Bridging the craters between Sales and Marketing

Most companies in traditional industries during the formative years typically have marketing and sales managed by a single department. On the marketing front, companies usually make rudimentary investments as part of sales efforts. They at best participate in related industry events or advertise in local media. However, as organizations grow, the need to manage marketing and sales as independent and yet complementary functions becomes necessary. In our observation, most companies run into the puddle of creating silos with no tight alignment between marketing and sales departments. In some companies the lack of synergy permeates product development and delivery functions also. The result is that product development does not use marketing to get market inputs, marketing does not use sales as their antennae in the market, and sales does not use marketing to drive a marketing led sales approach to grow revenues. The need of the hour is for greater co ordination between the two functions to succeed in the highly competitive and uncertain environment. Integration is ensuring the team coordinate and complement each other as in a relay rather than a 100 meters dash.

Mechanisms to integrate: Sales and marketing need to be consistent, congruent (same goals, support each other) and co-ordinated (event plans, time promos, content marketing with sales visits). Some mechanisms in Process, Structure, people and Goals can be used by managements to achieve integration.

Processes is all about ensuring communication flow is seamless, no information hoarding happens and internal latency is nil. Process is to ensure the owner has the complete info and authority to drive the outcomes and outputs. that are well designed and implemented are most useful. Process are effective only when the actors are embedded deeply. Defining a process for marketing where certain inputs are mandated to be obtained from sales, and outputs shared with sales can help to tie down integration and embed this in the process itself. Same thing can go for sales, where they seek marketing inputs into presentations, collateral required, target customers etc. Defining a detailed process with inputs, outputs, metrics and persons responsible is very useful.CRM systems can be used to achieve a degree of integration between sales and marketing, especially when it comes to co-ordinating marketing campaigns, lead management, getting information through call reports from sales etc. Marketing and sales have different customer experiences and information. The experience a sales person has with the customer can be very different from the experience a marketing person would have in interacting with customers. Somewhere these need to be woven together to build the real picture. When integrated with an effective CRM to provide one view, it becomes a powerful tool for insight and effective action.

Structure can be used to integrate sales and marketing. Having a common Head of Sales and marketing will allow effective integration.  In large companies, cross functional teams tasked with joint activities across sales and marketing will be useful. They will be driven, there will be ownership and it will be effective.  Though. At times, it could be slow due to consensus issues and expensive as well, due to the redundancies built in. The new trend is for companies to have Integrators or SDR (Sales Development Reps) who act as co-ordinators between sales and marketing. This can be an effective low cost structure, But the KPIs of the SDR, sales and marketing folks need to be tied down to common objectives.

People aspect needs attention as well. When the culture in the organization is such that people have too much affinity for functional areas, and there are interdepartmental politics and fights, integration is not easy, and one knows for sure that this needs to be ironed out. The level and experience of people at the boundary units (like sales) makes a big difference and determines structure, process maturity, etc. When sales persons are mature and experienced, companies can work with loose processes, informality and uncertainty. But when we have in experienced and junior teams, and there is churn, systems have to be robust to help the organization withstand the confusion at the boundaries. This is a call leaders need to take – if the role is critical and processes weak, then place mature people in such roles. Co location of product development, marketing and sales is good, especially for large dispersed companies. It builds affinity and cohesion, but there could also be some trade-offs here. On the cultural front, facilitating Informal social ties, having an open environment, being job oriented rather than individual oriented, being result oriented rather than process oriented, are issues that need attention and tweaking.

Goals Integrated: In many organizations the adage “what you measure gets done” is the norm. Companies can use common objectives and goals to tie up complementary functions. Marketing and sales responsibilities can be designed around the customer buying processthe steps that the customer goes through – some call this the revenue cycle and not the sales cycle. Hence how do marketing and sales together funnel leads through awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation and purchase is the key. Earlier, only the TOFU (top of the Funnel) activities qualified as marketing and the rest was sales. But as consumers research &educate themselves, 75% of buying decisions are made even before the sale begins. Hence marketing now extends all the way to the bottom of the funnel as well. Marketing is becoming more about content while sales is more about expertise, and these need to be well knit. Incentive design and linking good performance management systems are keys to get teams to work together. A lot of attention needs to be paid here, but companies are typically weak in this area, and a schism in inter-functional coordination always exists. Job rotation programs also help in getting sales and marketing folk to appreciate the challenges on either side and enable them to work well as teams.

When the above systemic, structural, cultural/people, and goal oriented issues are analysed and designed to be integrative in nature, high levels of sales and marketing integration can be achieved, leading to substantial performance improvement.

