It isn’t terribly insightful to say that marketing and sales need to work together effectively to deliver on revenue goals. However, describing what that looks like continues to be a challenge for most companies.

When we think of collaboration within a company, we think of improved communication, clear ownership of responsibilities and a shared sense of purpose. In the digital age, implementing these collaborative elements requires more than camaraderie or strong leadership. Our research shows that three key investments have the biggest impact on marketing and sales collaboration, regardless of the size, type or location of the company.

Sharing a common view of the customer

A common view of the customer helps both marketing and sales to view and engage the customer based on a single, unified profile. This means a single place to track the movement of the customer, their level of engagement, their propensity to buy, their preferences and past purchases. Without having all that information in a single, centrally accessible profile, both marketing and sales would operate with only a portion of the total data available. 

This common view can be achieved by either elevating a CRM platform to house both marketing and sales-relevant customer data or investing in a specialized customer data platform (home-grown or bought). This platform is different from a “data-lake” which is an uber database built to house all possible digital and non-digital data in a single bank. What’s required here is a platform that only houses the most relevant data points, and can seamlessly integrate with engagement platforms (such as web, email or ads) to record interaction data.

Mapping an end-to-end customer journey

Almost all digital marketing teams operate off of some form of a digital customer journey. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a sales team that doesn’t have a version of a customer sales journey. The challenge is to unify both those journeys into a single operating plan, i.e. an end-to-end digital customer journey that spans across all teams and functions. This journey holds everyone accountable to the customer experience, rather than creating broken-up hand-off points between teams. It allows sales to clearly see the value being added by marketing actions at the top of the funnel and allows marketing to see which tactics have the biggest impact on sales goals.

Our research shows that most companies are already well on their way to implementing this requirement.

Our 2020 State of Digital Marketing survey found that a great majority of respondents (79%) have mapped a unified digital customer journey, which means a customer journey that spans different functions and is inclusive of different channels and departments.

Despite the majority, there were differences in implementation. Thirty-percent of respondents have created the customer journey, but are still in the process of utilizing it to improve the customer experience, while an equivalent number have already started doing so. And 19% of respondents have progressed to using AI to gain actionable insights from the journey data to continually optimize the customer experience.

Formalized integration plan and platform

It isn’t enough to say marketing and sales should collaborate, successful companies have hardcoded what that collaboration looked like in terms of shared data, content and platforms.

According to our research, the majority of digital marketers (34%) said they have periodic collaborations with the sales team through both in-person interactions and communications through shared digital platforms, such as a CRM.

The next level up (23%) is to turn periodic collaboration into regular, scheduled collaboration, with greater assistance from technology. This might look like automated alerts, algorithmic lead scoring shared between the teams and real-time updates on campaign performance.

This drives home the point that collaboration has to be formalized in a way that is intuitive and frictionless for all parties involved. It also shows that any kind of plan and structure is better than having none at all and that teams shouldn’t be hung up on the exact platforms or meeting cadences at the expense of just starting.