Achieving Sales-Marketing Alignment with Automation

Level - Achieve AlignmentMarketo and HubSpot and other marketing automation vendors have written a lot about the idea of “sales-marketing alignment” the last few years. So many people are discussing this that Google has 1.65 million results. HubSpot also call this approach “smarketing,” and while I don’t hear that term much, it has a comparable page count.

Much has been made of how important this alignment is for increasing pipeline and revenue, often up to 40%, according to Aberdeen. This Marketo chart emphasizes that Marketing is now responsible for a longer portion of the funnel, taking over the “farming” some salespeople used to do.

For those of us tasked with implementing such alignment using tools like Marketo, what is the best way to go about that? What can a marketing automation administrator do about sales-marketing alignment?

Marketing automation rockstars must facilitate sales and marketing alignment. It is very important to have alignment and that alignment has to be facilitated by someone, ideally you because you are going to implement the actual workflows. Even if your manager is tasked with helping to align the teams, you should offer your services and be clear about how you and your systems can help.

Of course, achieving this alignment is a team effort with your team, your manager, and sales leaders.

First, understand what Sales needs from Marketing. Ask them how you can make their lives better. Perhaps it is more and better data tools to append qualification fields. Perhaps Sales needs a ranking system that reflects their thinking and experiences. Or maybe the timing for notifications needs to change.

Second, help Sales understand how Marketing operates. Which systems do you have? What happens when a salesperson selects a certain option in the workflow? Why is that field so important? You may discover Sales is very happy to help if you can streamline that data collection.

Early wins are often at the lead hand-off process. For instance, rejecting a Lead could involve these steps:

  1. Set Lead Status = Recycled
  2. Set Recycled Reason = X
  3. Change Owner to Recycling Queue
  4. Set Lifecycle Stage = Recycled
  5. Set Task = Recycled

That is a lot of clicking a salesperson doesn’t like. Is it possible to automate or streamline this data collection? Yes it is! Marketo and Salesforce would work hand-in-hand to do this work for you and for Sales:

Action in Marketo Action in SFDC Person
Lead Status= Recycled
Dependent Field: Recycled Reason Choose Recycled Reason
On Lead Status=Recycled


Set Lifecycle Stage=Recycled


Change Owner to Recycled Queue

(Optional: Lead Owner changes in SFDC, not Marketo – this might be better for the Sales users’ experience).

This example is a simple one to automate and a good example of how you can ask Sales to help you uncover ways to reduce their workload while still achieving your goals. Other process areas to explore include:

  • When and how to create Opportunities.
  • How to manage Accounts and Contacts.
  • How to process renewals.
  • How to process cancellations.
  • How to process new sales faster (salespeople love this one).

Thus, you can use your systems process chart as your guide to optimization of both the systems as well as the people.

Providing the Right Leads at the Right Time

This will not be a lesson on lead scoring, I promise. There is a process to understanding how your particular sales team thinks about bad leads, good leads, and great leads. It is your job to operationalize that knowledge. Ranking leads can take a few different approaches, which I discussed in how to build a lead scoring system.

  • Survey the sales team on which behaviors and titles matter to them.
  • Have a focus group to discuss (this is the most common).
  • Track behaviors against Closed Won opportunities and work backwards. (Most scientific).

When Sales participates in this process, they are more likely to use it and be friendly about changes. Remember to setup a quarterly meeting with Sales to discuss the hand-off process and lead scoring.

Full Business Operational Alignment

Just doing sales and marketing alignment is not enough. Sales-marketing alignment is just one part of the puzzle. You should also seek discussions with other departments to make their projects become stellar with marketing automation. You have to go beyond the basics because the Web team, the Tech team, Communications, Finance, Customer Enablement, and Product Marketing are all impacted by the capabilities of Marketo.

If your company doesn’t have all of those teams, that’s fine. If your company has different names for them, that’s fine. Regardless, you will find the people, the team leaders that matter and show them the positive and negative impacts, your solutions, and how their work lives will be amazing after marketing automation.

When you go to these teams you need to sell them on the value of participating. Even if the other departments do not want you to directly access their data, be sure they are aware of what you are doing so they can warn you if their work impacts yours.

You will also need to assess each team’s situation:

  • Do they want to be involved?
  • What big initiatives are they undertaking that might affect Marketo?
  • What should we automate first?
  • Where are humans still required?
  • Which team or activity should be helped first?
  • What does the team need to know about Marketo?
  • What do I need to know about their systems and processes?
  • Does the team need training on Marketo?

