Bridging the Great Divide: Building Partnerships That Last

Wining, dining and one-way conversations are no longer the ticket to achieve commercial success in the B-to-B realm. Prospects are turning to their personal networks and publicly available information to form an opinion about organizations, products and services, often well before making a call to a sales team. To compound the challenge, recent joint research from Sparks Grove and eConsultancy found that outreach marketing within B-to-B organizations is steadily becoming less effective as the fragmentation of media — and a seemingly never-ending supply of new content — is affecting even the most niche sectors.

The way businesses research, evaluate, source and purchase goods and services has changed forever. Today’s B-to-B customers believe (and trust) in content and perspective they source themselves, whether recommendations from a personal or professional network or content delivered and produced by B-to-B marketing organizations. But no matter the industry, marketing messaging touting the benefits of a product or service won’t drive results if the sales and marketing functions aren’t actively operating in the most predictive model for B-to-B success: true partnerships.

Without question, it’s always going to be easier to talk about transformation than actually “walking the walk.” Companies that fall under a false partnership may appear to be transforming by implementing minor organizational tweaks here and there; however, when the marketing department is operating at half-speed because it still hasn’t been given accountability for key functions, it’s like trying to build a bridge without nails. Organizations where marketing and sales are partnering together to drive revenue and growth strategies are the ones enjoying sustainable growth.

This research shows that companies that successfully define a broader role for marketing and commit to a true partnership are 40 percent more likely to grow quickly than their false partnership peers.

Characteristics of these true partnership firms show that they are:

  • far more likely to own customer experience management than false partnerships (60 percent vs. 25 percent);
  • more likely to own new product development (70 percent vs. 31 percent);
  • have greater ownership of customer research and insights (76 percent vs. 50 percent); and
  • more likely to actively embrace sales support activities rather than downplaying those responsibilities (72 percent vs. 55 percent).

The path to achieving the results of a true partnership isn’t always a straight line, however. While a 50/50 partnership between sales and marketing may not be ideal for some B-to-B organizations, maintaining a large chasm between the two will result in missed opportunities and weaker outcomes. The first step to discovering and navigating the appropriate path involves aligning both sales and marketing around the need to enable functional expertise. The next step requires taking a look at current internal structures and understanding where on the continuum of partnerships the organization truly lies. Once these organizational realities are apparent, it becomes a matter of crafting, designing and delivering an effective structure and wrapping the change in a leadership mandate.