OEMs/Dealers; Get Your Basics Right!

While aftermarket revenues could contribute an upward 30-50% of existing revenues, many OEMs are not prepared to gain from it. Most OEMs fail to meet their service level agreement which subsequently leads to decrease in customer loyalty and negative word of mouth. Why does this happen? It is simply because they do not manage their weakest link in the chain, dealers.

The major reasons why dealers fail to deliver an effective after-market service. One is the lack of agency and incentive alignment. Dealers find managing post-sale operations cumbersome and are just happy to skim the revenue from fresh sales only. Many dealers lack the necessary skilled resources, inventory but just gloss over service commitment. Secondly, Lack of comprehensive supply chain management, and ineffective SOPs from OEMs compound the matter further. So it is quite common to see customers waiting for a free vehicle pick up promised by OEM and also an unreachable dealer service desk. Customers planning to drop their vehicles at dealer showrooms and catch their Monday morning work schedule, beware! You may end up waiting in the lobby for hours. Dealers of many world class OEMs are woefully short of qualified human resources. Spare parts unavailability or delay in shipping spare parts is a common problem. Lo, that is not the end of agony, even after getting the vehicle well past the promised delivery date; customer must be prepared to see recurrence of earlier complaints or some new larger issue surfacing after the service.

What is the way out for OEMs? Incentivize service and parts business for your dealer. Invest in basic training and evaluation of dealer staff across after-cycle process. Invest in your own resources not just at sales cycle but at after-service cycle also. Manage parts availability and protect grey market penetration.

If you are a dealer, bring down the walls within your organization. Too many departments working at loggerhead with each other does not help you. Ensure information flow & communication happens seamlessly and data visibility is high. Adopt SOPs as they help you to know the productivity and revenue generation opportunities you may be currently missing.  Training and employee engagement is very crucial to effectively gain cost advantage. Drivers, technicians, bay engineers must be incentivized for ownership, initiative and quality of outcome.

Banu Priya P
Junior Consultant – Marketing

Privatization of national scientific organizations

Scientific organizations are a crucial part of national innovation system (NIS). They create a pool of scientific resources who are employed in creating relevant scientific innovations for the nations. These research organizations help in technological advancement of the industry by transferring lab-proven technologies to commercialization. They may be engaged in development of civilian technologies such as agriculture, Food, or IT or defence and related technologies.  In developing countries context, these research labs help in accessing and developing trade restricted technologies. They also help increase the nation’s bargaining power at international technology negotiation tables. However, one fundamental flaw with these organizations is that they are designed to fail and falter in long term. Their structures are too bureaucratic, they have low flexibility to hire and disengage talent as the need be, have administrative challenges in matching salary and other benefits to attract the best minds, contribution and engagement with industry is arms-length and have very few sources of revenue generation. Most of the organizations, even those involved in applied science and technology areas, become too dependent on federal grants to survive.

In this background, governments across the world are trying various approaches including privatization to bring in competitiveness and sustainability into these organizations. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has reduced its total number of labs from 42 to 38. The federal government defence lab establishment, DRDO is leveraging the business expertise of the private sector by partnering with FICCI to market 40 of its most promising dual-use technologies. 26 of its 50 laboratories are participating in the venture, and the DRDO intends to consolidate and reduce its number of 50 laboratories to manageable less than 10 labs.  Governments have also pursued complete divestment of R&D labs, for example Centre for development of Telematics (C-DOT) has been acquired by Alcatel.

Privatization enables organizations stemmed in the “science and commercialization push” regime of the past to embrace and deliver the “demand pull” of business engagement with markets and customers today. Privatization can yield several benefits. The elimination of bureaucracy allows selective hiring and retaining of manpower, raising overall productivity.  PPPs also enable cost-sharing, while preserving the expertise of technology transfer processes and commercialization techniques. These are areas where the private sector is likely to possess a strategic advantage, both in experience and business acumen.

What are the necessary elements of privatization that set the tone for success? The experiences of other nations in R&D partnerships offer valuable insights. The United Kingdom has been especially successful in privatization of its government-owned R&D entities. Through a structured approach, identified labs are driven to satisfy a set of defined goals, typically consisting of cost recovery through sale of products or services, cost reductions and meeting task deadlines within allocated budgets.  Labs are exposed to participating in the market-based tendering process and are gradually moved away from their association with the government. Post privatization, labs continued to receive government orders and obtain funding through statutory government processes for a limited period.  The United States has approached privatization of public research labs through direct private participation in R&D consortiums, or by adopting a Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) model. European nations such as Norway, Sweden and Finland have pursued some hybrid models of privatization, mostly preserving government ownership but with significant private sector policy adoptions.

