The business case to merge sales & marketing ops
Columnist Scott Vaughan makes the case for why an 'ops' merger is a beautiful marriage that will delight both your customers and your executive team.
Generating, acquiring, serving and delighting customers has become the ultimate team effort for B2B organizations. This effort doesn’t start or stop with generating a lead or inquiry, nor after acquiring a customer. Renewal, cross-sell and ongoing satisfaction are just as critical to a business’s top and bottom line.
The data, intelligence, processes and technologies required must be synchronized to move at the speed of our customers and the markets we serve. This integrated effort must be always-on. In most organizations, the enabling function is driven by two distinct groups: marketing ops and sales ops. This siloed approach — despite valiant efforts to align these ops’ functions — is holding companies back from maximizing customer and revenue impact.
To more efficiently and effectively serve customers and grow revenue, it’s time to bring together sales and marketing ops into a single function that traverses the entire customer journey and life cycle.
We’re doing this now at Integrate and, after sitting down with hundreds of B2B teams, this discussion is gaining steam. Below are compelling drivers regarding why an “ops” merger is a beautiful marriage that delights both your customers and your executive team.
Map and optimize the ENTIRE customer journey
We see it every day. Customers are armed with more information and want to engage and do business on their terms. To make this experience more personal for the customer and scalable for our organizations, we need to map our customers’ entire journey.
A significant inhibiting factor in creating a complete journey map is that the handoffs between marketing and sales are often clumsy and ill-defined, which inevitably creates finger-pointing. All of this happens today despite weeks and months of effort to establish ground rules and SLAs (service-level agreements). The reality is that vital customer data lives in different places; systems and workflows aren’t connected, and it’s causing confusion regarding who has what role at what part of the customer life cycle.
A strong, integrated ops team can connect the customer data dots and assure technology is applied thoughtfully to automate processes and make the entire life cycle seamless. This includes tracking metrics, providing insights and creating a dashboard to have a…
Single view of the truth
You walk into a meeting, and sales and marketing data doesn’t match. This happens daily. Then, teams spend hours trying to reconcile what’s going on and what insights are actionable, if any.
This is because sales and marketing teams often use different metrics; they have different views of the world. By bringing these two views together into one shared perspective, this unified team can define the performance data that matter, such as churn, lifetime value and cost per acquisition. And, most importantly, get the insights to turn data into actionable insights. This way, sales and marketing can unify focus on needed areas of improvement for the biggest business impact.
It’s important to emphasize, marketing and sales teams also need specific intelligence to do their job well. For example, to invest wisely, marketers rely on program- and channel-specific signals to let them know if they’re making progress. Data like website traffic, downloads and conversions aren’t the end game but serve as signals to inform marketing areas of emphasis. In the same spirit, focusing on individual salesperson performance, optimal territory sizes and knowing “days to close” all help inform the right staffing and sales organization.
KPIs can then be defined and delivered into a single dashboard, providing common priorities and focus with a unified ops team.
Prioritize revenue and lifetime value
If your organization is like most B2B companies, you’re constantly trying to prioritize many competing tasks. Many of these are nice to have and could be beneficial, but the real win is increasing revenue and the lifetime value of our customers (which often leads to increased profitability, too). Just ask your CEO, CFO or executive suite.
With a single ops team, you can focus the collective resources, processes and tech investments around customer revenue and lifetime value. Competing priorities can be vetted as a single list to review and select on a regular basis.
Marketing & sales technology must be integrated
How many marketing and sales automation technologies have been presented to you in the last three months? My guess is dozens. Adding those to the ones you already use can be draining. Not that technology isn’t important. Quite the contrary — it can be hugely beneficial in driving revenue faster and cheaper and in delivering increased ROI.
However, with lots of shiny tools being used and evaluated, a single ops team can look at the entire infrastructure and map specific solutions to the most important (and expected) goals across the sales, marketing and other customer-facing teams. Many B2B teams are now using technology blueprints to take inventory of which tool does what, identifying overlapping solutions, as well as gaps, to develop a plan. This ensures newly adopted tech and the resulting data will be properly connected and deliver value. The ultimate byproduct is that there are also fewer “tech” loose ends to manage.
Dump the ‘alignment’ and use ops to integrate sales and marketing functions
To be clear, I’m not advocating the “alignment” of sales and marketing. Rather, the ops function should be merged together and work as a single team. They should also work for a common leader who is accountable to a C-suite executive, who in turn is accountable for customer revenue and satisfaction. To make this work, roles and responsibilities still need to be set thoughtfully to deliver against the full customer life cycle and assure fire-fighting is balanced against long-term, strategic planning.
If you want to get sales and marketing to operate as a unified, high-performing machine, skip this “alignment” fallacy and start with ops as the ultimate integrator. This will result in greater focus on what truly matters: customer revenue and lifetime value.