Production-Marketing-Sales: Alignment 4.0

Alain Thériault – 5 April 2018

The (often) missing link in Industry 4.0

Let’s start by talking about marketing-sales alignment. Why is alignment so critical?

On the one hand, the average buyer is now digital; connected to his community and with almost unlimited access to all the information necessary to have full control over their purchase decision.

On the other hand, alignment allows you to:

  • Improve the customer experience significantly
  • Increase the conversion rate of sales (from 30% to 40% -Altman’s Landing);
  • Measure a more accurate return on investment in marketing.

This is possible because the alignment lets you:

  • Ensure consistent, unified and continuous communication with your customers throughout the purchasing cycle
  • Get in touch with prospects and customers at the right time, with relevant content and useful answers.

Data, data, data

The Industry 4.0 is based on the intelligent use of data, on automation technologies, on accelerating and “customizing” production, and on facilitating decision-making related to these elements.

Now, if the data coming from your marketing department is not consistent with that of sales, what do you do?

These two functions involve being in contact with your customers, so the system stays updated on the evolution of their needs and opportunities for cross-selling or up-selling purposes.

As we now consider the contribution of these two functions also in product design and in marketing innovation, ideally, a perfect alignment should also include product development.

The integration of elements

Let’s look at how we need to align marketing and sales and then integrate product development. According to Exo B2B, a marketing-sales integration should flow like this:

Culture → Human → Process → Technology

This process would remain valid even by integrating product development.

Let’s explore these elements one by one.

Culture

Is there a well-established culture of collaboration between the marketing and sales departments? In the context of Industry 4.0, the design and production departments would have to be included.  Do these departments have (measurable) objectives in common? Are there any service agreements (SLAs) between these departments? Do they have a mutual understanding of your clients?

In short, is your entire organization, not just the after-sales service, customer-centric?

Humans

Beyond diplomas and skills, is a constant and open communication encouraged and practiced? Do humans have the emotional intelligence to accept, among other things, some accountability on:

  • Income growth;
  • Increased customer satisfaction;
  • Customer pipeline growth.

Process

The first challenge often is to agree on the terms, steps and measurables to consider.

Recent statistics show that only 30% of CMOs have a clear process of alignment set up. The most important terms and processes that need to be understood are listed below. Slight variations are possible, of course.

  • Terms
    • Prospects: Who are our targets? We could be more specific and talk about personas…
    • MQL: Marketing qualified lead: the prospect on which it is justified to spend money and resources to maintain it and lead it in its purchasing cycle.
    • SAL/SAO: Sales Accepted Lead-opportunity: A “mature” MQL to be taken care of by someone from sales. The one-to-one relationship is established. The prospect is usually in an evaluation or final selection phase. Marketing and sales work together to satisfy the prospect’s questions.
    • SQL/SQO: Sales Qualified Lead-Opportunity: The SAL has reached the “closing” stage. Marketing stands back; it’s all up to the sales team now.
  • The process
    • Lead Generation: What strategies and tactics are being used to attract prospects to us?
    • Won/Lost: Once the customer has purchased or refused to do business with us, a process must be started. Different processes with different goals for each of the options.
    • Service Agreements (SLAs): What are the measurable commitments of marketing towards sales and to customers? What are the measurable commitments of sales to marketing and to customers? We aim at internal efficiency and offer a pleasant customer experience. Service agreements are essential to ensure that you do not lose anything during the Hand-offs between the different functions of the company! In B2B business, it is often at this stage that we accumulate the biggest frustrations leading to the loss of sales opportunities.
    • Nurturing: What is done to accompany the MQL/SAL/SQL/Client throughout the purchase and post-purchase cycle. Did you know that good nurturing makes the customer spend more?

Technologies

What technologies will allow you to accelerate processes, facilitate communications and promote the implementation of corporate culture?

  • CRM: The indispensable CRM that will allow you to follow the evolution of the prospect in MQL/SAL/SQL/Clients and preferably, one that is compatible with LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
  • Communication: Tools for inter-team collaboration.
  • Marketing Automation: Whether it’s for email, the creation of landing pages, or to operate campaigns, automation software lets you simplify everyone’s work, while providing interesting data. There are many solutions, one of which is a Quebec player that gained notoriety during the last few years: Lead Fox.

Marketing Innovation in Industry 4.0

Effective alignment will help you become creative and innovative in marketing. It will allow the use of innovative marketing technologies in a thoughtful way, while taking into account the reaction of customers and prospects. It will allow the technology to serve the marketing and sales functions rather than having them being at the service, or even at the mercy of these technologies.

When we look at all the elements of the sales-marketing alignment, and we integrate the production with the same concerns, we get an extremely well-oiled machine that can benefit from possibilities of co-creation of products with suppliers or the customers of the company, as well as being able respond adequately to the rapid changes of the market! This offers multiple opportunities for each of the functions to learn from each other.

Shared information

There is an increasingly ample collection of information. Our different information systems flood us with data that must be shared, integrated and understood by all! Alignment is fundamental, lest we drown in a sea of meaningless data.

A key position in data sharing is that of the lead/customer within the purchase cycle. At what stage is she currently at and what are her need? Yes, you even have to share with the production team. For example, could you improve the feature that makes the prospect hesitate in his decision? Or should you remove that feature to tip the balance in your favor? 

When your production department is in tune with the sales and marketing departments, you can adopt or significantly modify the marketing practices of your products and use new media.

In the end, to grab the attention of your audience, you need to know what they want, when they want it and where they want it. You can’t just assume or trust your intuition anymore; you have to verify and check with the data you gathered!

So, what’s new?

Whether you opt for a promotional video or an animation to explain a complex process, determine the content according to the needs of the prospect/customer, not based on what you think they need to know!

If you are offering feature-rich catalogs on your website, it should be beacause the customer has asked for these features and you have validated their use with them!

If you use a content strategy, your content will be based on shared data and built around sound personas.

If you change your product launch strategies, you will be able to promote them more effectively by having validated your value proposition. Paid promotions are effective when they are also based on accurate data.

Finally, good alignment will allow you to lengthen the life cycle of your products, because constant contact, active listening and sharing data between functions will be quick and flexible.

Now it’s time to boost your sales with our expertise. Talk to our specialists!

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