A new marketing mandate?

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Before heading home for the weekend, marketing managers at IDG Enterprise prepare a Marketing Pipeline report to distribute to the sales teams of the company's various brands, which include Computerworld, InfoWorld and Network World. Sales and marketing executives then huddle to discuss the reports and devise marketing strategies for specific customers and prospects.

On a corporate level, Bob Melk, senior VP-group publisher at IDG Enterprise, meets weekly with the company's VP-marketing to consider the company's overall go-to-market strategy, changes in the sales process and new-product offerings.

“I'd say we shifted 180 degrees from a corporate-branding approach to field-marketing tactics,” said Melk, who oversees the company's sales and marketing departments. “[Our marketers] were geared primarily toward elevating the value of the IT audience rather than providing our sales teams with the tools they needed to demonstrate the value of our product and services.”

However, the dynamic between sales and marketing has changed considerably in the last few years, Melk said, as marketers at the company have enhanced their capabilities to nurture and cultivate leads before seeing fit to hand them off to salespeople.

“We've created a "marketingforce' system of measurement that, frankly, our team, and perhaps other [marketing] teams were not accustomed to, in terms of demonstrating that kind of hard, fast accountability to the sales process, especially in a media company,” Melk said.

IDG Enterprise's efforts to legitimately bring together sales and marketing may be an exception to the rule. Just 8% of b-to-b marketers said that they have tight alignment between sales and marketing, while almost half gave their companies a neutral rating, according to a survey released earlier this year by Forrester Research.

The report, based on an online survey of 66 b-to-b sales and marketing leaders, conducted in October and November, cited several obstacles to aligning sales and marketing departments, most notably long-term (marketing) versus short-term thinking (sales) and different goals and measurements.

Sales and marketing teams need to pivot to “a "common design point,' which is what the buyers' pains are and how the individual buyer goes about his or her problem-solving process,” said Jeff Ernst, principal analyst at Forrester, who conducted the survey.

Scott Vaughan, CMO of UBM TechWeb, stressed that trying to get sales and marketing executives to play nice is a misguided approach to bringing the two sides together.

“I don't focus on alignment,” he said. “If you focus on alignment, you have two people coming from two different views of the world.”

In late 2008, Vaughan initiated weekly meetings between sales and marketing executives at each of UBM TechWeb's brands, such as InformationWeek, Interop and Light Reading.

The various meetings of sales and marketing executives home in on priorities among their top five or seven customers and prospects, where they are in the sales funnel and how marketing can assist in the process by crafting specific content that caters to individuals.

“Culturally, the conversations narrow down to what's most important,” Vaughan said. “That's a big deal. It's not just generating business-card information.”

He added that UBM TechWeb's recently launched, which helps marketers address those leads that have the best chanced of converting.

“Marketing can nurture and support client relationships for sales via valued content (white papers, case studies, best practices) and alert sales when clients or prospects raise their hands with a need,” Vaughan said.

Paul Albright, who was recently named chief revenue officer of Marketo, a newly created position, said there is a “huge opportunity” for companies to better link marketing to the sales pipeline. “Most companies aren't very good at managing the demand-to-close process,” he said.

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