Marketing’s Role in Sales Enablement

The Sales Enablement (SE) role is fast taking root at many of our client companies. But it is interesting to see that its position on the organization chart is somewhat fluid. Does the role take root in sales? In marketing? Does it have to make an effective straddle across both functions , or is it bound to get hung up on the fence between the two?

Our IDC marketing and sales research teams are surfacing many good techniques for improved sales enablement. Here are some practices specifically for marketing’s side of the sales enablement challenge as presented by Rich Vancil, VP IDC Executive Advisory Group.

“Thanks Michael. Depending on your resources and ambitions, these SE practices are noted as: easiest, harder, and hardest.

  1. Easiest: IDC defines Sales Enablement as “Delivering to the sales representative (direct or channel) the right material at the right place, at the right time, and in the right format, to move a specific opportunity forward.” Yes, there are a lot of moving pieces in that equation. But the place to start is with all the material that is clearly and blatantly in the wrong place/time/format. Sales executives consistently tell us that only a fraction of marketing content and collateral is used by them. Marketing’s first move in SE starts with marketing content audits and asset management strategies that clean out all the lowest underbrush of what is not used. The easy pickings might happen quickly. An incoming CMO at one of our client companies ordered an immediate marketing-asset inventory which identified 550 separate items of marketing assets that were in constant need of updates and re-touches and re-prints and all sorts of expensive maintenance procedures for materials that were found to be marginally distributed.
  2. Harder: “People, process and technology” is a guideline of places to look for operational change. But managers often jump to the technology first and this is often a mis-step in emerging automation areas (such as marketing and sales) because there are so many alluring new applications one might try and buy. Bear in mind the old adage “all software is merely someone’s else’s idea of how you should run your business” to be mindful that you need to examine and re-work your own processes first – with your own thinking – and then find or develop the technology to assist and automate. The critical Sales Enablement process between the marketing and sales functions is the lead hand-off and lead-nurturing activities. Executives really need to understand this process before buying and applying technology towards it . A marketing professor of mine wrote a famous case called “Staple yourself to an Order” which suggested a process audit approach that one could use to understand a customer’s experience with one’s company. Could we suggest that you “Staple yourself to a Lead” and observe the process path that you travel, in and around marketing and sales, at your company?
  3. Hardest: Even more challenging is advanced marketing re-engineering enabled by comprehensive sales forensics. More complex “upstream” engineering of marketing cannot de done without a great deal of “downstream” sales intelligence. This was hammered home in an excellent briefing that we took this week from Drew Clarke and Brendan Grady who are senior marketers in IBM’s Cognos division . I have known Drew for years and he is one of the industry’s most diligent practitioners of the science of marketing. At IBM/Cognos his team is making a deep examination of the sales processes and prospect-communications sequencing that leads to pipeline acceleration and productivity. All sales and marketing “touches” to active leads in the pipeline are monitored by and analyzed in laborious detail. With these data in hand, the team can make important decisions about changes to marketing programs. It turns out that event attendance for certain prospects can be achieved with fewer email touches versus previous practice. This and reduces expenses and annoying re-touches. It also turns out that the direct mailing of the highly produced and expensive glossy corporate brochure has less than desired lead-velocity impact. There will be other cost savings and process changes that the Cognos team will achieve through analysis of the sales data.

The key point is that after the “easy” pickings are taken, the harder and hardest upstream decisions can only be made if you have excellent downstream intelligence. This is the crux of the B2B marketing paradigm: long sales cycles , multiple touch points and significant marketing-to-sales interplay makes the ultimate attainment of marketing ROI accessible only to those who can master the sales forensics. Please feel free to comment below or contact me at”

(Interested in a taking a 3 minute survey on sales enablement? Click here:

Tracking Marketing Budgets – Use it or Lose It?

There are many ways to track the success of marketing’s planning process. One metric that is often mentioned by marketing operations teams is the percent variance of actual vs. budgeted marketing investment. One of a few good metrics to track if your processes and systems have matured to the point of being able to do this. . . even if you use Excel today. What variance is acceptable? I’ve seen targets range from 2 to 10% variance. 2-3% variance of actual expense vs. budget would be considered “very good” for a 1B+ revenue company.

Assuming that marketing budget allocation is optimized throughout the year, it makes sense that managers should motivate their staff to spend all monies that they are allocated; including ensuring that certain percentages of budget are targeted to specific segments, campaigns, etc. This leads to a “use it or lose it” mentality if not an official guideline. The problem with this strategy (or culture) is that market shifts requiring budget changes may occur at a faster pace than the company’s ability to react to these changes by reallocating budgets. The result is that market opportunities may be missed as a result of insufficient distribution of funds to where they’re needed most.

