Marketing and Sales Alignment Is Crucial to Inbound Marketing Success

by | Jul 11, 2016

The leads generated by inbound marketing are, by their very nature, often in the early stages of the sales cycle. Rather than immediately looking to buy, a lead is interested in research. Perhaps that person has a problem he or she is looking to solve and is investigating whether your solution can address that problem.

Because these leads are often (though, not always) in the early information-gathering stage of the buyer’s journey, you must ensure you have an effective way to manage your leads generated through inbound marketing. Without an effective system in place, you’re likely to hand off leads to sales before they are ready to be sold to. This can scare off people who, given a bit more information and time, could have otherwise turned into customers.

To avoid churn—burning through what could be valuable, high-quality leads—it’s pivotal you ensure you have proper alignment between marketing and sales.

Crucial to Inbound Marketing Success -Aligning Marketing and Sales

1. Establish Shared Goals with a Service-Level Agreement (SLA)

There can be no alignment between marketing and sales if the two teams don’t effectively communicate. That’s why an SLA is so crucial to put in place.

This document helps make explicit what each team is ultimately trying to accomplish—and then puts those goals in writing. Once everybody knows and is clear on the individual team goals, then it’s possible to establish shared goals. These goals help ensure each team accomplishes what it needs to accomplish while also contributing to the other team’s goals.

The SLA serves two primary purposes:

  • It ensures effective, clear communication so that both marketing and sales understand any given challenge, barrier to success, and potential available solution.
  • It puts the goals in writing, which helps contribute to accountability and dedication to those established goals.

2. Create Buyer Personas Using Input from Marketing and Sales

When you start to think about the content you’re going to create for your inbound marketing campaign, the first important thing to establish is who you’re creating that content for.

If not targeted to people who are interested in your business, service, or product, even the most high-quality content will not be effective for you.

Therefore, your marketing and sales teams should sit down and collaboratively create your buyer personas. These are fictional representations of your ideal customer types, and to create the most detailed, accurate, and effective versions, you need to pull from the collective wisdom of your marketing and sales teams.

Traditionally, this process is done solely by marketing, but don’t forget that sales is the front-facing side of your business. They have unique insight into your customers’ problems, challenges, and desired solutions—all of which is invaluable information when creating these personas.

When both sales and marketing deeply understand these personas, everyone within your company will know what prospects are looking for and what problems those prospects are experiencing. They can then use targeted content to help them address these concerns and close deals.

Remember, sales is a valuable asset to marketing. Make sure to capitalize on that when developing buyer personas.

3. Create Content Strategically—for Marketing and Sales

Once you’ve established your personas, it’s time to create the content that will target those individuals. 

As with personas, sales and marketing should work together to decide what content to create. They should also work together to establish the system that organizes that content. Seeing as both teams will need regular access to these documents, making sure marketing and sales are both familiar with the system helps cut down on frustration, wasted time, and the potential for needlessly underutilized content.

An important part of that organization process is segmenting the articles into different stages of the buyer’s journey for each persona.

Both marketing and sales should:

  • Have access to all content.
  • Know where the content is and how it’s organized.
  • Understand the premise behind the content creation (including buyer personas and the different stages of the buyer’s journey).

4. Ensure You Have a Closed-Loop System between Marketing and Sales

Once you get a lead, there must continue to be open communication between marketing and sales. This fluid exchange of information gives you the best chance to hand off leads at the right time—either from marketing to sales or from sales back to marketing.

That’s why it’s so important that both teams know what constitutes a sales-qualified lead (SQL) and the hallmarks of the appropriate time to hand that lead off to sales.

While it differs from business to business, some CRM-trackable indications might include:

  • Viewing case studies.
  • Downloading content further down the sales funnel.
  • Frequently visiting your site, or certain pages of the site (such as pricing pages).

Benefits of recognizing SQLs include:

Improved response times. If sales knows the leads are qualified, they are simply more likely to get back to them as soon as possible.

  • Better communication between sales and marketing and between sales and the lead.
  • Fewer lost opportunities because the leads handed to sales will be higher quality.
  • Improved productivity of sales, due to higher-quality leads.
  • Improved content, due to sales feedback.

These sales enablement measures (collaboratively creating personas and content, mapping that content through the buyer’s journey, and implementing a content catalogue) helps ensure the leads are the right kind (targeting the right people) and that they are appropriately handled, nurtured, and ultimately converted to customers.

Why Does Marketing and Sales Alignment Matter to Inbound Marketing?

If you ignore the important steps necessary to ensure alignment between your marketing and sales teams, you’re simply more likely to experience churn with the leads you generate. When those leads aren’t correctly nurtured, the overall productivity (of both marketing and sales) suffers, and your inbound marketing campaign becomes much less likely to succeed initially or in any sustainable way.


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