By Chris Karel
Jeff Leo Herrmann recently made the move from Boardroom to Newsroom. He is the Executive Producer and Founder of Madison, Michigan & Market and also the Chief Revenue Officer at The Business Journal in Youngstown. Jeff believes that successful organizations today focus on educating their customers to dominate their markets. His passion lies in leveraging the power of content, technology and data to help companies and individuals realize extraordinary growth. It was an honor to sit down and talk with Jeff about aligning marketing to sales in 2019.
Chris: So happy to talk with you again Jeff. I’m stoked to learn what you’ve been up to over the past year and learn about your suggestions for alignment in 2019.
Jeff: Thanks Chris, it’s my pleasure to take part in your interview series again. Thank you for the invite.
Chris: Excellent, let’s get to it then shall we. What do you recommend that teams do to get started in January?
Jeff: First, set a governing strategy and theme — and also establish metrics-driven goals. The governing strategy and theme is a set of constraints to maintain hyperfocus. Every action, activity and program should be evaluated against the strategy and theme.
Chris: Even the best strategy can get derailed. I’ve seen that too often.
Jeff: No doubt Chris. If the recommendation does not align to the theme, then don’t do it! Focus is critical and distractions are plenty.
Chris: What’s next in aligning marketing and sales?
Jeff: The second thing I’d recommend is to establish a process. Set a rhythm and nail down your reporting. The sales and marketing organization should operate on a highly predictable model. We all know that things blow up…customers get mad….shiit happens…..but that’s no excuse for not having an operating process and rhythm. We should not let exceptions drive our plan.
Chris: Makes sense to me, set a strategy first and then establish a process. What needs to be aligned after those first two things?
Jeff: The entire organization needs to be aligned top to bottom, like a stack. The business strategy, goals and KPIs must be aligned to and supported by the marketing strategy. The marketing strategy should then align with and be supported by the marketing programs. The channels and activities should then align and support the marketing programs.
Chris: So maybe another way to think about it would be a stack with a series of conveyor belts carrying ideas and data to the other levels of the stack.
Jeff: Yes, I could go along with that industrial metaphor. The key is that the bottom of the stack needs to stay aligned and feeding the top of the stack or it all runs the risk of crumbling.
Chris: Would it be fair to say that one of the keys to aligning marketing is consistency? Seems obvious, but we all know sometimes obvious actions don’t always take place in the business world.
Jeff: Yes, consistency is key. Also, the messaging strategy and value propositions must be compelling and perfectly consistent. The theme (mentioned above) is typically an extension of the value proposition and messaging strategy. You want everyone, and I mean everyone, working from the same messaging playbook.
Chris: Repetition and consistency matter.
Jeff: Exactly, if you have a tagline, anecdotes, or a story that explains who you are and what you do and how you help customers, then drill it into everyone’s head. Develop 3 key message points and encourage everyone to memorize them. Test your team as you pass them in the hallway. Make them commit the 3 key messages to memory.
Chris: So far, you’ve shared that we should set a strategy, establish a process, and create a consistent message. Can we talk about the gaps of the sales process for a moment? Sales can be improvisational at times, “shoot-from-the-hip” I believe is the term. What role does marketing play in filling the gaps in the sales process?
Jeff: Many organizations are data-rich but insights poor, and that puts sales teams at an extreme disadvantage. Does the sales team have to do all of the heavy lifting to get the word out? Is there an “always on” approach to digital content (e.g. blogs and video) to help the sales team build relationships and revenue at scale?
As we all know, the competition is fierce and getting the attention of prospects and customers is not easy. Many websites are still glorified and ego-centric electronic brochures — chock full of product features and benefits. Who cares? Not the prospect. Customers these days want information and not a sales presentation. If they can’t find what they want via google, they get frustrated and move on.
Chris: So, what should a company do about their website to avoid the “electronic brochure”?
Jeff: The company website is the ultimate sales tool and LinkedIn is their relationship platform. The marketing team can make the lead to revenue process so much more fluid and fast by making sure the company’s content is focused on the needs/wants/desires/problems of the ideal client. By staging the content to lead the ideal client down a path, marketing can help fill a gap in the sales process.
Chris: Now we are getting there Jeff! I feel a Pulizzi reference coming.
Jeff: You got it Chris. We both drink the Content Inc. Cool-aid! If marketing thinks more like a media company, and less like an advertising and acquisition team, they’ll generate the attention and demand of highly qualified prospects.
Chris: Succinctly stated. As we wrap this up, can you offer a little taste of the 14 ingredients to successful alignment between sales and marketing? (Learn more about Jeff’s Special Interest Group workshop on January 8th)
Jeff: Sour, sweet or salty, it’s the combination of seasonings (skill sets) that drive success. Having a diversity of perspectives that function under the governing strategy makes for a more dynamic and evolving sales organization. As Seth Godin says, “It happens on the edges.”
Chris: I like it, but now I’m getting hungry.
Jeff: (chuckles) The signals you send to the market – or internally – end up attracting the clients and talent that will support your business. It’s the stack of signals and process that ultimately drive alignment. What matters most is internal consistency and continuity across the stack. If it’s not all aligned, then chaos reigns and you’re driven by the whims of the marketplace.
Chris: Thank you for your time and expertise Jeff.
Jeff: Thank you for the opportunity.
Please join Jeff and I at the Digital Marketing Special Interest Group on Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 at 7:30 a.m. in Independence, Ohio. Click this link to reserve a free ticket if you are an AMA member or purchase a $10 ticket for non-members. See you there.
Get your tickets today: 14 Ways to Align Digital Marketing to Your Annual Sales Kickoff
More about Jeff Leo Hermann
More about Chris Karel
For more information about upcoming Digital SIGs, visit amaneo.org/events.