By now, we’ve all heard about “smarketing” — the portmanteau coined by HubSpot and lauded by analysts as the next secret ingredient to business success.
If you’re in B2B sales or marketing, you might find the term a little reductive: you can’t simply distill separate 100-year-old business units into some new-age guild. They have different responsibilities, different tactics, different skillsets.
But that’s not what smarketing is about; it’s about strategic alignment between sales and marketing teams, for the purpose of driving revenue. Despite being a buzzword, it’s highly relevant in the B2B world, where 58 percent of companies have poor operational alignment. If you’re having a hard time generating and closing qualified leads, listen up.
What Does Smarketing Really Mean?
Inasmuch as the term folds two separate words into one, smarketing is a little deceptive. It’s not implying that your marketing and sales teams should dissolve boundaries and become one integrated unit, like the example below, in which a beaver playing a guitar and a duck playing a keyboard merge to form a platypus playing a keytar:
Although the power of this analogy is hard to contest, sales and marketing will always retain their unique positions in the company; they will always be distinct business units. Strategic alignment is more concerned with giving both teams a singularity of purpose and the ability to collaborate through open communication, shared data, and shared deliverables.
Core components of sales and marketing alignment include:
- Shared definitions: Both teams use a common language for the sales cycle and agree on key terms, especially those that relate to lead qualification (MQL, SQL, SAL, Opportunity, etc.).
- Shared goals and pipeline: Sales and marketing manage the buyer’s journey in different stages but as a single, continuous pipeline. As such, they share common goals (conversions, revenue, customer loyalty, and advocacy).
- A service-level agreement: A formal agreement holds each team accountable to a measurable standard of performance. E.g., marketing must deliver X qualified leads per quarter; sales must follow-up on all MQLs within 3-5 business days and report results back to marketing.
- Open communication: Sales and marketing hold regular meetings together to assess program effectiveness. An open feedback loop lets sales review lead quality and helps marketers adjust strategy, as necessary.
- Systems integration: Bi-directional data flow between a CRM and marketing automation platform is critical. Sales reps can access valuable lead data, and marketers can track conversion rates after delivery.
How Strategic Alignment Improves Lead Quality
That’s all well and good, but what’s the payoff? Is it that your marketers and salespeople get to eat biscuits together?
And in the B2B context, it’s not even about raking in more leads (although that certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing). The aim of sales and marketing alignment is to increase the lead quality. You might find that the volume of MQLs (marketing qualified leads) being passed to sales actually decreases a little, but the percentage of leads that are truly ready for a sales conversation will rise — and so will revenue.
Here are six ways you’ll see this happen:
1. A Mutual Understanding of Lead Qualification
It’s almost cliche to talk about the low quality of marketing leads. Smarketing changes that. When both teams have the same definition of “qualified,” marketing can start generating MQLs the sales team can actually use, instead of shipping over a bunch of contact information for vaguely interested prospects.
2. Revenue-Minded Content Strategy
In the past, marketers have mostly guessed about content strategy, creating assets that might attract visitors and shares, but not necessarily convert into business opportunities. With the right input from sales, marketers can create content and campaigns that line up with the stages of the sales funnel and specific buyer personas. They can also make sure marketing promises line up with realistic deliverables during the sales development process. Ultimately, that helps avoid unpleasant surprises and keep leads from bowing out at the last minute.
3. More Structured Lead Nurturing
In the same vein, smarketing can help align the lead nurturing process with sales objectives. Using sales’ insight about qualified buyers, marketers can reverse-engineer the process to target those buyers and draw them through the sales funnel with marketing automation. To see how this looks in action, check out our post on lead nurturing.
4. Fine-Tuned Lead Scoring
Although lead scoring remains mostly in the domain of marketing, the sales team can provide crucial insight about what scoring metrics are most important and what criteria determine a qualified lead. Using this insight, marketers can set a threshold that strongly indicates sales-readiness. The tighter the lead scoring, the less time salespeople have to waste following up with bad or premature MQLs.
5. Mutual Access to Lead Data
On the technical side, alignment requires that sales and marketing have mutual access to lead data and clear visibility of the pipeline. An integrated CRM and marketing automation platform lets marketing track which leads close, gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns, and measure return on investment. Salespeople can use the same system to access lead intelligence and decide how to best engage their accepted leads.
Shared lead data = better insight —> more targeted campaigns —> better leads —> a more efficient sales development process.
6. More Effective Sales Enablement
Generating qualified leads is only half the battle. Once the leads are passed to sales, a sales development rep (SDR) must follow-up and (hopefully) convert those leads into business opportunities, which takes time. It’s important for SDRs to have resources at their disposal that engage or educate buyers in the final steps of their decision (case studies, video walkthroughs, pricing guides, etc.).
These sales enablement assets are usually created by marketers, but the right input from sales can be the difference from a “nice try” and a piece of content that facilitates closed deals and shortens the sales cycle.
Maybe you’re still not impressed — or you still think it’s an annoying word. That’s okay. You don’t have to adopt the lingo. You don’t have to walk around the office asking people how their smarketing is going or hold a team collaboration pizza party every month.
To cultivate alignment, all you need is a singularity of purpose, open communication, shared data, and shared deliverables. And who can roll their eyes at a significant boost in lead quality?
To learn more about proven lead generation strategies, download our free e-book, “The Big Book of Lead Generation Strategies.”