The Silo Issue

How Sales, Marketing and Digital Dysfunction Are Dragging You Down

Getting sales and marketing to talk to each other may feel like torture, but it has never been more critical—especially for the more than 5 million mid-market industrial and B2B companies in the U.S.

The digital age and a host of technology developments have exposed four major flaws in traditional B2B marketing practices:

  • Lack of coordination between brand, sales/marketing 
 and digital activities.
  • Dedication to sales at the expense of marketing.
  • The slowness of firms to focus their online voice.
  • Failure to recognize that the internet has changed the 
 sales dynamic.

B2B companies are struggling to leverage the internet to sell and grow. They haven’t yet recognized that branding and digital communications have roles supporting their “relationship” style of selling. They have not crisply defined their unique promise of value and are product-driven instead.

Three core marketing functions—brand, sales/marketing and digital communications—don’t work together to build equity, share of mind, customer loyalty, or sales for B2B enterprises. Sometimes, the functions don’t like or talk to each other and in many firms, “sales and marketing” actually just means “sales.”

The internet has made company “walls” ever more transparent; there are few secrets. Your customers actually know all about you—your product benefits and even your prices—before you ever hit their door. So what are you actually selling?

When a company’s brand, its sales force, and its digital activity aren’t in lockstep, customers notice. At best, customers scratch their heads at this lack of coordination; at worst, and more commonly, firms are losing credibility, customer satisfaction and opportunity because they can’t get their act together.

A Forbes Insights article noted that the prevalence of marketing silos means:

  1. Each silo may have its own brand vision, creating a disjointed experience and message for the customer.
  2. Team incentives may motivate some team members to exploit and damage the brand in order to boost short-term sales.
  3. Sales teams are product-focused more than value-focused.

Not listed, but in the mix: Inconsistent customer experience across divisions and functions.

But with the right market data, the marketing function is uniquely positioned to lead the charge for integration to better serve the customer. Forbes pointed out why marketing is primed for a leadership role in integration:

  1. Marketing brings an outside point of view.
  2. Marketing can articulate the unique truth of the company and what differentiates it.
  3. Marketing can communicate the product and value—why products are relevant, identifying segments in the market.

To overcome the silo issue, the report concludes by offering best practices for CMO’s:

  1. Replace competition and isolation with communication 
 and cooperation.
  2. Consolidate when necessary.
  3. Force integration. Set up companywide 
 integrated processes.

There are practical steps to force different thinking and action. First, use research and market data strategically; know the customer better than anyone else. Second, stop planning functionally and start planning via a “customer experience canvass.” What does the customer need to feel, see and hear? How do we “behave the brand?” Who is responsible for delivering that? What are the methods for delivery?

In short, turn the silos sideways. Within this framework, suddenly a lot more people see and fulfill their responsibility to delight the customer/

Nancy Irwin is the Co-Founder of VOCCII,  Bernard Lee is the President of I-ntellect,