Today, few companies encourage different business units, countries or functions to reallocate budgets amongst each other based upon changes in demand, priorities, etc. In fact many companies penalize marketers for not being “on budget” regardless of the circumstances. Will we or should we ever encourage our marketing teams to increase the transparency of their budgets or to even share budgets amongst each other based upon the needs of the market? And who will provide the objective market insight to help these teams best optimize budgets from a more macro perspective? One thing is for sure — the increased optimization of marketing planning processes coupled with greater adoption of marketing automation will improve marketers’ ability to react appropriately to these challenges and reduce reaction times to changes in the company and/or the market.

The Fruits of our MRM Investment

Five or six years ago I was frequently asked the question “What is the one key metric to track the impact of our marketing investment?” Without even breaching the open-ended topic of what is ROI, I typically responded with my own question of “Do you even know how much you’re spending on marketing, let alone what the return is?” In most cases the response would be a simple “no”. After working with 100s of companies on analyzing their investment as well as seeing the progress that marketing operations and marketing finance people have made, I can comfortably say that as an industry we have matured significantly in our ability to track marketing investment . . . at least at a high level. (e.g., Marketing Budget Ratio (mktg. spend/revenue), Program-to-People KPI, etc.) I consider these to be operational metrics as opposed to execution metrics. (refer to past posts for more details re: execution metrics)

Greater sophistication in investment management, which is enabled by better processes and greater availability of MRM applications, may include tracking marketing investment along one or more of the following criteria: (to name a few)

  • Customer size (e.g., named accounts, enterprise, large, medium, small, consumer);
  • Product and/or solution;
  • Campaign;
  • Existing, more mature business areas or product lines vs. newer, higher growth business areas or product lines; and/or
  • Low growth vs. high growth regions and/or countries.

About 60% to 70% of technology companies manage their marketing investment along one or more of these areas. [IDC CMO Advisory Practice Tech Mktg. Benchmarks Database] For example:

  • tech companies invest on average 60% of their marketing budget on existing, more mature business areas or product lines with the remaining budget allocated to newer, higher growth business areas or product lines; and
  • tech companies invest on average 52% of their marketing budget to low growth regions and/or countries with the remainder to high growth areas.

Yes, we’ve made some progress in tracking our marketing investment. This has certainly put us in a better position to manage our investment and improve our credibility with the CEO, CFO and sales peers. But we still have quite a distance to go; especially in making the connection between this investment and the subsequent return. (e.g., increased awareness, greater engagement, increased number of leads, high velocity through the pipeline)

Insight from IDC’s Annual Sales & Mktg. Effectiveness Summit

We recently finished our 6th annual IDC Sales & Marketing Effectiveness Summit. You would think after years of us working towards greater alignment between marketing & sales that we would have figured it out by now! However, as recent IDC research indicates, both marketers and sales still remain unsatisfied to say the least with their current working relationship. (Marketing and sales give marketing a score of 64 and 45 respectively for marketing’s effectiveness at supporting sales) That said, we spent 8 hours with over 80 of the industry’s top marketing and sales folks during this summit discussing marketing and sales alignment; moving beyond the traditional platitudes that you’d expect at your typical conference to actually discuss solutions to our challenges. Here are just a couple of the key insights that I took away from the event:

  • One of the root causes of marketing and sales misalignment?. . we need to better collaborate on shared metrics, including agreeing on which metrics to track and what objectives to set. A few metrics examples?. . . . . Lead aging (e.g., average time that it takes marketing to qualify [or reject] a lead; average time for sales to follow up a marketing-qualified lead in aggregate or by each salesperson); % of marketing qualified leads accepted by sales; % of sales’ pipeline that should be marketing-generated vs. marketing-enhanced; new customer revenue; sales enablement metrics such as time to onboard a new salesperson or an indicator of value of marketing assets to sales.
  • “10% to 20% of sales teams are the ‘A’ players that can close deals no matter how bad the economic environment is. The real challenge is to get the other 80% to 90% of the sales teams to the same level as these ‘A’ players; or at least close to that level. Sales enablement provides the opportunity to leverage this knowledge across the company. Yes we need to improve the formal content, however, the more difficult resources to tap into include the subject matter experts and the best practices of the ‘A’ players.”[Jeff Summers, COO, SAVO]
  • “We found key sound bites, elevator pitches, value propositions and customers’ stories to be extremely valuable to help enable sales; not just lengthy marketing assets and PowerPoint presentations. We established managed business objectives for our marketers that require them to get X number of customer stories and/or key success factors from our ‘A’ player sales folks to share with the rest of the sales team. (e.g., in the form of a 1/2 page write-up or a video tape of a top performer giving their pitch)” [Tom Miller, VP Marketing, ADP]
  • “90% of the time the conversation about your company, its products or solutions or services, is happening without you being present. Marketing and sales need to collaborate on how to best influence this conversation; and that includes increasing the relevancy and overall value of your interactions with the market. To do this we need to permanently change how we view our jobs, having more of a two-way, information sharing exchange with the market versus a one-way spouting of our product features.” [Jocelyne Attal, President JAgency (former CMO, Avaya)]
  • “At a cost of $800 to $1,500 per marketing-qualified lead, we need to apply more rigor to our lead management process, from marketing through to sales; and we won’t be able to accomplish this goal at a systematic level until we better align our marketing AND sales lead management processes and systems.” [Jocelyne Attal, President JAgency (former CMO, Avaya)]
  • Sun has developed an in-house application that provides the applications and an online, interactive repository to personally create sales enablement videos (e.g., product launch training, market intelligence, solution information). Examples of unique features: anyone in Sun can create this content, either for internal and/or public use; all content can be scored and receive public comments, thereby encouraging marketers to improve value of their content; and videos and other media can be downloaded to iTunes. (
  • Carol Carpenter, VP Trend Micro, did a nice job reminding us that we need to improve our alignment between corporate, business unit and field marketing versus simply focusing on aligning marketing and sales. You could say that we need to “get our own house in order” as a first step in improving sales and marketing alignment; including strategic planning, budget management and campaign execution. (further strategic insight on field marketing is available for CMO Advisory Service clients)

