Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CLOSE Survey Finds Marketing / Sales Integration Gaps

CLOSE (Coalition to Leverage and Optimize Sales Effectiveness) is a “peer-led community of over 3,000 sales, marketing and channel professionals” within the CMO Council. The group recently surveyed its members (mostly business-to-business marketers) about sales and marketing integration. The report is not yet officially released, but they did send me a preliminary copy which I discussed with CMO Council Executive Director Donovan Neale-May.

In my eyes, the survey results boiled down to two main points: marketing’s main job is to provide good leads, and alignment between the two groups depends more on processes than technology. Neither of these is surprising. But there were some anomalies that are worth considering.

Let’s start with the role of marketing. The survey asks about this in several ways, but the most telling question was, “What metrics and measures marketing should use to quantify its impact on sales results and business outcomes?” The top answers were unambiguous: 19% said “pipeline and prospect flow” and 18% said “volume and caliber of leads.” No other answer had more than 12% of responses. So it’s clear that marketing’s job is to get good leads, right?

Not necessarily. When asked what “role” marketing should play in optimizing sales performance, there was a statistical dead heat between lead generation (29.1%) and providing sales materials (29.2%). Effectiveness measurement followed close behind (24.5%). Those are three very different things.

In another question about how marketing is “viewed” by their organization, by far the top answer was providing content and sales materials was by far the top answer (41%). Answers relating to leads and demand generation combined for another 32%, while the remaining 27% pretty much said marketing was useless. (I’m not exaggerating: 15% chose marketing provides “no real customer insight or value-added thinking” and 12% said marketing “operates in a vacuum; programs do little to affect sales.” Ouch.)

So: leads are the main measure of marketing impact, except that producing sales materials and analysis are just as important when it comes to marketing’s role or how it is viewed. This seems like a contradiction.

Neale-May’s take was that marketing is viewed as tactical (i.e., a provider of sales materials) because it doesn’t think or act strategically. He felt that marketing would be more effective and get more respect if it took more responsibility for lead nurturing and measuring final results, rather than simply catching leads and passing them immediately to sales.

It sounds so crazy that it just might work.

Back to the survey. When asked to list the key elements to maximize sales, the number one response was “lead quality and ROI” (52%). I suppose this explains why “better integrate and align with marketing” showed up as the highest ranked way to improve sales effectiveness (41%). That is, working more closely with sales would help marketing to generate better leads.

There’s just one problem with alignment: few people seem to do it. Only 16% of the respondents reported an “extremely collaborative” relationship between marketing and sales, although another 40% shrugged that they had “relatively good information sharing”.

Even scarier, less than half (42%) reported “any” formal programs, systems or processes to align sales and marketing, and only half of these (47%) said the programs were successful. That means three-quarters of the companies are not addressing alignment effectively.

One bright spot is that respondents do seem to recognize that the key to alignment is process, not technology. At least, that’s how I interpret their citing “limited processes and systems in place” as the largest challenge to integration (41%), followed by “reporting and organizational structures” (30%) and “siloed operations” (29%). The truly technical issues of “no shared data and real-time information” rank just sixth with 20%.

In terms of existing technology, 12% reportedly live in the paradise of a “well-integrated, real-time view of all customer interactions; readily accessible on-demand by all functions.” Another 37% report that “sales has good visibility into prospects, pipeline, deal flow and conversion rates”. But the other half lives poorly indeed: 20% report that “marketing hands off leads to sales and has no insight into conversion and close process”, 13% report that “most leads are never captured, qualified or acted on”, 11% have “no customer relationship management system or on-demand CRM service in place”, 7% “still use spreadsheets for tracking targets and prospects” and 1% just plain “don’t know”.

The numbers are somewhat similar for CRM systems. A lucky 13% report that CRM is “highly valued and widely deployed” and another 42% say it is “growing acceptance and adoption”. Again, the other half are in bad shape: 15% say the system is “difficult to customize and use”, 10% report a “high level of dissatisfaction”, and 21% have “no CRM system in place.”

Analytics are a slightly different story. A near-majority (46%) report that sales and marketing can both access customer analytics, while another 8% each report that only sales or only marketing have access. This leaves a little more than one-third flying blind.

Or is it really much worse? On the specific issue of “tracking and optimizing customer lifetime value and profitability”, just 6% said they had already made a “significant investment in analytics and programs.” Half the remainder (46%) are working on it, while the other half (48%) apparently are not.

But while just 6% have significantly invested in analytics, 24% list analytics as the best way for marketing to help sales to grow customer value. That was the most popular answer. The difference between 24% and 6% suggests an embarrassingly large gap between what marketers say and what they do.

Over all, it seems that about two-thirds of the companies have reasonably good customer data and analytic tools, but a much smaller elite--fewer than 15%--take full advantage of them.

Neale-May commented that marketing often does not have full access to CRM data. But he added that many marketers could make better use of the tools they do have available. Specifically, they must track prospects through the end of the sales process to understand what makes a quality lead. And producing higher quality leads is what really counts.

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