Aligning Marketing and Sales

How to Enhance your Selling Opportunities
by Philip Mowris

   When marketing to businesses it is important to remember that there is a fundamental difference between consumers and companies. As an ISO, you see it every day. To highlight the difference, when was the last time a customer of yours decided to purchase a terminal or an application on the spur of the moment, at the POS?
   Your merchants' customers do so all the time, from a gift card to a lighter or a box of mints, they make buying decisions differently from businesses. It seems like an obvious distinction, but it is one that makes a huge difference in marketing. In the business-to-consumer (B2C) market, consumers buy; in the business-to-business (B2B) market, sellers sell. The marketing strategies and activities within each of these markets must support the buying behavior.
   So, as an acquirer, processor, ISO or anyone in the payment industry, how do you align your marketing efforts to support and enhance your selling opportunities?

Marketing to prompt buying decisions

   This approach to marketing is the purview of consumer product companies. These are the brand marketers, competing for mindshare and shelf space. There are two primary strategies to move product, in large quantities, off the store shelves and into cabinets, cupboards and closets: brand building and promotion.
   Brand building, through advertising, accomplishes two goals: awareness and preference in the consumer's mind. By connecting with the public at large often enough, brand advertisers can expect that, at the least, their product's name will be recognized. By successfully communicating emotively with the buying audience, brand advertisers hope to build an affinity or preference for their product.
   Once awareness and preference are established, moving product becomes an exercise in promotion. The marketer's bag of tricks becomes the right deal, the right incentive, the right contest or the right co-brand linkage to hook the buying audience. Once the hook is established, it is important to make the product available. All sorts of tactics can be employed, but essentially amount to making sure the product is visible at, or by the time the consumer has reached, the point-of-sale.

Marketing to support the selling effort

   In B2B, marketing's primary function is to assist and support sales activities. It is not to drive sales, as above. Instead it is meant to originate and enhance selling opportunities. Marketing, as an organizational function, should be closely aligned with sales in B2B companies; the two are interdependent. Without delving into the details of data mining, prospect segmentation or lead qualification, marketing exists to help accomplish two goals: engagement and trial.
   Before a sales person can begin to sell, a prospective buyer must be engaged. Something the prospect has been presented with, whether a brochure following up a cold call or an advertisement in a magazine, must have piqued their interest enough that they can be actively engaged with the product or solution. This level of interest is much more than just brand awareness, which is inherently passive. Without an engaged audience, the salesperson might as well be speaking to a lamppost. It is marketing's job to elicit some active interest, prompting the prospect to choose to involve himself in the problem, product or solution.
   Once engaged, marketing must then support the sales effort in establishing credibility and moving the prospect toward trial. Brand preference in B2B is only built in direct contact and use of the product, along with service and support. It is at this point that marketing and sales must work in concert. Whether it is in brochures or product sheets, call guides for inside sales representatives and customer service or tchotchkes for giveaways, everything must be consistent and cohesive with the sales dialogue.

How to make marketing work

   Look around your office. Better yet, if you have a marketing department, look around their offices. What you are probably looking at is a collection of pieces and parts, all representative of different tactics employed to...? Yes, do what?
   More likely than not there is a stack of brochures, just waiting to be sent when the sale team has a "hot one" on the line. There is probably a print advertisement, occasionally modified or changed, ready to fly into publications when an important trade show fast approaches. Sitting over in the corner are boxes of mailers, dusted off when the month's or the quarter's numbers look frighteningly low, and sent with the intent of filling the pipeline with leads.
   This assemblage of pieces all represent tried and true marketing tactics. Every single one has a purpose, but as a lot, is there any ultimate goal, any overarching strategy? Do any of the pieces work in concert with any others, let alone all of them working together seamlessly against defined, measurable goals?
   It starts by mapping your audience against your sales effort, then drafting a strategy to penetrate that audience at every stage of the sales cycle. According to the 1999 U.S. Economic Census, there are just over 1.5 million retail trade establishments in the United States. That is not a mass market, and is further subdivided by business type, size, sales volume, geography, etc. It is within these niches, these segments that the true opportunity for ISOs lays.
   Segment your audience and map them according to business priorities, like industry/sector penetration, growth opportunity, transaction volume, competitive activity (yours and your customer's), etc. From this analysis, you can begin to delineate a strategy for marketing in support of sales, with specific, measurable goals in place. Once goals are set, and a strategy developed, then the tactics can be arranged to help drive sales, shorten sale cycles and improve customer retention.
   Yes, some of the tactics look the same. There is still a need for print advertising and direct mail. However, it is in the arrangement and the approach, along with the inclusion of new tools like digital and interactive marketing tactics, that they become more effective. Above all, the measurement is critical, and the results must be shared between sales and marketing, so the two can work together.