Keeping Alignment Sharp: Time for a Fall Tune-Up?

 In Blog, Corporate Strategy, Leadership, Marketing and Communications

Who doesn’t love September!

The bugs are gone, days are still warm, the air feels fresh. Fond memories of sharpening your pencils and lining them all up, ready to take on the first day of school. (Or was that just me?)

I love the feeling of having my ducks in a row and ready to go. Of course, a business doesn’t just need its ducks in a row just to feel good, alignment throughout an organization is imperative – alignment of purpose, of strategy, between departments and among players at all levels.

Aligning Marketing with Strategy

In a world of always-on marketing, Instapots and instant messaging, instant marketing opportunities present themselves at every turn. It’s tempting to jump on every conversation, to react in real time, own the moment, to try to capitalize on each opportunity.

But ask yourself: How does that tweet fit with the plan?

Random acts of marketing are inconsistent, lack strategy, are often off-brand and confuse audiences. Sometimes the best marketing is to resist the temptation to do something just because you can. There’s good reason you invested time and effort to understand your buyer personas, create compelling messaging, set clear and measurable goals. There’s an even better reason to stick with them.

Aligning Marketing and Sales

It’s difficult to be aligned when the sales team is paid on revenue, deal size and conversion/win rates but marketing is measured on lead quantity and quality, social media traffic and brand awareness. Or when each department targets a different audience.

Case in point: a software company evolves its go-to-market strategy from a technical/product-based sale to a business/industry approach. An industry marketing team is set up and staffed with really smart folks with extensive industry experience. Marketing builds campaigns and materials tailored to the business buyer in those industries.

But sales doesn’t get the marketing memo. Or more precisely, the sales reps are executing (and are compensated) on the original strategy. It’s not hard to see how the disconnect between sales and marketing sends the campaign off the rails.

So how do you stay on track? Establishing joint key performance indicators at the outset of any campaign and agreeing on the customer persona are a good start to aligning sales and marketing efforts, and bring a greater likelihood for hitting targets.

Aligning Marketing with Culture

A BSG colleague told me of a client whose recruitment campaign described a hip, relaxed environment: “bring your nerf gun to work and have fun with your colleagues!” In actual fact, it was a fairly traditional workplace with a quiet, heads-down atmosphere. Overly idolizing Shopify, perhaps, coveting that funky office and famously casual, entrepreneurial culture. The truth is though, there was nothing wrong with this client’s culture; positioning it as something it’s not, however, is a problem. Not only will they attract the wrong fit, they could miss out on candidates who would thrive in their current workplace. Prospective employees responding to that ill-conceived recruitment ad would feel sorely misled when they walk in the door, nerf gun at the ready tucked under their arm.

Aligning Employees with the Brand

As Marketers, we know the important role of employees in representing the company brand. But the firm that preaches “customer first” to the outside world and “increase shareholder value” to its staff is sending mixed messages, and makes it impossible for staff to live up to its customer-centric promise. We all know what happens when that alignment goes awry: customers on the receiving end of subpar service will be quick to call the company out. Hello, instant messaging.

Mission, vision, values. That’s where the message begins. The company that communicates a consistent storyline internally, reflective of its values, will reap the benefits of alignment.

Many companies run internal campaigns to create excitement among employees and inspire them to feel ownership and pride in the brand. Messages often carry more credibility coming from employees themselves.

Take The Ottawa Hospital’s 2012 “You’re in my care” campaign featuring photos of staff from every department of the hospital with the headline “You’re in my care”. The campaign put faces to names to showcase the commitment of the real people on the front lines who personified the hospital’s vision of providing “each patient with the world-class care, exceptional service and compassion we would want for our loved ones”.

The campaign was as meaningful to the hospital’s 13,000+ employees as it was to patients and visitors. Its simple message inspired employees to “live” the brand. And as every marketer knows, there are no better brand ambassadors than your organization’s own people.

Alignment Tune-Up

These fresh days of September are a good time to take stock and ask: Are marketing and sales aligned? Is marketing aligned with our business goals? Is our internal messaging aligned with our brand? Unless the answers are definitively “yes, yes and yes,” it might be a good time to hit pause, sharpen some pencils and start getting your ducks in a row.

About the Author

Jane Baird is a senior Communications and Marketing professional. For more than 20 years, Jane contributed to the growth of Cognos Inc. into Canada’s largest software company and subsequently the largest brand within IBM.

A seasoned leader, Jane’s experience spans digital marketing, demand generation programs, global events, product launches, branding, creative direction, agency selection and management, and executive communications, as well as fundraising communications and donor engagement.

She has extensive experience managing the execution and international rollout of integrated marketing campaigns, as well as leading teams through the impact of acquisitions and organizational culture change.

Throughout her career, Jane has worked with global corporations, small non-profits and startups, combining strategic thinking with practical proficiency in understanding audiences and developing marketing strategies and programs that drive brand, sales and profitability.

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