As a communications consultancy for brands with integrity, we connect multiple meanings with the word ‘integrity’.
Embracing ethical marketing to treat your customers, the market, society and the planet with integrity is one example. But ethical marketing is impossible without one important meaning of ‘integrity’ that regularly gets overlooked: the relationship between Product, Marketing and Sales in the organisation.
At From Scratch, we use the term ‘functional integrity’ to describe a successful relationship between these three areas of business.
Throughout this article I’ll use a few short-hand terms for departments. In my experience, different companies use them in different ways. So let’s start with definitions for a few keywords to help make sure we’re all on the same page.
I use the the word ‘Product’ to refer to product management teams and product owners — people and groups who have power over the direction of your products and services.
For the purpose of this article, a sales team includes everyone who
A lot of companies use words like hunters, farmers, new logos, existing logos, SDRs, BDRs, Sales Executives, Account Managers, Customer Success etc. to separate specific functions within their sales department. However, the best way to get to grips with functional integrity is to disregard those distinctions (at least for now).
Many people in marketing work within the limited scope of branding, content and campaigns — whether it’s strategic planning for social media, attracting potential customers via a website, or creating video advertisement campaigns.
The product. The warranty. The team. The color choices. The pricing. The way it feels in your hand. The urgency we have to tell our friends…
And his assertion
If it touches the market, it’s marketing.
If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Showground Saturday,” that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed and the local newspaper writes a story about it, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations. If the town’s citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales. And if you planned the whole thing, that’s marketing.
In science fiction stories, you’ll sometimes hear about hull integrity. It’s usually during a nail-biting moment in a battle with hostile aliens or villains, when an attack has damaged the ship to the point where the dark, cold and deadly vacuum of space is no longer kept outside. The ship’s hull has lost its integrity. A freezing and suffocating death is the inevitable consequence.
Used in this sense, the word ‘integrity’ doesn’t make a moral judgement, but a purely functional one. It means that materials, structures and components no longer work together to do their job effectively.
In businesses, the absence of functional integrity may appear less dramatic and lethal. But only slightly. Strong collaborative relationships between Product, Marketing and Sales create the materials, structures and components that protect the business. Without such a super-tight working relationship, the business will disintegrate — confusing customers, spouting unclear messages and reducing conversion rates as a result.
In contrast, Brainshark reports that companies that align product, sales and marketing to buyers’ needs can grow their revenue by 25-50% per year.
After working with different types of companies since the early 2000s, here’s the sad truth: We haven’t seen functional integrity as a consistent feature or systematic effort anywhere yet — not even in successful small businesses, where team sizes help create a more closely aligned relationship (at least, in theory).
Studies corroborate our personal experience. A 2018 survey by InsideView lists the six biggest obstacles to sales and marketing alignment in B2B as
Big headlines like these can distract from the concrete behaviour changes required to create functional integrity in a business. From salespeople to marketing stakeholders and product managers, all three groups of your organisation have the power to compromise the relationship between Product, Marketing and Sales:
In a 2006 article for Harvard Business Review, Philip Kotler, Neil Rackham and Suj Krishnaswamy analysed common struggles between the marketing function and the sales team. Some of the actions, such as disciplined communication, joint assignments and improving sales force feedback, will help create a more productive relationship for most groups. But appointing a dedicated liaison from marketing to work with the Sales team (or vice versa) requires a certain level of organisational maturity, or companies risk solidifying the problem.
Many problem-aware companies try to manufacture functional integrity by creating border roles that are supposed to connect the silos. Instead of asking Sales, Marketing and Product groups to do the difficult, complex and necessary work of collaborating around core messaging and the customer, they create Product Marketing, Account-Based Marketing and Pre-Sales roles, to name but a few. These roles can be important manifestations and envoys of functional integrity, but launched into the void of missing connectedness, they tend to increase the separation between their parent departments. With the new conduit role in place, it seems less important to share performance metrics, devise shared go-to-market plans or cooperate on strategic planning. It’s easy to adopt a “The product marketers will fix it” mindset. The conduits’ job grows more and more overwhelming as the departments that need connecting drift apart. Accordingly, they are less likely to provide a feedback loop for customer facing teams as a whole. These roles can become the stop gaps for company-wide tension, customer frustration — and as a result, prime burnout candidates.
A lot of innovative, design-led companies realise that breaking up silos, sharing assets and agreeing on single sources of truth are vital elements to their business success. Applying this to Product, Marketing and Sales creates integrity.
When core teams establish a system of collaboration and respect for each other’s competence domains, they soon discover that solving problems can no longer stop at their own department doors. First and foremost, it means they need to create a shared understanding and expression of what the company stands for, rather than each team formulating their own. This also requires making each team’s research readily available to all others, at the right time — from information about sales cycles and sales playbooks to go-to-market processes. This kind of collaboration requires conscious changes in habit and company culture. Successful product marketing and sales depend on relinquishing siloed control and sharing accountability for the results. Of course, full involvement and buy-in from your executive team and investors is vital, too. This is where thorough research and engaging storytelling come in. These practices support your decisions in a way that ultimately increases your company value and success.
Working with functional integrity means that every touch point with the market needs to be assessed by how well it performs for the entire company.
If you want to test your own organisation for functional integrity and see the reality/aspiration gap, try this simple exercise. Get 5 members (all seniority levels) of your sales, marketing and product team in a room. Their task is to write a sentence or two in response to the following questions:
Compare and discuss the results as a group. How do the other versions provide valuable insights to each participant’s area of work?
When you set out to improve functional integrity in your organisation, you’ll probably find that you need work more thoroughly. However, the results of your efforts will be more sustainable, too. Achieving consensus and building shared practices may feel like slow drudgery at first. Once established, the fruit of your labour will save you countless hours and resources. What is more, you’ll produce a consistent customer experience, no matter if your customer interacts with your website, emails, calls, sales decks, contracts, technical documentation, events, social media activity, or invoices. Your customers will realise that you care enough to consciously design their experience.
Everything your company does is marketing. So all customer-facing teams need to own it together.
We help Marketing, Sales, Product and Service teams get on the same page. From brand communication strategy, copywriting, brand and web design, to training and change management: this 12-month programme includes everything you need to clarify, validate, refine and embody your marketing messages.