking questions about their business challenges, their goals, and determining if your company would be a good fit.

So how does this relate? Well, when Marketing hands off leads to the sales team, they’re assuming that the lead is qualified because they went through the nurturing process. But if Sales finds that the lead is actually not qualified, it’s important that information can be communicated back so marketing can adjust the process, the content, etc. Without the two-way communication, Marketing is just going to be making numbers-based decisions -- which is a good indicator, but you can’t rely solely on numbers.

4) Integrate your software.

While you can’t rely solely on numbers, they do offer quantitative points for calculating your efforts. After all, numbers don’t lie. So when all else fails, data can be the glue to hold your sales and marketing team together.

The best way to generate and analyze marketing and sales data is to integrate the software that each team uses so there is a seamless handoff of leads and shared data. The more visibility each team has into the other’s activities, the more that you will not only strengthen the Smarketing relationship, but also help keep overall efforts aligned.

At New Breed, we are huge proponents of leveraging HubSpot and Salesforce for an accurate, closed-loop integration. From a marketing standpoint, this integration helps us measure our marketing results and manage our leads throughout the buying process, which ultimately gives us the ability to hand over highly qualified leads to our sales team.

From a sales perspective, this integration gives a better idea of how leads are being generated, what channels are the most effective, and yields higher conversion results because Sales is working leads that are more ready to buy.

5) Set SMART goals.

How many times have we heard someone in our organization say, “I want to increase web traffic,” or “I want more blog subscribers.” Sure, those are things that can drive business results, but there is a major difference between setting goals like these and setting SMART goals.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. They help you keep your team on track and give you something to measure once that deadline approaches. Some examples of SMART goals are:

  • Increase your visitor-to-lead conversion rate by 5% each month.
  • Generate 1,000 net new leads by the end of Q2.
  • Close $50K in monthly recurring revenue by June 30, 2014.

When you’re using goals that are clearly defined, with real and attainable numbers, within a set period of time, there is no ambiguity for either team. Everyone's clear on what the goals are, and then they are able to pull together and determine the best course of action to get there.

Having SMART goals also makes the post-analysis part easier. Say you don’t hit your goal; since it was crystal clear from the beginning, you are able to dig into the data and see what went wrong without having to play the guessing game. Additionally, you're able to report more accurately (both the good and the not-so-good) which continues to keep Marketing and Sales aligned.

6) Develop a Service Level Agreement (SLA).

A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a contract between your marketing and sales team which clearly states what each team is responsible for, and the numbers they need to hit to meet the overall goals. Both teams contribute individual goals, and together, you’re able to track how your Smarketing team is performing. It alleviates tension, breaks that barrier, and promotes the collaboration necessary for this relationship to function harmoniously.

These are the types of things that you’ll be looking for from each team:

Marketing Team

  • Total sales goal in terms of revenue quota
  • % revenue that comes from marketing- vs. sales-generated leads
  • Average sales deal size
  • Average lead-to-customer close %

Sales Teams

  • The speed of follow-up for marketing-generated leads
  • The depth of follow-up for marketing-generated leads

But once you have your SLA set up, the work isn’t over. It’s something you need to continually monitor, adjust, and report back on. We suggest setting up dashboards where you can monitor your numbers on a daily, monthly, and quarterly basis.

Daily monitoring may seem like overkill, but we’ve found that it’s always good to have a pulse on where things are and how each team is performing so we can pivot quickly when necessary. It has helped us be more agile in both our Marketing and Sales efforts. If you’re not tracking daily, then you won’t see when things start to dip; maybe you’re not generating enough leads to hit your goal so you need to do an extra push, or maybe you’re not closing as many customers so Sales needs to push a little harder.

An SLA will truly align your marketing and sales teams, and help them see the value that each department brings to the table. They can see how each team is contributing, and as such people will be more willing to work together to achieve shared goals.

Need help putting together your SLA? Download this free template to help you get started!

With those six hallmarks in mind, think of how powerful your business could become if you embraced and integrated a unified marketing and sales team! A successful company collaborates and works together as an entire team. Sure, you may have separate roles and departments, but ultimately you have one goal: to drive real business results. When the expertise of both teams align, the potential is endless.

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