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How Marketing Fails the Sales Team

Although the technologies and tools available to the B2B Marketer have improved significantly over the past decade, the fundamental responsibilities of the role have not. Where a direct sales channel is in place, marketers are responsible for three functions: Creating the strategic position of the business, enabling the sales organization, and generating demand.

These three functions are intertwined, and depending on the industry and company structure, may require varying degrees of focus – but they are all critical to building a sustainable revenue model. I had a mentor once who constantly said “Nothing happens until somebody sells something”, and without question it is the role of B2B marketing organization to continually put the sales organization in position to identify opportunities, compete, and win new business. If marketing doesn’t focus on all three functions, then the growth engine of the company – the sales team – will be at a significant disadvantage.

Tactical Failures

According to the CMO Council, 70% of sales managers say the top thing they want from marketing is timely delivery of content with instant access. Enabling the sales team is the “bread and butter” of the B2B marketer. This requires marketing to deliver a steady stream of great content designed to help sales people discover unmet needs, articulate value propositions, describe solutions, answer objections and define features and benefits is the essence of this function. Not surprisingly, when good content and tools (in the form of sell sheets, case studies, white papers, etc.) are in place, then winning becomes a formula, supported by marketing. Marketing fails, however, when content and sales tools are inwardly focused. Content that talks only about features or capabilities doesn’t help the sales person to effectively differentiate the company and doesn’t interest the buyer, because it doesn’t focus on their operating reality.

In 2007 it took an average of 3.7 attempts to reach a prospect…today it takes an average of 8. The reality of today’s selling environment is that it’s almost impossible to get a prospect on the phone or to reply to an email, and so marketing must develop and implement the means to improve this process. In fact, marketers today should “own” the top of the funnel to identify potential customers, nurture them, and ultimately deliver better qualified leads to the sales team. There are literally thousands of technologies on the market today designed to automate or improve the demand generation process. Marketing typically fails in this function when they focus on the technology, rather than content and process. Bad content is just noise and an invasive e-mail approach can destroy a company’s credibility.

In a recent survey by Annuitas, only 11% of companies said that their demand generation programs were very effective. Understanding the target prospect’s operating reality helps marketers create meaningful content that can help facilitate the buying process. I have seen companies literally spend millions of dollars on marketing technology and fail to deliver any high quality leads, because they missed this fundamental concept.

The Root Cause – Strategic Failure

Which brings us to the root cause of why marketing fails the sales organization. The fundamental reason for failure today is not caused by a lack of technology or a misunderstanding of the importance of sales enablement. The major issue at hand is that B2B Marketers do not have the strategic context needed to deploy good marketing programs. According to, 91% of B2B marketers say they use “content marketing”, but just 36% say they are effective. Why?

Strategic context is the foundation from which all demand generation, new product launch and sales support programs stem, and marketers fail when they focus on tactics or processes but ignore the importance of content relevance. In order to overcome strategic failure, marketers must develop and maintain expertise in three areas:

  1. Market Knowledge – including specific segment understanding, market conditions, influencers, and critical buyer personas;

  2. Product Expertise – including not just value proposition and key features, but the buying process, and the overall customer experience; and

  3. Buyer Operating Reality – which defines a deep understanding of the role of the buyer and their strategic drivers, operational factors, financial framework, and political influences.

Moving Forward from Failure

Exceptional marketers have deep appreciation for the importance of integrating both sales channel and demand generation processes, along with expertise and keen insight into the markets they serve. We have found that when marketing teams have this strong foundation, then their demand generation and sales enablement processes are significantly more effective.

Marketing team competencies often can be built through training and focus. In some cases, adding new talent or redefining the marketing organization is required. But to change the momentum of the marketing function, companies must first assess the organizational expectations and the strategic competencies of their teams. By clearly defining the role of marketing in the organization, and measuring the marketers’ level of understanding of the strategic context of the business, companies can begin to take steps to improving their overall marketing effectiveness.

To learn how to conduct a simple marketing self-assessment create marketing strategies, build great content and execute measurable marketing programs, contact Butler Street today.

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