This is a guest post from Rob Skinner, managing director at Skout.
Marketing and sales have a complicated relationship. In theory, the two should go hand in hand but it’s not quite as simple as that. Skout recently conducted research among 100 marketing professionals which demonstrates the problematic sales and marketing gap many companies are facing. In fact, a whopping 73% are yet to successfully integrate these two closely related teams – making it clear that there is an overwhelming need for businesses to adjust their strategies in order to achieve a more harmonious union.
Despite the obvious advantages of what has now been coined as ‘smarketing’, the benefits are still unrecognised by 60% of respondents, who claim they do not see the value in breaking down these barriers. There is already a wealth of information, sharing tips on how to marry up sales and marketing but there seems to be a missing piece to this advice – and that is the relationship between PR and sales. These two disciplines can often feel like polar opposites, but they shouldn’t.
Having worked in PR for 25 years, I know how aligning these teams can be a real struggle and the impact it can have, not only on sales and marketing but also on PR when it comes to doing an effective job. In many ways PR and sales fall at opposite ends of the marketing spectrum. PR is very much about generating brand awareness, with outcomes that are often difficult to measure from an ROI perspective. In contrast, sales are all about closing the deal and meeting the targets. You can appreciate how and why these two roles may feel disconnected, but equally if this is the case, major opportunities can be missed.
In today’s digital world where B2B buyers and decision makers have access to unlimited information at their fingertips, sales is actually more reliant than ever on PR activities to gain interest, build brand awareness and offer support at each stage of the sales cycle.
It has been proven in research conducted by Forrester, that showed between 70% and 90% of a buyer’s journey is complete before engaging with a salesperson either through online reviews or PR activity including thought leadership articles, blog posts and informative resources such as whitepapers and e-guides. All of these factors play a huge part in the buyer journey. In fact, it is estimated that buyers now view 11.4 items of content during this journey and it’s often the PR team’s job to make this happen.
It is vital that PR pushes sales to get the conversation going in order to help them better understand the sector and its challenges, as well as the successes that the company has achieved, so this can be communicated to the target market. I know how difficult this can be but there are methods that can help businesses to implement it smoothly and successfully:
More face to face time
It’s all about building relationships and what better way to do this than getting off emails and apps and instead meeting face to face? Using the method of story foraging can yield brilliant results. PRs should meet with a rage of important figures within the business, including sales, to ask them about the role they play within the company. This information can then be used to build a better picture of the day-to-day business activities and find newsworthy angles that can be transformed into informative and captivating content.
More flows of information
Communication should not just be left to initial story foraging meetings – keeping flows of information going on a regular basis helps to keep everyone involved on track to meet their collective targets. Adding sales to project tracking and collaboration tools used by the marketing and PR teams helps to keep them in the loop with what content is being sent out so that they can utilise this content and media coverage to nurture prospects into customers.
More formal involvement
Once the information from initial meetings and story foraging days has been processed and broken down into possible storylines, PR teams should work to keep sales involved by using their industry expertise to add value to the content. Ways of doing this can involve; working with salespeople to author blogs and articles, encouraging salespeople to contribute to and engage in social media activity and even sourcing opportunities with podcasts or broadcasting that can feature leaders in the sales team.
More focus on the sales cycle
All businesses should be delivering against a fully optimised sales cycle. This should be understood internally, allowing PR teams to respond strategically by creating relevant communications in line with the lifecycle of the company’s customer from ‘lead to loyalty’. Content should be created with the view of nudging leads ever forward in the cycle – creating a transition from prospect to a paying customer.
It is clear that there is an overwhelming need to close the gap between sales and marketing. PR teams have a vital part to play in this. Although there seems to be pushback by businesses at this moment, there will come a point where this simply cannot be avoided. Businesses should take note from those leading the way and be open to asking questions about best practice and recognising the wealth of benefits that are available to them if they put these processes in place.
Find out more about Skout PR’s research into ‘Smarketing’ by downloading the e-guide.