When alignment is discussed in marketing, the usual application is to sales and marketing alignment. This has been an ongoing conversation for nearly as long as I can remember. And I've been in the business environment for quite a while.
The issue that comes up for me is that there are some alignment issues before we can even get to sales and marketing alignment that could have major implications for brands, if they took stock.
What I'm talking about are two sources of fragmentation - the second driven by the first.
- marketing misalignment
- customer misalignment
But, first, let's start by defining what "alignment" really means. According to dictionary.com:
Alignment is a state of agreement or cooperation among persons, groups, etc. with a common cause or viewpoint.
Seems pretty straightforward, don't you think? Apparently it's not. So let's take a look at why...
Over the years, the marketing organization within enterprise companies has become sprawling and fragmented. In my work with clients, the group I work with is often labeled demand generation and is usually responsible for an industry vertical or for driving demand for a specific product division. We hit stumbling blocks quite often when trying to implement multi-channel programs due to siloed divisions of labor that can include separate teams representing specific areas of marketing, such as:
- Corporate marketing & communications
- Social media marketing
- Product marketing
- Marketing automation team
- Public Relations
- Website team
- Webinars and event management
And the list goes on...
The problem with this fragmentation is precisely the lack of cooperation or communication that would enable visibility across the marketing spectrum in play at an enterprise. Not to mention the disparate viewpoints.
In my experience, each of these silos has their own budget and turf and it's really hard to gain overlays that enable the creation of consistency for the brand and for the customer experience. In fact, some of these groups may not speak to the others - at least not regularly.
Not all enterprise companies have this level of fragmentation, but its still something I find to be quite common in some form. And it's a heck of a minefield to navigate. As marketers face more channels and challenges, as well as responsibility for proving the quantifiable impact of our programs, one would think a holistic perspective would be much more valuable than tunnel vision based on silos.
The issue really is that with the proliferation of digital channels, each of these marketing teams may be providing programs visible to customers that have no consistency of messaging or connection to the other initiatives also being presented.
What a waste of resources and the opportunity to have our customers see us as awesome.
The outcome of marketing misalignment is that we get out of step with our customers. I've worked with companies where each marketing organization has a different perspective on who their customers are and what they care about. They may be focusing on the same titles or departments, but the approaches taken to address what they've determined "their" customers care about are different enough to present a kind of Jekyll and Hyde experience for someone on the outside, looking in. Heck, even for those on the inside looking around!
The other thing that happens is that the potential increases exponentially for wasted resources and inflated costs and lower brand credibility. This is because there is no coordination in program development or content creation. If marketers from across the company would just step back and think about it, they would see huge opportunities for content re-use, creating connected pathways for their customers and consistency in experience delivery that could drive performance improvements across programs.
What to Do Now
- Create one storyboard for all groups to work from - Yes this will need to be summarized with roll downs for different programs, but it will help each marketing group determine how they can best contribute to building the same story based on their area of expertise.
- Weekly stand-up meetings to present program developments, engagement results, learning from execution and suggestions for refinements.
- Institute metrics that measure across groups and programs, not just individual team efforts. One program must feed another, each channel supports, enhances and leads to others, etc. Look for ways that successful programs can inform other initiatives.
- Consider how marketing efforts can be integrated to create better overall outcomes that serve the customer and the company, not just the department or group. For example, if your social media team is posting wins but your white paper downloads have fallen off, something is out of whack.
This may not be an easy thing to contemplate, but a consolidated marketing approach is necessary if a brand wants to establish and sustain market advantages. Customer expectations are higher than ever and they're not going to lessen...ever. In my opinion, before marketing and sales can align, the marketing organization needs to align.
The cost of not doing so is just too high.