"In order to be successful, a lot of people need to want you to be successful."
— Colin Powell
I learned the importance of shared objectives early in my career when I was trusted with the largest product introduction of the year for my company. I led the efforts on all aspects of a product introduction you would expect, we developed sales literature, training modules, demo kits, merchandisers, a website, an internal sales spiff, distributor promotion, and a Total Cost of Ownership tool that dollarized the value vs. the next best alternative. We had beta sites and user testimonials; we did full page trade advertisements and direct mailers. We had conference calls (webinars didn’t exist back then) and regional sales meetings. I truly felt that we had it all covered...well, almost.
The first issue I ran into was that: “I assumed.” I assumed our sales team had the same sales goals, but they didn’t. I realized this after it was too late. I traveled with our account manager for our largest distributor. I was there for their annual planning meeting, acting as the product expert to all of their technical questions. After a full day, we left without concrete plans to stock the product, educate the sales team, or activate our promotion. Needless to say, we didn’t hit our number that year.
Lesson one: Align goals across the company.
Have you ever heard the phrase, What is measured, is acted upon? The above story is a perfect example of this. Sales wasn’t being measured on the same goals that marketing was being measured on. If marketing doesn’t have shared, measurable goals with Sales and the broader organization, the plan never works. Alignment is the most critical part of the marketing process, because our success is dependent on so many different areas of the business, from both inside and outside of the organization. Some companies refer to these discussions as ‘handshake’ meetings, and those who use them to align objectives benefit greatly from organizational synergies, employee engagement, and continuous improvement.
Lesson two: Develop “outside-in” marketing plans
Guided by marketing strategy and brand positioning, great marketing companies’ plans align to business objectives. They have a Plan Owner with clear performance objectives grounded in market realities that are tracked and reported. The Plan Owner aligns with internal stakeholders by bringing sales, operations and finance teams into the planning process. They work to get buy-in to the plan’s assumptions, deliverables, and team expectations by sharing information about market trends, competitive activities, incentives, customer insights and other advantages.
From my years of marketing experience, I have narrowed down how to win at internal marketing in four simple steps:
- Set organizational alignment meetings with key stake-holders part of your annual marketing process. Set dates with participants well in advance, and come to meetings prepared with appropriate market and or customer data.
- Limit the scope to only the elements of the plan that will have the biggest impact to results. Examples include the top five new product introductions, top new accounts, customer participation in company events, participation in training programs, etc.
- Base sales commitments on customer/market data assumptions and limit them to the top four to five that have the highest impact to your plan. Base Sales Commitment examples could include:
- New Product Sales — Converting a percent of an existing product line to a new product based on a clear value proposition. This rolls down to a percent of each seller’s account base that will generate a specific dollar target.
- Increase Your Share of Wallet — Commit to increasing your share of existing customers by a percent based on improved sales mix, replacing competitive offerings and new products that will equate to a specific dollar amount that can be tracked at the account level.
- Participation in Events — Agree on a given number of customers and prospects that will attend events based on an agreed program and the participation objectives will drill down to the account level.
- Set quarterly follow-up meetings to review progress to plan, and as needed, set corrective actions.
If you haven’t aligned your 2017 marketing plans with your internal stakeholders, start with a “three month out” view. Instead of trying to align for the year, start with a campaign, product launch or event that will have a significant impact to your 2017 plans.
Marketing should be a cohesive unit that has shared objectives with other areas of your business; this is the recipe for success.
Ted Simpson is the VP of Marketing at AD. Prior to joining AD, Ted had a 16-year career at AD supplier partner, Philips Lighting. His positions included Head of Marketing NA, Director of Product Marketing for Professional Luminaires and Lighting Systems, General Manager for Philips Lighting Canada, Director of Channel Marketing, and Portfolio Director for Florescent Lighting.
Follow Ted on twitter @TedBSimpson