Given this diversity in the approach to privatization, what model has works best for countries like India?. While there are no informed analysis on the approaches the outcomes yet, successes and failures of privatization is salient upon: (1) a clear objective to facilitate the building of necessary capital, after evaluating market potential (2) creation of a collaborative environment conducive to the sharing of technical know-how (3) attraction of the greatest minds with top class talent across the country (4) a smooth technology transfer process across establishments to enable successful commercialization of a product or proprietary knowledge. Certainly, there is no ‘cookie cutter’ approach to be applied to all R&D facilities owned by the government. Each entity should be evaluated for its contribution to the technology pool of the country, and more importantly, assessed on whether conversion to the private sector will possibly make the entity more productive and efficient.  An additional factor to consider is the uniqueness of the lab in terms of human resources, processes and infrastructure. A government R&D lab with unique research resources and facilities is likely to have a network of research relationships that extends beyond government agencies. Increasing the competitiveness of the R&D sector will determine whether India can sustain its S&T advantages over time, while catering to our national interests of security and economic development.

Result based management (RBM) for Change management

Many reports assert that about 70% of all change management efforts fail. The reasons for failure could be many. Studies cite lack of champions, inadequate or inconsistent senior management support, and top down change push without involving the people at all levels or paucity of high quality resources review and guide the change management process as contributors for failure. Many senior managers acknowledge that inappropriate balancing of expected results with resources at hand or inappropriate alignment of resources and the activities are most common reasons for failure. Aligning the individual’s role and responsibilities, ownership and accountability with the intended change or outcomes is a tough task. A change management program progress from defining strategy and setting goals at different levels of organization. Change management must include plan for identifying of appropriate departmental and individual roles and changed behavior consistent with intended results. While many approaches to change management exist, no single tool fits all companies. Common drawback of many tools is their inabilities to monitor progress and adjust activities to ensure the expected results are achieved. Many tools do not facilitate learning, documenting evaluations, changes so that important knowledge is codified and used in subsequent planning phase. Tools also have a limited capability in linking the intermediate results (lead indicators) achieved and their contribution to the expected goal.

Result based management (RBM) is a management approach that can be adopted to drive change management. RBM is aimed at improving managerial effectiveness, ownership and accountability in achieving results. Largely used in Not-for-profit sector, RBM adopts a life-cycle approach to integrating strategy, resources, process, people and results. RBM focus is on integrating measurements that can improve decision making, transparency of the case and effect, and accountability at various levels. RBM uses a logical relationship between inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impact.

Inputs could be financial, manpower, plant, partnerships, etc. that are required to conduct various business activities. The activities would be promotional programs, creation of new sales teams, partner program structures or marketing events which are expected to deliver certain short-term results. These short term results in RBM parlance are termed outputs. Outcomes are mid-term results that indicate the direction and scale of achievement. Impact is what the company wants to achieve by undertaking the change. For example, a company may want to achieve a state of high profitability and de-risk itself from marketing and customer segments. Towards this the company has identified 3 strategies that would yield results. For each of this program, certain resources in terms of additional manpower, investment into branding, channel development etc. may be required. The company may identify certain activities that may need to be done in the next 2 years. Let us say the company has chosen to be present in an industrial event with an investment of $25,000 showcasing its products and solutions.  It would have invested in resources including manpower, exhibits, sales and marketing collaterals, etc. Post the event, the number of walk-ins, number of product demos are output measures. Number of new customers gained is an Outcome measure that is captured over next couple of quarters. The outcome measure reflects the causal effect between resources marshalled and activities pursued to reach certain objectives. The output indicates the results in short-term. Mid-period review using output and outcome measures are useful indicators of what is working and what is not working. The company can quickly calibrate alignment between activities, resources and outputs to see the returns are on expected line.

For companies attempting business transformation over longer horizon, RBM offers certain advantages. Group and individual KPI can rightly aligned with the change management process and modified based on the level of change. RBM drives individual ownership and focus on results so that managing for results by directing right staff behaviour and initiative taking is facilitated. RBM interlinks individual, departments and program level performance with low cost of data collection and monitoring.  RBM supports management learning and decision making, emphasizing more on reporting and fixing accountability. Measurement of effectiveness, efficiency, equity and sustainability at various levels becomes easy. RBM facilitates cascading down with measures that drive and capture the status of activities and outputs (short term results) so that progress can be measured and rewarded.  Large and complex change management programs can immensely benefit from RBM to interlink at various stages of hierarchy, and aggregate data and disaggregate reporting wherever required.


