For modern marketers, one tactic that has produced some of the most impressive results is the alignment of the marketing and sales teams. Unfortunately, this can prove to be more challenging than it appears as the two departments rarely see eye-to-eye, despite both being crucial to business success.
While an increasing number of marketing executives are discussing the importance of and sharing their experiences in aligning the two departments, few have been able to clearly define the source of the disconnect between marketing and sales—until now.
I recently had the opportunity to connect with Nicole Gillen, Vice President of Marketing for 3Pillar Global, an innovative software product development firm that creates innovative solutions that drive tangible business value. In the following Q&A, Nicole shares her experience in building a successful marketing program from the ground up, as well as how her organization has successfully unified the marketing and sales teams to increase sales and conversion rates.
Can you tell me a little about your role at 3Pillar and how you arrived at your current position in the company?
I actually met David DeWolf, 3Pillar’s CEO, over two years ago through a mutual connection (Bobby Christian). Prior to coming on board, the company hadn’t formalized a marketing approach. The timing was right to put longer-term marketing in place, and I was lucky to be selected. I was hired to head the marketing department and it’s been a great fit.
When I was hired, I had the opportunity to build the marketing department from the ground up. While the task has been challenging, it has also given me a lot of flexibility to hand-select an excellent team, and put systems and processes in place to make us as successful as possible. Today, 3Pillar—and its marketing department in particular—is a completely different company inside and out.
On a daily basis, my responsibilities include everything from putting together strategies for the marketing machine, planning an upcoming campaign, writing content for case studies, press releases, blogs or the website, directing outreach and PR, and making sure our systems are tracking our metrics. It’s top to bottom marketing reach. My job is to also make sure the team is aligned and thinking about optimizing everything we do—integrating our activities and enhancing each individual effort. I have a dedicated, hard-working team that really puts in 125%, and it makes all the difference.
At a fast-growth company like 3Pillar, what have you been able to accomplish in year one and what are your goals for year two?
The first year was really focused on marketing basics. We started by defining and launching a new brand promise. We took the time to clearly define who we are, who our prospects are, and how to best reach and engage with them. We then took a step back to make sure our messaging and image reflected our new focus.
Next, in order to scale, we needed to put infrastructure and process in place. Marketing, when done well, gives an organization scale and voice in potentially exponential ways. So, we’ve spent a lot of time working on systems, reporting, and processes that ensure we are as streamlined, effective and efficient as possible.
This year, we’re taking lessons learned from 2012 and applying them to an even more focused approach this year. We’re doubling down our efforts on leaning in and applying the strategies and tactics that do work and using them to drive us to success in brand position, thought leadership, and lead generation.
We’re also employing some new, innovative marketing approaches over the next year as part of our effort to establish a presence in new markets over the coming year. For example, we have a highly creative digital campaign underway and we’re in the process of launching an online digital publication that will feature industry news and insights as well as the thought leadership of industry influencers. We’ll also continue to utilize our unique approach to social media to engage with our extended community.
Your job responsibilities include a unique combination of corporate marketing and inside sales. What’s the rationale behind one executive owning both functions?
Traditionally, marketing is a long-term value proposition, and sales are a more short-term activity. Sales is about the “now”, marketing is about the future. That often makes for conflict, but its natural. Their objectives are different. While they are both in the business of generating business, the way they go about it is quite different. What’s more, is this separation of objectives means there is often a gap in their activities, which can be to the detriment of an organization. And that gap is leads.
In my experience, the lead conversion process becomes the sticky wicket. Marketing departments work in lead management. Sales teams, on the other hand, work on opportunities. The conversion process from the lead to the opportunity becomes the gap. Marketing has “done” their job in creating the lead. But, a lead is not an opportunity.
So when I came onboard with 3Pillar, I knew how important it was that we have a bridge between the two areas and the two departments. As a result, we operate under a “no-lead-left-behind” policy and work leads that come in until they are qualified. This approach has multiple benefits.
This strategy, while helpful for boosting sales and conversion rates, is also incredibly valuable for providing market insight to the marketing department. With the marketing team more involved throughout the conversion process, it occasionally allows us the chance to connect with a lead and gain specific feedback on our marketing efforts. We can ask a lead, “What did you like about our message? How did you find us? What content resonated with you?” This gives us a high level of intelligence on what efforts are working and what’s not.
I’m fortunate to have a background in sales, which made the alignment between our sales and marketing teams more streamlined and purposeful since I can speak both departments’ language. For marketers who haven’t had a part in a sales organization before, it can be a foreign land. The hardest part is learning a new language and a new way of thinking. But to be a successful modern marketer in today’s unique landscape, it’s essential to have a mutual understanding of and from both departments.