Align sales with marketing to maximize ROI

Dick Jerrod, president of ABC Pools & Spas, frowned as he addressed his team in the conference room: "I don't understand it. We're spending more on marketing, but not getting real growth in sales."

Sherry Martin, the CFO, spoke up first: "We should look for ways to improve productivity. How can we spend less and get more?"

Bud Shipp, vice president of sales, answered, "It's just like Joseph Wanamaker said a hundred years ago. Half the money we spend on advertising is wasted, but the trouble is we don't know which half."

Troy Watkins, a sales associate, said, "Let's look at the buyers' thought process when they make purchasing decisions. Armed with that information, we can be sure our sales and marketing efforts fit."

Troy had the right idea. Understanding how customers decide to buy and what they need to know to make the decision helps you spend marketing and advertising dollars wisely and increases the odds of closing sales.

Marketing activities are one-way conversations with prospects and customers. Standard offers are crafted to appeal to profitable segments of the marketplace, and brand building enhances competitive advantage.

Selling makes use of two-way conversations, often taking place in real time. Salespeople speak to potential customers, answer questions and address concerns. They provide information on the fly and adjust messages in the moment so customers are persuaded to buy.

When marketing aligns with sales, it's a match made in moneymaking heaven where marketing dollars bring happy returns and your company is in complete sync with the buying process. Deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time, and sales increase.

Step 1: Awareness

Before buyers can fall in love with your store they must know it exists. Companies create awareness by advertising, sending out direct mail, e-mail blasts, etc., and by hiring salespeople to cold call. Mix and match any or all of these awareness-builders to get the word out to potential customers. You can align marketing with sales by taking a few specific steps.

If you run a radio, TV or Internet advertising campaign, fill the sales force in on the details. Who is it targeting? Why will the message appeal to prospects? And when you send out direct mail or e-mail blasts, have the sales team make follow-up calls. Also, have sales and marketing personnel meet regularly to discuss campaign results and better ways to create powerful messages to hit the target.

Step 2: Information

When buyers hear about your product and want to learn more, you've jumped one hurdle. Now the potential buyer asks, "Do I really need this?" and "What do I know about the company selling it?"

Marketing creates printed literature to support sales efforts and offer tangible evidence of benefits. The sales force, on the other hand, has a finger on the customer's pulse, so eliciting their input helps make marketing messages and materials relevant.

Step 3: Evaluation

Now the buyer gets serious, and they consider the risks and rewards of doing business with you. They compare you to the competition. At this stage personal selling is powerful because face-to-face dialogue uncovers objections and answers them.

In the evaluation stage, buyers want details because they're close to making a decision.

Step 4: Purchase

The buyer buys because you provided them with the right information in the right way at the right time. At this point, the salesperson pens a personal thank you, or marketing mails a standard welcome kit. The goal at the purchase stage is to ensure purchasers feel happy about their decision.

Step 5: RePurchase Evaluation

The customer bought from you once. Will they buy again? Yes, if the product performed as promised, service was good and the customer felt good about the experience. Now it's time to guard against complacency and continue to provide value. Make customers glad they chose you, and you'll reap the benefits of good word-of-mouth advertising and future sales.

Align sales with marketing to stop wasting money and spend every penny more wisely. The process begins by understanding how purchasers make buying decisions. Have sales and marketing work as a team to provide the right information at the right time and watch the top line grow.

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