Misalignment is the scourge of the modern marketing department, and it’s no surprise why: So many channels to manage with no way to predict the customer journey. Highly fragmented roles and teams executing on compressed time cycles. Intense pressure to drive business impact, while staff are drowning in disconnected data and unclear strategy.
The problem isn’t distribution. Or automation. Or the speed of business. The problem is misalignment. Between brand and demand. Between sales and marketing. Between what marketers create and what audiences want to consume.
Plenty has been written over the years about sales and marketing alignment, and yet, more than half of the presentations at the MarTech 2018 conference in San Jose highlighted the topic as a dominant problem for tech marketers.
Many of the sessions also highlighted a third, new dimension of the alignment need – customer success. In other words, how do sales teams, marketing teams and customer success teams work together to foster continuous conversation and leveraged engagement?
Surprisingly, none of the sessions highlighted the need for alignment with communications – a fourth dimension that is often managed in parallel but not fully synchronized, whether by design or neglect. Communications and marketing teams participate in the same meetings every week, and coordinate on major events and announcements, but it’s rare to find truly unified campaigns that leverage the strength and uniqueness of each channel and discipline.
When we look beyond disciplines, the lack of alignment often goes deeper – and we frequently uncover lack of clarity (or at least lack of consistency) on market positioning. On business and competitive strategy. On category definition. On the core company narrative.
Why does this matter? Well, it leads to a lot of wasted time and effort, severe limitations on marketing and communications impact, confused and/or distracted customers – and typically shortfalls in demand generation, brand performance and corporate reputation.
So what’s the solution? The first step is recognizing where and how to drive alignment and orchestration across your team. It doesn’t mean everyone needs to be involved in every meeting, or every piece of content has to have the same words. Ultimately we believe the best activation will be channel- and discipline-specific, led by experts in those channels (site, social, search, email, events, etc.) and disciplines (PR, advertising, demand generation, etc.).
However, we find there are four critical “alignment zones” and two fundamental “orchestration modes” that tend to be under-optimized:
Alignment Zone #1: Identity.
What is your corporate identity? How do you bring that identity to life? How do you manage that identity across channels?
Alignment Zone #2: Positioning.
What category are you in? Who are your customers? Who are your competitors? How do you differentiate? What’s your “rightful place” in the market?
Alignment Zone #3: Strategy.
How do you engage customers and prospects? How do you engage partners and advocates? Are you product-led, sales-led or marketing-led? Which channels do you prioritize?
Alignment Zone #4: Story.
What’s your corporate narrative? Why and how are you relevant to the broader market? Who are your experts? What’s your POV on industry trends and issues?
Orchestration Mode #1: Content.
Technology companies crank out a lot of content, often too much content. Do you know which content is most relevant to your customers? Are you publishing white papers when your customers want video tutorials? Are you curating and syndicating, or just creating? Are you telling your customers’ stories or just your story? Have you mapped content needs across the customer journey? Do you know what language resonates across channels? Have you built a content engine that matches supply and demand?
Orchestration Mode #2: Analytics.
Technology marketers likewise capture a lot of data, often with too little insight. How are you capturing and sharing the data you collect? Do you have analysts who organize and interpret the data? Are your teams trained to consume and apply the data within their discipline? Are you aggregating data to create a holistic feedback loop? Are you using data to drive decisions and optimize programs? Have you defined a data cadence for what you need weekly, monthly and/or quarterly?
Jumpstarting Your Path to Maximum Alignment
We believe marketing and communications leaders should invest much more time to cultivate, train and test alignment across their teams. Without clarity and deep understanding of identity, positioning, strategy and story, it’s hard for discipline and channel experts to drive activation that truly ladders up to brand, demand and reputation goals. Further, without regular orchestration around content and analytics, the company’s storytelling quickly gets diffused – and important feedback is lost within tactical silos.
All too often, we find there’s only one person in the marketing team that has the fully aligned big-picture view – and that’s the CMO, which puts him or her in the impossible position of managing alignment via hundreds of 1:1 conversations or less-than-productive team meetings. That’s not to say others on the team aren’t doing their jobs, or even doing their jobs well. More likely they’re investing 80% of their time driving activation within their channel/discipline, and 20% coordinating that activation with teammates – but precious little time figuring out how to align language, optimize customer journeys, and maximize impact across silos.
So how can you jumpstart your path from misalignment to maximum alignment?
- Interview and/or survey team members to rate your current level of performance across the four Alignment Zones and two Orchestration Modes, while identifying gaps and overlaps that gum up the works.
- Develop a formal “alignment improvement plan” to address areas of under-performance and foster/extend areas of strength.
- Carve out dedicated “alignment space” for leaders and teams to regularly discuss identity, positioning, strategy and story – supported by formal training, testing and tools that help drive that alignment.
- Establish cross-disciplinary councils for content and analytics, bringing together the right experts every month to plan and manage content across channels and share analytics data and insights across disciplines.
- Formalize training and onboarding sessions to drive alignment with new team members, and use their questions and feedback to inform new alignment techniques.
What do you think? Please share your feedback or experiences below.