What do senior leaders of organizations, regardless of size or industry, think when they are asked to commit more resources to messaging and selling?
While those working in the field talk about different disciplines like Marketing, Public Relations, Sales, Communications and Advertising, decision makers tend to lump them all together and ask:
Do we really need to do that?
How much is this going to cost me?
How will we know if it is working or not?
Isn’t (Insert name of person or department) responsible for that?
Marketing and messaging professionals are quick to passionately explain why their recommendations are vital to the organization. However, they often do not focus enough on the Return on Investment in terms CEO’s, entrepreneurs and CFO’s are accustomed to hearing and end up without the buy-in necessary for success.
Senior leaders also tend to lose patience with multiple departments or vendors (PR, Sales, Marketing, Corporate Communications, etc.) that rarely communicate with each other as well as they should. Each function or area sees things in their own biased way.
Sales thinks they’re king because they bring in the business. Others find them arrogant and demanding. Advertising sees themselves as cool and full of big ideas. Others see them as full of something else. PR talks about framing the message while other departments wonder what they really do. The list could go on and on. The end result is a perception among senior leaders that these areas are inefficient cost centers with overlapping, duplicative efforts.
Organizations often talk about getting these departments to work together more but become frustrated with mixed results attributed to the type of work and workers involved. Phrases like “You know those creative people,” or “He’s a marketing guy, they’re different,” are used to explain it away.
How can organizations overcome this vicious cycle of frustration?
Five Steps to Integration
Senior leaders need to champion the idea of creating a true integrated marketing and PR program and then focus on these five strategic initiatives to make it happen:
• Develop mutually agreed upon target markets that the organization and its messaging and selling efforts will focus on. Far too often, target markets are described in broad or general terms. Drill down each target audience into manageable market segments then make sure each department knows and agrees on the segmented target markets. For example, Sales often overlooks the importance of employees as a key target market while Corporate Communications clearly sees this group as vital. Marketing/Advertising sometimes focuses so much on the creative message but forgets that the target audience has to see or hear it when they are able and willing to buy. Taking the time to clearly communicate information about the target market segments is the first step toward successful integration.
• Find out what each target market wants by asking them, through multiple channels. While engaging a market research firm is the most formal of research methods, don’t overlook other ways to learn about target markets. Your Sales team can ask customers and prospects what they think and track the results. Corporate Communications should be able to easily survey employees. Your methodology doesn’t have to be perfect. The key takeaway is that you should ask your customers, internal and external, what they think and act accordingly.
• Develop a consistent message and require that each department live by it. Be vigilant about message integrity and consistency but also be flexible. For example, your sales team isn’t going to use the slogan from your advertising all the time. Tweak the messaging accordingly for each target market but ensure that the overall theme and key message points are still being conveyed. Consider secret shopping so that you are more aware of what your customers are really seeing and hearing.