9 Sutras to write a damn good content!

Good Content is like honey and its taste lingers even after it has been drank.  A blog, new posting in communities or a newsletter, all are media vehicles.  A great brand not just focuses on form (ads on TV and other media) but also on the substance of the content (what is said, how said, etc).  While there are heated arguments on when does a blog becomes a blog and not a note or white paper, there is an anonymous agreement on what good content is.

Based on my barb with fellow content worshippers and less than tolerant critiques, here are few criteria that define what a good content is.

  1. Focus: What is the central message of the article? Have you stuck to it?
  2. Relevance: Is each sentence at a right place. Does it connect and flow from previous and lead to the next logically. Only flow makes a reader stay.
  3. Character: what is the story all about? Is this an informed Yuppie or a sober professorial lecture or a high pitch shrill of joy? Character of the content can vary form Inform, compare, referential to endorsement.
  4. Personality: What is the personality of the content? Does it have some black shades somewhere? Is there a shade of grey? Nothing like a taciturn arguments that can bowl a googly at the reader to wake him up. Humor, Negotiate and argue with the reader. Indian classical dancers employ Navaras (9 emotions) to aptly engage their audience. So should you.
  5. Provoke and ignite responses: A good content not only engages the readers but must also elicit responses.
  6. Beauty in simplicity: Clarity comes easily with simplicity. Hence, use simple words which results in an effortless reading. Use terms/words which are widely understood, do not expect your reader to reach out to Encyclopedia to understand what on earth you wanted to say.
  7. 15 words rule: Short, simple and 15 words sentences read always better. Mend this long walk habit of 2-3 lines. Your readers interest gets lost in the highway. And finally,
  8. Write in your own way. Do not labor hard to write like some senile academician to sound intelligent and informative. Avoid aping the 40 year old Bollywood star pumping iron to look  like a college kid. Remember, authenticity and experience sharing in your inimitable style would always succeed in long run.
  9. Proof read, do a Spell and Grammar Check before any of the content goes online. Remember, good grammar may not grab attention but a bad grammar definitely does!

-Amrita Rao

Creating Content That Sells

One of the easy steps towards smart business is to generate quality traffic on your webpage. Only when the content is focussed on user needs and targets prospects, this can be achieved. The aim of the website content is to welcome the readers to read what is written. Once they are on the website, they look for content which they can grasp and understand easily. Keeping in mind these and a reader’s attention span, quality and quantity of the content must be developed.

Quality content that has a clear focus and which connects with its intended audience is something many companies aspire to develop, but only a few practice and fewer practice well. So, where do most companies go wrong?

Through my experience I have found that even though companies have created a decent website and content, the intended traffic just seem like a MIRAGE. Problem might be the amount of content where it is either too much or too little and in the worst case, inapt to what is sought or likely to be appreciated by the readers. Hence, there is a need to separate wheat from the chaff. You just need to cut out the rough edges, simplify, and calibrate.

I have also learned that content planning is simple if one understand what NOT TO COMMUNICATE. This requires the content generator to understand the schema, its boundaries and connects and what to drop or highlight keeping in mind the seasons. Planning rests on the purpose and good planning reflects on the kind of format you choose to use. Planning is probably not something you are going to do all at once. You will want to begin by start questioning yourself- ‘Who is the right audience?’ ‘What would they seek for on my website?’ and the rest of it will flow.

Start creating a content which not just talks about the products/services and its features but a content which brings value to your customer. The content must speak for itself the worth and the values a reader is going to benefit from. A reader’s perception about you also depends on the style, format and the language in which you choose to write. Website is like a sales person. Sales people explain about their offerings, so should the website. They talk about how they can bring value to the customers, so should the website. A sales person clarifies doubts, so should your website. If you want to impress the world with your complex language abilities, perhaps, your website is not a good bet.

Along with the appropriate content, a well thought out design is a plus. A good content with a cluttered design is a major turn off for your readers. For a face-lift, the website needs to look at aspects of aesthetics, attractiveness, user friendly features, the kind of colours used, overall design etc. A combination of right content and right way of presenting brings value.

Remember, the content is for your readers. Hence, it needs to be developed keeping in mind the time a reader is likely to spend on it, its relevance to the reader and the depth of information he is likely to seek. A simple, clear and standard content is what most appreciate. If your content doesn’t clearly establish any of the aspects, ‘back’ button is just a click away from a prospect!

– Amrita Rao