On a Quest at DreamForce 2011

Salesforce's DreamForce event is being held in San Francisco this week and I'm going.  Equipped with a much sought after Press Pass, I'm attending, for the first time, as a blogger for Forbes.  I'm on a Quest. The Quest is to understand how IT vendors help companies discover and align to their Buyers Journey. Do vendors understand this transformation and what products support sales and marketing in understanding their target markets' Buyers Journeys?  

Customer Acquisition is a Myth

The economy is working on rebounding and companies are gearing up.  Pipelines and revenues are heading north and hiring along with it.  But something in this rebound is different. For new sales hires, the expectation is that they join with a solid book of business and a pipeline already in hand; even for companies where the ramp time for sales people to achieve repeatable revenue productivity is six to nine months.  Same goes for marketers. Regardless of the market’s or company’s maturity or readiness the expectation of newly hired marketing leaders is that they produce a significant uptick in pipelines in 60 to 90 days, regardless of the capabilities or competence of marketing or sales. For many new hires, these are unrealistic and unachievable expectations.  Nevertheless, the message is loud and clear – growth comes only from net new customer acquisition.  

Marketing Operations’ Unlikely Owner

What isn't measured can't be managed. That is as true for marketing as it is for any operationalization of business strategy.  It's a sign of maturation in the sales/marketing alignment conversation that so much attention is being focused on the role marketing operations plays.  Marketing operations is all about measuring marketing's impact and discovering the dials to turn in order to optimize results. But who owns marketing operations? Well, marketing of course.  Not exactly. I don't support the belief that marketing should own their Ops function anymore than I believe that Sales should own their Ops function.   A core premise of sales and marketing alignment is common integrated systems, shared resources and goals.   Having separate operations groups, each doing their own analysis of performance, pipeline impact, root cause, etc. opens the door to  'my analysis is more correct than yours' debate.   Two groups battling over whose analysis is correct misses the right conversation that needs to happen - "what is happening to and in the pipeline".  Only by analyzing the pipeline of marketing leads along the same rules as one manages the sales pipeline can you get the whole picture of what's happening.  And how to improve the results along the way.  Consolidated operations groups are more effective and cheaper...or maybe I should use the new buzzword...leaner. I go a step further.  The consolidated Operations group shouldn't report to Marketing or Sales.  The group should report to an independent third party.  Who? Well, who cares as much if not more about the accuracy of pipeline and performance reporting than Sales  or Marketing?  Finance.   The CFO is responsible for understanding the business and reporting the financial results.  The only thing s/he cares about is accuracy and understanding what's happening to the business.   Having marketing and sales accountable to the CFO for how their functions are producing fosters the right conversation about the business.  Of course, that assumes your CFO is sales and marketing savvy - most actually are. Give it a try.

The Smoking Gun of Alignment

There used to be a time, before the tech-bubble bust in early 2000, when the route to CEO was through the CMO's office.  The belief was Marketing touched and coordinated all aspects of the business, knew how to build market share and understood how to read the tea leaves of emerging trends.  Post tech-bubble, the tables turned and the path to the CEO seat was through sales.  Board of directors and venture capitalists believed that Sales touched all aspects of the business, knew the numbers, how to drive revenue, and were on the frontlines of emerging trends.   Interestingly, both paths to CEO-ship have not proven to be sure-fire successes.  Tech company failures litter roadsides during both downturns unable to get their value proposition, go-to-market strategy and product roadmaps right, in the eyes of the buying customer. What does this have to do with aligning sales and marketing? It could just be the root cause - the smoking gun, so to speak.  

Thinker, Blamer, Junkie

Here's some good news in this perilous economic climate: The need to do more with less -- and faster -- is bringing sales and marketing teams together.  Aligning sales and marketing requires a mindset change from scarcity of resources to be fought over to one of abundance achieved through partnership.  If you're in marketing, and want to align with sales, sparking the conversation can be daunting because some sales leaders are thinkers, some are blamers and some are what we might call junkies.