Agile Marketing: How to Ensure Marketing and Sales Remain BFFs

I’ve never been able to think about marketing without automatically thinking “Marketing AND Sales”. Have you worked in a business where there’s a rocky relationship between Marketing and Sales? If these two teams are out-of-sync, as a marketing manager, you’ll suffer and so will revenues and business growth. So, let’s look at this vital relationship and I’ll explain why, in my experience, agile marketing solves most relationship problems and will allow both teams to contribute successfully and operate as one collaborative team. If you missed the first blog of this series, check out why your marketing team needs agile now!

Right from my first step onto the marketing career ladder, I encountered this issue … and you probably have as well. Fresh out of university, clutching my marketing degree, there I was enthusiastically marketing at a car dealership. I had all the planned activity happening, but towards the end of every month the Sales team would suddenly perk up and strive harder to meet their monthly sales targets. The first thing they would do is hound me for additional marketing activity. If only I knew then, what I know now! If I’d known about the scrum method of agile marketing, it would have made every month a whole lot easier. As if we marketers don’t already face enough challenges, here’s how this problem goes:

image: Flikr

The non-ending blame game!

Sales say, “Marketing isn’t doing enough to generate quality leads.”
Marketing says, “Sales just need to follow up better with the leads.”

These statements are assumptions. They occur due to issues around communication, collaboration and essentially, trust. Agile removes assumptions – it allows you to collaborate much more effectively. When it comes to improving relations between marketing and Sales, the first step is to improve communication in several areas:

Allow Sales to contribute to marketing plans
Make sure Sales know the marketing hamster wheel is still turning
Ensure real-time communication
Be able to adapt quickly to communicated change
Keep marketing fun

Allow Sales to contribute to marketing plans

The defined fortnightly sprints of an agile marketing timeline are perfect for our friends in Sales to get in sync with marketing. I’ve worked with international Sales managers and agile marketing is, without doubt, the reason I became successful communicating with global teams to the extent that we were that “Marketing AND Sales”.

Being responsible for all US demand generation activity, I needed to meet monthly targets and this meant planning new campaigns – from Scotland. I’ve always proactively sought feedback from Sales – that’s just how I work, but with agile, there’s a process there which provides that regular fortnightly opportunity for Sales to input into marketing. The US Sales Director loved the fact that I was always open to suggestions – always putting his and his team’s ideas into our marketing backlog – and with that fortnightly cycle, it was never long before some backlog tasks became reality. Just some though, not the crazy ideas – they were over budget!

Make sure Sales know the marketing hamster wheel is still turning

Marketers who adopt agile definitely increase their productivity and this alone reassures Sales that they have an effective marketing team. This is especially important if you’re working with global teams because they can’t see that you’re heads down at your desk.

Speaking of desks, this can cause another issue between Marketing and Sales. Our UK Sales team shared an office with Marketing. It was noisy, Sales would (rightly so) be on the phone … a lot … one of the Sales managers even rang a bell when he secured a contract, but in addition to these office distractions, there were constant ad-hoc demands…“How about a new product flyer for the trade event next week?” “How about arranging a webinar on a particular feature?” “Here’s a great new industry publication – how about we advertise with them?”

The fact that we already had our defined goal for the current sprint and a future backlog allowed me to easily prioritise these requests for our team. I could push-back on the webinar suggestion and confirm we’d plan it in a couple of weeks. I could guarantee that I’d obtain advertising packs for a new publication – I could delegate efficiently and assign such tasks to new marketing graduates who were keen to start building their own relationship with Sales. Agile stops the immediate distractions from Sales, it protects the team and avoids those infamous knee jerk reactions. Basically, I think agile puts you back in control of your team’s workload and focuses your team – but it also gives Sales reassurance that their ideas are never ignored.

Ensure real-time communication

Communicating results – some love it, some hate it – I guess it depends on whether you’ve got good results to share. Do you ever dread an upcoming conference call? You’ve maybe not had time to prepare fully, or you haven’t had time to chase results from other team members. Well with agile, you don’t have this problem. The output from a sprint review meeting is a summary of all tangible contributions from Marketing – it’s just what you need for that regular update call with your Sales team. I’d say the biggest benefit of agile marketing is improved transparency and internal communication. As a Manager who adopted agile marketing, I can say that with agile you have a clear view of completed team tasks, current priorities and a future backlog which allow you to communicate better with Sales – at all times.

Be able to adapt quickly to communicated change

Let’s face it; going back to basics, ‘agile’ refers to the ability to adapt quickly – especially to change. With fortnightly sprint planning meetings, a marketing team can easily adjust the focus of their tasks to respond to feedback from Sales regarding current business conditions. You have the option to adjust fast if something is not working very well. It allowed me to be meticulous and the regular sprint retrospectives ensured I had a process for measuring campaign success and adapt programs to get the most for each marketing dollar. Nowadays Sales (and customers) expect marketing to be quick to react across all channels and I think agile marketing is the only way a business can execute at the speed required. For example, a pending product launch … subscribe to this blog for a future post on why agile marketing really helps product launch marketing…

Keep marketing fun

Marketers are creative. And with creativity there’s fun. Agile marketing is a lot of fun too. As a marketing manager, you’ll get to know the strengths of your team quicker and you’ll see how your team bonds because of the regular stand-ups, planning and retrospective meetings. If you read my first blog article in this series, you’ll know how it empowers a team – the self-managing nature of agile teams leads to greater work satisfaction and employee engagement. This alone makes Sales want to be best friends with the vibrant engaged Marketing team!

Lastly, speaking of fun, we marketers are often involved in event management and this is where having a strong Marketing and Sales relationship is vital. More on this to come in a future blog, where you’ll hear how agile marketing makes events management easy – especially arranging global customer conferences.

Overall, in today’s hectic sales environment, embracing agile ensures you have a flexible marketing team which can accept and prioritise suggestions from Sales, keep up two-way communication and adapt to any changes. If you practice agile well you’ll not only build a strong marketing team, but a strong marketing and Sales relationship. This leads to more leads, more sales, more customers and in the end, increased revenue and profit.

If you’re thinking about starting your own sprints and scrums, it’s important that you get the right tool which allows you to collaborate with your team and the Sales team – wherever they are in the world – something like allthings is perfect. Finally, don’t forget, communication should never mean just sending more emails. Having an online collaboration tool is the only way to have true visibility of tasks and share the dashboard to collaborate with Sales.

Do you currently use agile with your Marketing team? Do you have any questions about my agile and/or marketing journey? Write me a message in the comments below!

Images: flikr