Although you might be tempted to keep departments separate, all team members need to meet and collaborate to better understand customers and reach them effectively. This is especially crucial for the marketing team.
Sometimes, entrepreneurs do not quite understand marketers. You will catch them peering over at the marketing team with a glazed look in their eyes, not sure what the marketers are up to or whether it is working. They leave marketers with their campaigns, assuming that they do not need to collaborate with other departments to deliver results. They think that good marketers can market anything.
This often happens because business leaders come from technical backgrounds. They understand sales and development teams on a deeper level and, therefore, have a bias for the work done by these departments. As a strategic consultant, I cannot tell you how frequently I hear business leaders say they do not want to turn marketing into a companywide endeavor because they believe they will waste non-marketers' time.
This bias, left unchecked, leads to a divided company and suboptimal, potentially disappointing marketing outcomes.
By keeping marketing team members in a room by themselves, business leaders are undermining their marketing campaigns. Without a deep knowledge of the other departments and initiatives going on in the company, marketers can only create with what they have – surface-level information.
Instead, marketing should begin with the customer. However, customer trust is very difficult to earn, which makes it all the more important for the marketing team to delve into the customer's wants and needs while providing answers to their problems. To do this, marketers require direct connections to business operations, where each touchpoint fuels marketing programs with insight and logic.
How to build a mutual understanding
Once you have brought your marketing team members out of their den, you cannot just leave them hanging around in the hall, wide-eyed and confused. Integrate them into the workings of other departments. Here are three changes you can make to start building that crucial understanding:
1. Invite the C-suite into marketing meetings.
Sometimes, relationships between marketers and C-suite members can be rocky. According to the 2017-18 CMO Spend Survey by Gartner, continued growth in marketing budgets has ground to a halt as marketers struggle to prove ROI to the C-suite. Without a clear feedback loop, C-suite members see marketing as a series of costs and a logical place to cut back.
This lack of trust and diminishing budget can really get to marketers' heads and put them in constant catch-up mode, which is not good for any business.
One easy way to bridge the gap between marketers and the C-suite is by putting them in the same room. Regular meetings will foster deeper and more respectful relationships among marketing members and upper management. Take that step and schedule a regular meeting in which your CEO, COO and other C-suite members join marketers in a roundtable discussion. Let the marketers have the floor at the beginning and share what they are up to, why it matters, and what the returns are. From there, C-suite members can ask their burning questions.
This time does not have to be hours long or weekly – but it is vital if you want marketing campaigns and budgets to work in line with the big picture of your organization.
2. Bring marketers into departmental meetings.
Marketers are often the last people to know about big internal news at their companies. New team members, new initiatives and major wins are too often shared within the operations department or via email to certain sales team members.
But think about it. Whose job is it to spread the word about those developments in a timely manner and make the outside world excited about them? Without a doubt, marketers should be the first port of call for all news items and developments – not just because they are going to send out the press releases, but also so they can connect their ideas and customer concerns to the whole team.
To do this, representatives from the marketing team should attend each department's scheduled meetings so they do not need to rely on hearsay. They can ask questions about new developments so they are equipped to build hype and momentum.
Without this integration, marketers are likely to work furiously on a project until they are told out of the blue that they need to switch focus. When this happens, it is too late to make an impact, not to mention extremely frustrating for everyone involved.
3. Encourage marketers to shadow other roles.
The benefits of cross-departmental collaboration go beyond weekly catch-up meetings. A study by Marketo and ReachForce found that departments working in tandem and sharing data can lead to better results for everyone. Businesses displayed a 67 percent better closing rate when sales and marketing worked on deals together.
So go beyond joint meetings. Foster collaboration by pairing marketers with teammates in other departments, such as sales, product development and customer service. Give them a firsthand look at how different processes work, and start cultivating a joint language so projects do not have to be continually translated.
Of course, sales will need to take calls in private, and developers will need to focus on writing code, so be mindful and practice respectful leadership when pairing up schedules. But if collaborations are well planned and mutually relevant, this new dynamic could add tons of value to your organization and give your marketing programs an edge.
Although it might be a knee-jerk reaction to keep departments siloed, all team members are needed to better understand customers and reach them effectively. Teams can only go so far alone, but if they work generously together – especially the marketing departments – the whole company can gather speed and harness opportunity.