If you had a surefire way to increase qualified leads and help sales close more business, why wouldn’t you do it?  What if it was an easy, proven way that doesn’t always require you to acquire and learn new software, blog/tweet/or otherwise use social media or even be numbed by analytics.  I bet I could sell you this painless marketing remedy for a good chunk of change.  But I won’t.  I’ll tell you right here for no more than your continued attention.

In recently working with Aberdeen Group on a landmark survey and analysis of 455 marketer’s issues and priorities, we found a significant difference between Best in Class organizations (those who grew revenues more than 20% in the past year) and all other barely surviving organizations.  No it was neither their industry nor their product/service advantage.  It was the fact that marketing and sales are aligned together and actually listen to customers and prospects.

Bet you thought the answer was going to be revolutionary and challenging.  Well, the good news is that marketing can be quantitatively more effective in delivering valued leads that close into actual sales simply by interacting more.

As marketers, we want to be free from sales uncreative constraints and statistically driven management.  Those seat-of-the-pants, unorganized and seemingly rogue sales guys scare many of my fellow marketers.  Some marketers I talk to are equally afraid of customers.  But now the data proves that the best marketers are keeping these ‘enemies’ close by frequently being personally involved in sales calls, talking directly to customers even informally, plus they work formally and frequently with the sales organization to precisely define lead quality and share marketing plans.

Perhaps you feel you are already doing these things but many anonymously admit they are not.  For example, 49% of marketers admit they don’t have ready access to their program results and 52% confess they aren’t deliver results to key stakeholders like sales.

To me, the most depressing data point out of the Aberdeen study is the fact that even the best in class organizations can only account for 47% of sales forecasted pipeline being originally generated by marketing – in fact, only one in four deals can be traced back to marketing efforts.  This begs the question where are all other closed deals coming from?  If I ran a sales group, I would want to do more of whatever is driving the remaining 53% of my successful deals and then do more of that and less marketing!  I’d be the first to legitimately ask “What has marketing done for me lately?”  But as a well scarred marketer, I try to be more like the best in class marketers are doing, and not waiting for that question and instead, I recommend asking sales “What can marketing do for you and our prospects?”

Chris Houpis, Aberdeen’s Senior Analyst for Marketing Strategy & Effectiveness notes, “With organic business growth being paramount, no metric connotes greater alignment between sales and marketing than marketing’s contribution to the sales forecasted pipeline.  This captures not only the leads that have been produced but also what has been converted and accepted by sales as a valid opportunity forecasted in their pipeline.  And no other measure provides a more meaningful metric to address the pressure to demonstrate a Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI).”

According to the data, struggling organizations continue to look at quantity marketing metrics such as click throughs, ad impressions, brand awareness and walletshare.  Best in class marketers on the other hand are much more focused on working with sales to define lead qualification (scoring), lead management processes (real-time notification and preset workflow), prospect requirements (voice of the customer) and an ongoing formal method to both involve marketers in sales cycles and sales people in marketing planning.  With these priorities often twice more likely to be accomplished at best in class organizations, it is clear this is the recipe for successful marketing that contributes to bottom line results and top level management justification.

Dharmesh Shah, founder and CTO of HubSpot, a provider of marketing software for small businesses notes, “Savvy, high-growth companies are connecting their sales and marketing teams like never before.  At HubSpot, we call this “smarketing”.  Our smarketing team meets every week and sees the challenge of getting more leads and customers as a joint effort.  This collaborative thinking between the sales and marketing groups has been immensely useful.

In light of the data for companies in all industries and of all sizes, Aberdeen’s Houpis offers some practical tips to improve your marketing to directly help with sales success:

  • Develop a common definition of an “A” lead as well as the company’s business goals
  • Establish a formal planning process between sales and marketing and define roles and responsibilities for lead management activities.  Use win/loss debriefing as a means to continuously hone and adapt to market requirements.
  • Involve marketing in prospecting activities and communication and ensure that the real voice of the customer is being heard in both sales and marketing organizations and can be tied back to plans and results.

Marco Emrich, Chief Strategy Officer for jaccomo (www.jaccomo.com) noted, “If your sales and marketing organizations are not intimately working in lock step, it’s like having a basketball team of all forwards and no guards.  At best you can play defensively while your competition exploits your weaknesses to eventually win the game.”

Despite our social media obsession, the sales game is still played among human team members working to win over human prospects.  As such, the only way the wall is going to come down between sales and marketing is with human interaction and support.  Therefore, don’t stop measuring marketing. Just be more conscious of what is really adding to sales success.

Click here to access Aberdeen’s Sales and Marketing Alignment report