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87% of sales and marketing leaders believe their alignment is the biggest opportunity for improving business performance today geralt / Pixabay

While sales and marketing leaders overwhelmingly agree that being aligned is critical for business success, there are challenges in the tactical execution, according to data from LinkedIn.

In the survey of 395 sales and marketing leaders – all from technology, financial services and professional services firms across the UK, Germany, France and Ireland – 90% say they are misaligned across strategy, process, content and culture.

A huge majority (97%) of those leaders face challenges with alignment on content and messaging. Problems cited include marketing teams creating content without any input from sales, content being too product-led, and failing to focus on the problem the customer is trying to solve.

To many, this will be nothing new. Sales and marketing have long been the odd couple – their communications breakdown has been an industry hot topic for decades. But the emergence of fresh data is a good opportunity to revisit the topic, and its publication is well-timed.

Part of the problem is that, in the years pre-coronavirus, B2B marketing has been skewing towards the bottom of the sales funnel, chasing leads that can be easily marketing qualified (MQLs) and sales accepted (SALs).

It has been about finding the ‘ready-to-buys’ – a trend that has been driven by management’s focus on ROI, where return equals sales. Less focus has been on the not-right-nows (mid-funnel) or don’t-think-I-have-a-problems (top of funnel).

For years, this approach hasn’t been especially problematic because leads have been plentiful. However, that’s not where we now find ourselves. The economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic has effectively removed the bottom of the funnel because few businesses are buying anything that’s not mission-critical right now.

With the pipeline dry, and sales and marketing blinking at each other through Zoom wondering what on earth to do, now seems a good time to start speaking the same language. Content is a good place to begin.

The most powerful content strategies in this climate will perform two really important functions. The first, to focus on meeting customer pain-points at every step of the buyer journey, right from the earliest point (helping a potential customer realise they have a problem). This can be partially informed by sales’ frontline intelligence, coupled with rigorous market research.

The second function is to make brand a priority. In a market like today’s when customers are being bombarded by offers from desperate vendors, brand stands as a critical source of trust and mental availability.

Companies that invest in creating a distinctive customer-focused brand will outperform short-termist competitors both during a recession and as we come out the other side.

Of course, a new joined-up strategy will involve some internal disruption in the short term as sales and marketing get on the same page. As LinkedIn’s report states, “An aligned strategy starts with shared goals, evolves into jointly agreed programmes and campaigns targeted at the same audiences or accounts, and finishes with common or connected measures and metrics. If you don’t measure the same things then even the best strategies will fall apart very quickly.”

But, for those teams that can coordinate and collaborate, the rewards may be bountiful: 87% of sales and marketing leaders believe their alignment is the biggest opportunity for improving business performance today.