Integrating Marketing & Sales Around the Customer – Event Recap

by Chris Horn

With many clients currently navigating the challenge of integrating marketing and sales, Blackdot recently ran a thought leadership session to share our latest research on the topic. Over 200 business, marketing and sales leaders attended the session in Sydney and Melbourne, which was the sequel to our highly successful Leveraging Digital for Growth event held earlier in the year.

While our previous event explored the broader considerations of making the shift from ‘analogue to digital’ revenue growth, our recent session focused on how to get moving with stage two of our three-stage roadmap for digital go-to-market transformation – Integrating Marketing & Sales Execution. In this post, I’ll provide an overview of the main presentation and highlight some of the key takeaways.

A New Imperative for Marketing & Sales Integration

The presentation started with a brief outline of the digital buying environment – specifically the story of the‘new’ digitally-empowered buyer and the need for marketing and sales to become more integrated than ever before. As we’ve discussed previously, the concept of aligning marketing and sales more effectively is far from new. However with customers now demanding a much more relevant and cohesive experience, the goal of alignment is no longer enough. Genuine operational integration of marketing and sales functions is now required to deliver the more agile and seamless go-to-market approach necessary for success. For most organisations, the transformation imperative is clear. However it is an exceedingly difficult challenge, with many lacking a clear, practical roadmap for designing and running the required transformation.

The Criticality of Pilots in Accelerating Transformation

The next focus of the presentation was pilots – specifically why they’re so critical and the significant benefits they can deliver. While for many leaders the value of pilots is old news, for those who are driving bigger and wider transformation than they have had to in the past, this provided reinforcement of their value as a key tool for initiating large change programs.

Drawing on the marketing and sales transformation projects we’ve undertaken, the presentation then outlined the five key benefits pilots typically deliver. Namely, they:


  1. De-risk larger transformation decisions 
  2. Prove the value and earn the right to invest in more
  3. Test your hypotheses and allow you to learn and improve in a controlled way
  4. Convert the cynics and generate business engagement
  5. Help embed new ways of working into business-as-usual

One of the key takeaways from this section is that for a pilot to be successful, it must be set up to prove a specific business objective – one that will deliver a commercial outcome and gain traction across the business. More specifically, the pilot needs to show how enhanced marketing and sales integration can deliver more efficient or effective customer acquisition, growth or retention. While the exact business outcome will vary by business or industry, many pilots we’ve observed are doomed to fail from the beginning as this specific business objective has not been explicitly defined.

What Does a Good Pilot Look Like?

The presentation then focused on how to navigate the common pitfalls and design a pilot that accelerates marketing and sales integration. Five factors were discussed, which time and time again prove instrumental in ensuring a pilot’s success:

1. Choosing the right audience – which segment will maximise your chances of success?

There are two key sets of criteria to carefully consider when choosing your audience. Firstly, the relative attractiveness of a potential segment, which includes such factors as the revenue potential or your level of differentiation in that segment. Secondly, your organisation’s capability to effectively target a potential segment, including if you have the requisite data quality and capability in that segment to ensure success.

2. Delivering the right content, in the right channel, at the right time – how can you ensure ‘cut-through’?

To prove that marketing and sales can collaboratively deliver enhanced results, you will need content across the entire buyer’s journey. When producing content, there is an exponential multiplier effect that can quickly add up to make a build unfeasible. For example, if you try to target three segments, across two solution groups, with five buyer personas, each with four to five buyer journey steps, with content adapted for four channels – your pilot will not get off the ground because you won’t be able to produce adequate content. Therefore it’s essential to go narrow with your segments, solutions and buyer personas (ideally one) in order to be able to build assets across a number of buyer journey steps and ideally a few key channels.

3. Marketing qualification – what does a sales-ready lead look like?

Collaboratively defining your measures of lead quality with sales is essential to gain their buy-in and ensure they will be confident that marketing generated leads are worth their time. Agreeing on both the lead attributes and the required lead behaviours that will define a marketing qualified lead is very important. Quality should trump quantity in both the agreed threshold for qualified leads as well as in the marketing disciplines for handing leads over.

4. Sales prioritisation and feedback – how can you ensure routine and effective follow-up?

Ever the Achilles heel of marketing and sales integration efforts; making sure marketing hands quality leads over to sales and ensuring that sales follow-up on marketing leads – is critical for success. There are in fact two key objectives to achieve. Firstly, that follow-up happens quickly. Secondly, that it’s done effectively. In order to ensure these outcomes, you need to face into the fact that sales have fundamental capacity and prioritisation challenges which are typically the root cause of follow-up challenges. Therefore it’s essential to put in place either dedicated resourcing, clear operating model demarcation or service level agreements which will create the capacity and accountability for lead follow-up.

5. Measurement and feedback – how will you show that you have moved the needle?

Ultimately, your pilot needs to work and irrefutably prove the value of a new execution engine. Therefore getting the measurement right and crunching the numbers before, during and after your pilot runs is key. Firstly, before you get going, ensure you crunch the numbers based on realistic conversion ratios to work out the likely commercial results – will it be adequate to get attention across the business? Secondly, carefully monitor your results during the pilot to pick up on any pinch points. For example, if sales acceptance rates are lower than forecast, you will need to course-correct to deliver on your pre-defined outcome. Finally, after your pilot is complete, the final results will need to underpin your case for further investment. Think about the best way you can prove the value with your results, whether it’s highlighting your pilot’s contribution to pipeline, qualified leads, closed revenue, number of meetings generated or another appropriate metric that will demonstrate impact.

Pilots are key, when done right

Pilots are a fantastic tool for accelerating transformation, but the reality is that many do not successfully transition into business-as-usual as they are not effectively set up for success. Clearly defining your specific business outcome and designing your pilot with the aforementioned five factors in mind will help you deliver positive results. These results will be the key to bringing people on board, de-risking funding decisions and expediting the transition towards new and more integrated ways of working.

For more insights on successfully running marketing and sales integration pilots, make sure you register for our "Integrating Marketing & Sales Around The Customer" webinar.