Integration is a bit of a buzz. At engage we have a unique integrated model of marketing which helps connect consumer opportunities to the retailer interface via the in-store world: it is a truly integrated model but when marketing it we hesitate to use the word. Integration has become such a buzz word that it almost becomes devalued.
Integration has long been a business goal, as successive business leaders have seen the damage silo structures wreak on business effectiveness and efficiency. The arrival of trade marketing to consumer goods companies was heralded in many ways, but one promised benefit was that it would help build a bridge between sales and marketing.
Unfortunately, research by Leicester De Montford University in the UK supports what many of us who have worked in marketing and sales teams suspect: the adoption of trade marketing has actually increased the distance between sales and marketing, increasing silo behavior and driving a wedge between the two prime commercial functions.
So we find ourselves in 2012, and according the CMO council many CMOs still see sales and marketing integration as a key priority which suggests that many companies still have a long way to go. What, then, in this age of integrated marketing campaigns, can managers do to help their businesses and their teams behave in a more cohesive manner?
Integrated Marketing – Across Consumers, Shoppers, and Retail
Create a common language
Consumer marketers must be able to express their goals in a way which can translate into product sales; and the “Rosetta Stone” for this translation is the shopper. If the consumer team can clearly articulate (and quantify) the specific change in consumer behavior that they are targeting, then that can be translated into a required shopping behavior. If, for example, the consumer goal is to drive penetration amongst teenagers – i.e. get teenagers to drink something they currently do not – then someone’s shopping behavior needs to change too. That change in shopping behavior can be understood by shopper marketers, and in turn explains what a sales team will need to do (for example, to make changes to the in-store environment to encourage a certain shopper to behave in a certain way).
Focus on behavior
The shopper marketing link creates the possibility to translate consumer marketing speak into something sales teams can understand. But for this to be meaningful for sales teams though, consumer marketers need to talk about behavior, not attitude. How much more product is going to be consumed, by whom. As a sales guy I can’t work with Facebook likes or brand preference, but I can understand more consumption and see exactly how that connects to more sales.
This alignment behind a change in consumption behavior enables a common language between functions; but to keep things on track, there needs to be alignment in KPIs. Different functions have different KPIs, and so they should. After all they have different roles to play. The ability to connect a clear and quantified consumption opportunity to a specific shopper objective is crucial as it makes it possible for shopper marketing teams and sales teams to have KPIs which go beyond driving sales numbers. KPIs which encompass making specific changes in the retail environment, which in turn are tuned to changing a specific shopper’s behavior – the same shopping behavior required to create the desired change in consumer behavior. Different teams have different KPIs, relevant to their role, but aligned behind a common goal – driving brand consumption.
Less meetings, more purpose
In about two hundred and fifty words time I’m going to passionately advocate more communication. But here comes something far more important. Don’t start with meetings. Meetings should be brilliant ways to create alignment, but they aren’t. Most meetings don’t work. Don’t start with meetings. Start with meeting. There’s a difference. Meet, discuss. Compare and understand. Then work out what needs discussing and agreeing on a regular basis. Then arrange meetings.
If the plans don’t fit together, then don’t expect the execution to gel either. Most organizations create a marketing plan, and then build in the rest of the commercial team on a needs basis. Start with a consumer plan, then build in the shopper and trade components. But don’t sign off the brand plan and then force fit the rest. No plans are signed off until they all are.
There’s a difference between alignment and agreement. Different functions have different roles, and different goals, and that’s OK. They need to be aligned but not the same. Tension is good as long as nothing snaps. And that requires dialog.
Plans are just plans
Plans exist primarily to help us understand when we’re not on plan. The world changes faster than the planning cycle so increasingly we’re always going to be off plan. Being off plan is not the problem. Not knowing you’re off plan is a problem. If we know, we can choose. Do we do something? Or are we OK with it?
No-one died through over-communication
Whilst “loose lips can sink ships” in war time, have a think. How many issues in your business can you think of that were caused by too much communication? How many by too little? Exactly. More dialog (but not necessarily more meetings!)
Get marketing people to work in sales. And vice versa. Not for just a month either. Enough said.
Create integrated ways of working
Define processes which require integration. A lot of business processes are brilliantly complex and comprehensive for the most part, but don’t specify the why, what, who, when and how of communication. The output might be brilliant but if it isn’t shared it isn’t leveraged.
When we first work with a client, in order to assess how a business functions we use our own in-house software application Engage Assess™ which benchmarks the quality of each process, but we also measure how well an activity is enabled. One of those measures is the communication of outputs. Rather cleverly, we map inputs used in an activity with the outputs of other processes received: i.e. If a process requires five specific inputs, we measure if they exist (does someone state that they create them); if they are shared (does the creator claim that they are shared); are they received and are they used. The disparity between marketers who say they communicate something, and the other functions who say they receive it (let alone use it), is amazing. Measure the interaction required.
…and reward it
If, as a manager, you want integration, measure it and reward it. Don’t just reward sales, or market share, or award gongs: reward the behavior you want. Give prizes for “best integrated work”, or even “most effective meeting”.
However early you start, it’s too late.
Plan early. Share early. Whatever you are doing now, imagine what would happen if you’d shared a month earlier. Six months earlier. How much more input could you have got? How many obstacles would have come up earlier, giving much more time to plan, more time to communicate, share, and understand. Share earlier. Period.
Take action now
This blog isn’t usually about plugging engage, but I will make an exception here. Our five-step approach Total Marketing approach builds a genuinely integrated way of working, at a strategic, planning or executional level. We’re called engage for a reason! We help organizations work together by applying our unique model to strategy, capability development, and organization design and development (including KPIs). Check it out and let me know what you think!