Event Recap: Sales and Marketing Alignment, Marketing Automation and More

Event Recap: Sales and Marketing Alignment, Marketing Automation and More

We held our first event of 2015 at the end of January and what a great event it was. The “Hear From Your Peers” format featured Mike Morper, VP of Marketing for Notable Solutions (NSI), now Nuance, and Mike Lees, CMO for WealthEngine. The conversation ran the gamut from talking about the alignment of sales and marketing, to marketing automation, to how to best work with analysts.

Before I jump into what our speakers had to say, let me first provide a bit of background on each of them.

Morper recently experienced the trials and tribulations of exiting NSI to a much larger entity. Where he led marketing and product strategy at NSI, he now runs the product marketing for Nuance’s document imaging division. Morper’s entire career has been in technology, with more than 20 years of experience in product management, product marketing, channel sales, and brand strategy. He has held senior positions in companies such as Sage Software, General Electric, and Kofax.

Lees started his career as a CPA and then moved into technology investments before settling in as an entrepreneur and “get-to-market” strategist. Lees’s professional journey has armed him with a unique set of skills and singular perspective. Lees is accustomed to taking nascent products and creating clear, concise messages around them to show how they answer unmet needs.

The conversation quickly turned to discussing the typical marketer’s conundrum: how do you better align sales and marketing? This is a topic I’ve often heard my clients discussing and it seemed to be a hot button issue for this group as well.

Some key points from our speakers included:

  • The importance of understanding the buyer’s journey as a fundamental piece of getting sales and marketing in alignment. Lees pointed out that there are various roles in the buyer’s journey that both sales and marketing can fulfill in their own ways. It is not a linear process.
  • Sales and marketing professionals need to discuss, jointly, how to move someone along the buyer’s journey. From those conversations, they can gain an understanding of the tipping point at which leads can be converted.
  • Time spent evaluating the buyer’s journey can provide a lot of insight into what sales and marketing could – and should — be doing. These evaluations can also show where leads are originating, leading to both sales and marketing working together to determine how to best nurture leads.

Both speakers, and several in attendance, agreed that a lot of companies treat marketing as the front end of the cycle and sales as the back end. Unfortunately, then have nothing that deals with the interface between the two. This creates a lot of friction.

One way that Lees has found to tackle this issue is to have both the sales and marketing teams meet and plan together. Establishing KPIs at the start of the year that are shared and managed across both the sales and marketing teams keeps everyone accountable and provides a clear sense of goals.

Morper also discussed the need for shared KPIs but felt strongly that complete trust between sales and marketing leaders is key to moving the organization forward. Understanding and supporting each other goes a long way in establishing a working relationship that provides necessary support and feedback to each team. Morper pointed to the example of building a two story home – marketing may be the first floor, and sales the second, but it’s necessary to make sure the thing looks like it has the same structure. Independently each team may come up with their own plan but there should be constant interaction and inspection of what does, and does not, work.

The last point that both Lees and Morper discussed was the importance of closed loop reporting. While both gentlemen understand that not every lead will be “good enough” for sales, it’s imperative that the sales team share why a particular lead wasn’t good enough, why it didn’t convert, and what marketing could do better to make sure they are receiving quality leads in the future. Ideally this is something that would happen as leads are delivered.

In time the conversation naturally flowed to marketing automation and how Lees and Morper are leveraging the technologies available. Morper pointed out that at NSI he had a very small team and a large channel, leaving him with a huge reach issue, which he solved through automation. He noted, however, that while they use Marketo now, the budget was not there on day one for such a tool and that his team “home rolled” much of the automation, which he ultimately felt was more effective. Additionally, he stressed the importance of making sure that teams invest in someone who understands marketing automation and letting that person really do what they do best.

Another topic that came up was the role of thought leadership – and in particular how it relates to analyst relations. As NSI built to an exit, thought leadership became a very important part of Morper’s marketing plan and the role and involvement of analysts in that process couldn’t be understated. Perhaps the two most important bits of information about working with the analysts from Morper and Lees were:

  • Get to know them and be in touch with them on a regular basis. For Morper this meant reaching out to most of them quarterly and some monthly. Those touches could be a simple product or customer update or something more. Morper stressed the need to know what analysts are interested in, and cater to that interest. The relationship between company and analyst is a symbiotic one, and if you know what they are working on and what makes them tick you can align the conversation to their needs.
  • Don’t try to create a new category for yourself. Pick an already existing category that’s most appropriate for your company, tell them why you’re in that category, and what makes you different from all of the other companies that are included. Lees says this is a lesson he learned the hard way and that trying to create a new category for his company only ended up confusing the market.

So much more was discussed at the January Hear From Your Peers event, but these three main topics – sales and marketing alignment, marketing automation, and analyst relations – seemed to be the points that really drove the conversation between our speakers and the attendees

Stay tuned for information on the next TMA event! I hope to see you there!