Help everybody understand why you’re doing this and how it’s going to help their team or everyday work. Everybody loves what’s in it for them.

Possible areas to explore and add to your Marketing Automation Implementation Roadmap (MAIR) include:

  • In product triggers
  • Trial triggers and nurture
  • Renewal triggers
  • Cancellation triggers

All of which may require new Salesforce pieces and redevelopment of related content that Sales used to type out themselves. Just be careful that anything customer facing is written with their needs in mind, not your company’s needs.

Managing Alignment is a Regular Process

Alignment between sales and marketing is not a one-time meeting. It is a process with regular feedback sessions on things like workflow, scoring, and quality of leads. To facilitate those discussions, you will use your marketing automation and CRM to generate reports on the agreed metrics. You might look at:

  • Marketing contribution to pipeline
  • Revenue cycle conversion rates
  • Leads read by Sales.
  • Opportunities created this month
  • Net new leads this month.

A lot of relationships are quickly ruined with an automatic “no.” When changes to a nurturing campaign or process are requested, it is always good to first find out why the request is being made. Always work toward a solution with the requestor to ensure alignment. Make sure that, as guardian of the system, you ask people to think through the consequences of the change.

Aligning Marketing Automation to Business Process and Strategy Takes Time

This alignment will not happen all at once. It will happen as you add new teams to the mix and as you move along the Marketing Automation Maturity Model. Since the customer is the core of your business, it is absolutely vital that you consider the impact on the customer. Automation is fantastic for saving the company time and money, but is it designed to help the client in some way? Will automation of certain outbound emails be the best thing for the customer?

Aligned Sales and Marketing Workflow

For example, if you have a nurturing campaign triggered by a subscription cancellation you should think about how the customer will react to this. If they were angry and cancelled in a pique, then sending out survey questions five minutes later is not going to be a good idea. Your nurturing flows must think like a salesperson who is “farming” the lead. Not too much and not too little communication is best for obtaining that meeting.

In some way, you could think of your marketing automation tool as an “automated sales farmer,” improving yields much the way combines did for actual farmers. Farmers are also known for their patience and this is what you must exercise when working with multiple teams to achieve your goals.

What else are you doing to achieve alignment with your marketing automation platform?

Image Credit: Flickr-alex012; Perkuto

Marketo Frequently Asked Questions

One of the things I like to do here at MRG is to help new Marketo users get up to speed as fast as possible. As more marketers make the transition from older forms of direct marketing, online marketing, and digital marketing, the demand for understanding the systems like Marketo will only increase.

But what happens when the vendor docs, support, training, and forums aren’t enough? Not everyone is a born marketing technologist or even “techie” who can pick up the concepts and features quickly to build a whitepaper collector.

The good news is you can visit a site like this one, or one of my many friends in the marketing tech consulting world. Of course, it is hard to know what (and whom) to listen to. I speak to many new and fairly new Marketo users and one of the common challenges is showing real ROI in the first six months.

And what is the biggest impediment to ROI?

Hint: it is not reporting on the funnel.

It’s training.

In a survey I conducted in June, 51% of respondents said that needing to show ROI on Marketo was their top concern, while 50% said “getting campaigns out faster” was their next top concern.

The good news is you can absolutely hit both of those with the same stone: good, focused training. What are the keys to learning Marketo well enough to be effective at your job? The answer is not reading the docs, it’s understanding how to build the things in Marketo that help marketing activities.

The Top Ten Things You Need to Know to Get Moving Today with Marketo

  1. Understand what Marketo is and how it works
  2. Get the Word Out with Emails
  3. Optimizing the Word with AB Testing
  4. Let Leads tell you who they are – Forms and Pages
  5. Acquisition: The Whitepaper Collector – Programs, Campaigns, Filters
  6. Live from your office – the Webinar System
  7. Butts in Seats – the Roadshow System for Success
  8. Are they done yet? Baking Leads with Scoring.
  9. The Sync – Get Leads into your CRM
  10. Show Your Work – Reporting on ROI with Marketo.

What about everything else I talk about on this blog? Get to that after you understand these top ten marketing activities. Or better yet, hire a consultant to help you work through the implementation process so you can focus on learning what really matters for showing executives that Marketo is worth it.

Need help? Let me know: hello [at] 

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