Based upon the highly interactive, problem-solving nature of the discussion throughout the day, it is evident that we are progressing as an industry in solving the marketing and sales alignment dilemma; but is improvement rapid enough? Please do feel free to comment below or send an email directly to me at

Marketing Shared Services – An Alternative to Centralization

While the notion of shared services is prevalent across many management functions including IT, HR, and finance, it is for many marketing organizations a business technique that is in its infancy. A marketing shared services (MSS) model offers the opportunity for improved service delivery, greater economies of scale, greater concentration and leverage of expertise, and more rapid and effective program/campaign execution. IDC defines marketing shared services as:

  • Organizing two or more areas of repetitive and redundant marketing activities into a fewer number of activity areas that are offered to internal customers at a cost, quality and/or timeliness that is competitive with internal or external alternatives. Marketing shared services result in cost reductions and an overall increase in efficiency and effectiveness of operations.

Given the difficult economic environment that we are all navigating through in 2009, tech marketers’ who are developing shared services strategy should be prepared to respond to the following challenges:

  • Company-wide mandates to reduce marketing costs: IDC is forecasting a 10% decrease in marketing investment for FY09 (with a 15% decrease for the first half of the calendar year). Tech marketers are and will be forced to permanently eliminate entrenches silos of program costs as well as target duplicative marketing costs.
  • Rigid marketing budgets in the product/lines and field: Given the current nature of marketing investment, comprised of tight marketing budgets and slimmed-down marketing staff levels, the overall flexibility of spend across corporate, BU (business unit), and field marketing is quite limited. With stringent cuts in BUs and field likely, it will be challenging to solicit these groups’ buy-in for a MSS strategy. Moreover, asking the regions and product lines to “give up” some control of their marketing spend will be challenging, and a very thorough business case will need to be developed to even begin the process of obtaining buy-in.
  • Developing an effective worldwide structure for the MSS organization: “Where to start ?” becomes quite relevant here as marketers will be challenged to not only identify the prime functions for MSS but also how to structure their MSS strategy. Which countries and regions will most benefit from a MSS strategy? Where can you best leverage low cost countries? What functions can these countries provide? How can you best leverage your current marketing staff? What will be the impact of language/cultural barriers?

Based on a recent study conducted by IDC’s CMO Advisory Practice as well as findings from IDC’s recent Marketing Operations Board meeting, I’d like to provide some brief guidance and insight around shared services:

  1. Successful MSS strategies start with a ‚Äúpilot test”. Marketing shared services still remains an emerging area across tech marketing, particularly for vendors <$10B in revenue, so the importance of "testing the waters" before moving forward is a critical successful factor. Marketers must first gain executive buy-in, lock down the process, demonstrate overall success and usability, and then roll-out to other areas.
  2. MSS organizations should target marketing’s most repetitive operations and also better leverage marketing automation and related infrastructure.
  3. MSS organizations must be run like a business (not an overhead corporate function) to be successful. A company’s MSS center should outperform the competition (internal and external vendors in areas such as pricing and customer service), build internal success stories, so that the “brand equity” of MSS starts to carry weight and impact within the organization.

The IDC CMO Advisory team is currently in the process of publishing a detailed study that analyzes best practices in marketing shared services with case studies from Microsoft, SAS, and IDG. Look for it in the coming weeks. However, please do feel free to comment below or email us directly.

Seth Fishbein, Senior Analyst, CMO Advisory Practice,