Historically, industrial sales enablement has struggled to gain traction in manufacturing as a critical component of growth strategy. Why?
Industrial marketing and sales have traditionally run parallel paths, both operating at different phases of the industrial buying process. But, with the digital age in manufacturing completely reinventing how buyers engage with potential suppliers, industrial companies must rethink the role of marketing in the industrial sales process.
In a conversation with INDUSTRIAL Founder and CEO, James Soto, we explored the importance of departmental alignment, specifically why it is important today and how that has changed across the history of industrial marketing.
Q: Why is it important to align industrial sales and marketing within an organization?
A: It is easy to say that you need sales and marketing alignment because it is actually a single buyer journey. That makes it important to deliver value at every touch point – whether it’s advertising, content marketing, or a sales call. Creating a seamless view of your organization for current and prospective customers cultivates trust. Beyond that, there is a greater value with an organization, internally, for departments to be aligned. And not just sales and marketing, alignment for all departments contributes greatly to organizational health.
Q: How does departmental alignment contribute to overall organizational health, and why does that matter?
A: It matters in many ways. First, making departmental alignment a priority contributes to successful internal communication. In manufacturing, there has traditionally been friction between sales, marketing, operations, and finance. Each department has their specialties, but each department also has dependencies on each other, so open communication is important.
Which leads me to the second reason I connect departmental alignment to organizational health: cultivating empathy for one another. Bringing an industrial marketing team member to a sales call, for example, or sales reps to participate in marketing planning meetings, can develop empathy by allowing a colleague to walk in their coworkers’ shoes. This helps all employees respect and understand each other’s unique roles, as well as offer unique perspectives only available through the eyes of each department.
Q: How do you see organizational health being important to the manufacturing bottom line?
A: The bottom line of almost any industrial organization is profitability – and that is directly related to the customer experience. Focusing on fostering organizational health is heavily related to interdepartmental empathy. When departments have empathy for each other’s roles, companies are more easily able to bring the customer’s voice upstream without being territorial. An industrial buying cycle isn’t linear anymore. With the increasing adoption of digital technology in manufacturing, the buyer jumps in and out of the process. They may visit a website, then leave. Then, later, get connected to sales through an ad or digital content. If all departments in a manufacturing company are aligned and connected, the customer’s experience will be as well.
Q: Is organizational connectivity a new concept in manufacturing?
A: If you look back historically in manufacturing, you can really see the practice of customer focus begin to develop around the war effort. That is when the publishing industry entered the manufacturing sector and we begin to see catalogues and formal promotions start, but this was still primarily centered around trade. I think that changed when organizations began to see their profits as a reward of satisfied customers. Viewing customer experience as a profitable reward is not a new thing.
But, the biggest shift is when we became digital advertisers. Similar to when the Sears Christmas catalog went away, the industrial sector had to make a digital shift as well. After about 2002, it became a quick succession. Social media started, LinkedIn popped, and all of that was in about one decade. It was an entire paradigm shift when digital marketing began to gain momentum in the industrial sector. I think we are still dealing with what that shift means – one way being departmental alignment.
Q: As industrial marketers, how are we still missing the mark?
A: I think one way we are missing the mark is by minimizing the link between industrial sales and marketing, especially when it comes to being equally accountable to growth and success. It is a fundamental truth that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. While it is important to realize that a marketing program can’t expect results overnight, if sales and marketing aren’t aligned on objectives, it is impossible to measure the outcomes of either department. Making sure that there is a plan in place for measuring success and clear ownership of those critical objectives and KPIs – that’s a great first place to start.
It’s also critical to remember that sales are made between humans, regardless of how digital has shaped the conversation, so it all boils down to the human equation. This can be the human connection between the two industrial companies. It can also be the human connection between two departments.
If you all are on the same page, have a great culture and great core values, all you need to do is speak the truth of the organization. In this scenario, it’s much easier to communicate your key points of differentiation, speak to your brand promise, and share that value with your customers. It’s all about empathy and a genuine human connection — both internally and externally.
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