LinkedInPulseGraphic_ThreeThoughtsPost_v0.1Whether it’s about IT and marketing (namely the CIO and the CMO) or growing dissent between sales and marketing, everywhere you turn seems to be another piece of content trying to shed a light on changing dynamics and the need for alignment.

I’m not disparaging such conversations, they’re obviously important. Yet, such interdepartmental emphasis distracts from intra-marketing alignment issues, a problem of that grows day by day.

As my colleague David Crane wrote in a recent blog post,

For decades, we’ve understood the importance of marketing-sales alignment. In the last few years, however, marketing’s importance has grown substantially, resulting in increased responsibility, bigger budgets, and a division of labor into intra-marketing teams that have in some cases become just as distinct as sales is from accounting.

Sub-disciplines within marketing are well-understood, but we rarely, if ever, discuss how such specialization can decrease performance when varying roles become misaligned. In my customer success role at Integrate, I often see how such misalignment in large marketing organizations can limit efficiency and performance.

Due to the nature of Integrate’s software solution, I most often work with marketing ops and demand gen pros, so the issues I’m discussing focus on that particular relationship. Yet, I’m sure there’s much relevance to other internal marketing relationships as well.

As last week’s interview with Scott Fingerhut highlighted, the primary causes of misalignment between marketing ops and demand gen stem from:

Different goals

Marketing operations is responsible for running marketing like a business, ensuring efficiency, a seamless flow of data and alignment with other departments. Demand gen is primarily concerned with filling the pipeline with quality prospects. The two objectives are certainly related, but you can easily see how ops’ larger-picture priorities can conflict with demand gen’s more specific concerns.

A step toward solution:

Ultimately marketing’s job is to help the business acquire valuable customers – both ops and demand gen can agree on this and find ways to increase symbiosis. But this takes communication…regular communication.

We’ve met with some large enterprises where we actually had to introduce members of one team to those on the other. Needleless to say, these weren’t the most efficient or productive marketing orgs.

On the other hand, we’ve worked with some incredibly innovative, vastly successful marketing organizations; the common denominator: strong relationships between every team throughout the department. They make it a point to hold weekly meetings where they discuss large initiatives, the ways they affect individual teams, and brainstorm together about potential issues and who may be able to help.

Most importantly, these meetings help build relationships. As Scott Fingerhut said in his interview,

I found it very helpful to have weekly meetings where, if nothing else, you connect to the team. Building a good rapport is critical – you avoid so much stuff when people care about each other, and most people have that ability.

Different Language

I’ve been in some customer meetings and heard demand gen say, “Well, we mean a lead as in what our group considers a lead.” We’ve seen this as well with prospect nurturing stages such as marketing qualified lead (MQL), sales accepted lead (SAL), etc. It’s one thing for different companies to have varying terminology, but a single marketing department should strive for standardization, especially with regard to terminology.

A step toward solution:

In your regular meetings, create and keep a running glossary of terms. You’ll likely find that two teams use the same word for different things; in this case, agree on new terms and write them down. It doesn’t take much time, but it will save much confusion (and possibly money) in the future.

Lack of cross-team knowledge

Here is the biggest issue in my opinion. Marketing ops sees the leads in their marketing automation and CRM systems and at that point they know what happens. They understand the nurture tracks, the sales follow-up process, etc. Ask a marketing ops pro how the lead got into the systems and they may know the source, but it’s likely they won’t know the process that led to the data entry.

On the other side of the coin, a demand gen pro knows all about the media partners, the IOs, the content marketing, the lead-file spreadsheets, etc., but often doesn’t understand the nurture tracks through which a prospect travels once in the marketing automation system. Some demand gen pros don’t even know the basics of their marketing automation tool.

A step toward solution:

While it’s not required that each side be an expert on the other’s systems and processes, they do need to know the essentials if they’re ever going to understand how they can best assist their efforts. This again comes from communication between teams during meetings; demand gen, you should fill ops in on the media partner processes and user experience of the lead while interacting with the company’s content.

Ops, you can really help cut down on the bad data clean-up if you give demand gen some hands-on time with your systems, allowing them to learn the fundamentals and more clearly understand what happens to a lead after importation.

The above are simple, very general steps you can take. Once you put these ideas into action, you’ll likely find specific alignment procedures that work best for your organization. The main idea: alignment results from understanding, and understanding results from frequent communication.