The Missing Element in Your 2018 Business Growth Strategy: Sales and Marketing Alignment

By Anna Tindal

Marketing and sales alignment


How would you describe a marketing campaign’s success? Do you simply show your CEO an attractive new website page, or do you track leads and sales?

Research suggests marketers are still choosing to allocate marketing dollars to create “pretty” instead of creating “results”. With only a glance at marketing statistics compiled in 2018, a self-assessment seems to be in order.

Only 61% of marketers believe their marketing strategy is effective. 40% of marketers say proving the ROI from their marketing activities is their top marketing challenge. And, nearly 80% of companies are not meeting their revenue goals. (HubSpot)

The future of marketing is forcing marketing leaders within B2B organizations to ask themselves and speak to, how do we grow the business?

How Growth-Driven Are You?

At its core, marketing is meant to increase sales and grow a business. Is your marketing strategy aligned with that core purpose? Take a quick step back and audit your current marketing efforts with these three questions.

What are your business goals?

Did metrics immediately come to mind? Without clear business metrics, your marketing efforts will not yield demonstrable results. It’s the saying “what gets measured, gets managed”. As marketers, you must tie your efforts back to business metrics that matter.

Are your campaigns set up to generate results that tie directly to your business goals? Or is focus elsewhere?

It’s likely that if your current marketing efforts are directly tied to your business goals, growth is the focus and you are increasing the lead pool and quality of leads with buyer-centric campaigns. If, however, you are focused on business-centric efforts (company announcements, product launches) you are likely depleting your marketing dollars quickly on activities that require large budgets, long production cycles and tasks with limited buyer-driven insights, yielding your business a minimal if any return on investment.

Are you communicating your business goals to your team or agency frequently?

We recommend communicating regularly to ensure your team stays aligned and on board. Whether you are a manager, marketer, assistant or even the agency partner, the business objective should be top of mind so that strategic as well as execution-oriented work is always tied to delivering insights to grow the business.

Your self-assessment answers will help answer the question, “how growth-driven are you?”. If you are like many marketers, there is room for improvement.

Take a look at the list below.

What marketing goals will support business growth?

(Check all that apply.)

  • Increase the lead pool
  • MQLs
  • Brand awareness
  • Sales and marketing alignment
  • Maximizing your marketing automation platform’s capabilities
  • Learning more about your leads
  • Decreasing the sales cycle
  • Improving the quality of leads

Related Reading: B2B Lead Generation: How to Set Measurable Goals

All the efforts described above will support business growth and many organizations are on the right track when it comes to setting goals. 70% of companies say “converting leads to customers” is their top marketing priority over the next 12 months. (HubSpot)

But to increase revenues and grow the business, a marketer needs information. Many marketers are still using legacy marketing tactics to run their business that provide little in return. In fact, 74% of companies that weren’t exceeding revenue goals did not know their visitor, lead, MQL, or sales opportunities.

That’s a critical sales and marketing alignment problem. And aligning sales and marketing is one goal has the potential to yield significant and demonstrable growth, making all your other efforts more effective..

How to Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams

Sale and marketing, or “smarketing”, is a hot topic that will most likely become the future of marketing. It offers a shockingly large growth opportunity that will directly impact your bottom line.

HubSpot states, “Organizations with strong alignment between sales and marketing teams achieve 20% revenue growth on average annually. By contrast, companies with poor alignment saw revenues decline by 4%.”

Related Reading: Benefits of Integrating Sales and Marketing

One of our clients recently highlighted just how essential sales and marketing alignment is for business growth. Despite multiple expensive – and successful – lead-generation projects, they still couldn’t grow their business because they were missing the first, crucial element of sales and marketing alignment: lead classification.

Lead Classification: The First Step Towards Alignment and Business Growth

Our client’s problem with sales and marketing alignment became clear when they asked us to help them become more strategic. They tasked us with bringing ideas to the table for how they could grow their business for the upcoming year. Nothing was off limits but they had 2 specific goals.

  1. Maximize the value of their marketing automation platform, HubSpot and
  2. Align with sales

With business growth the goal, we set out as partners to identify strategic opportunities and deliver our recommendation for the first step.

Having previously worked with them only on projects, we hadn’t taken a good step back and audited their business and the multiple brands they had under an umbrella from a holistic perspective.

Upon review, the strategic recommendation came into immediate focus. Lead generation efforts were consistently increasing their lead pool. Great news! However, nurturing campaigns for the leads didn’t exist. Lead classification didn’t exist. Our large B2B client didn’t know what lifecycle stage their enormous amount of leads were in.

Why Sales and Marketing Teams Need Lead Classification

Without creating lead classification criteria, marketers lose out. They miss the opportunity to send leads relevant pieces of content that could truly influence their decision to buy. Furthermore, the marketing strategy for how you build campaigns, spend budgets and allocate resources has to be based on historical experiences and subjectivity.

But it doesn’t end there. Without lead classification, marketing teams will typically transfer all leads to sales. According to HubSpot, a shocking 62% of B2B marketers do – regardless of how qualified they are.

It’s this process that leads sales teams to de-prioritize or even ignore the leads their marketing team brings in. It’s also why many marketing teams often hear “these are not good quality leads” from their sales team.

Whether you are in a situation similar to our client, with a healthy lead pool that you know very little about, or just starting out, aligning with sales starts with lead classification.

Benefits of Lead Classification and How to Get Started

With lead classification, you will learn from the sales team what they consider to be “sales ready”. You’ll also learn what your sales team uses to understand a prospect. And, the actual process of defining lead classification criteria with your sales team is not only the first step towards unifying the departments but also the step that has the potential to position your business for explosive growth.

Here’s how.

Lead classification allows a marketing team to know:

  • Where your leads are in the buyer’s journey
  • What types of content would be relevant to a lead
  • Which leads you need to nurture
  • Which leads are ready to be passed along to sales
  • How quickly a lead is passed to sales

Lead classification allows a sales team to know:

  • The leads they receive are engaged, interested, and qualified
  • Meaningful data with which to open up the conversation
  • How to prioritize the most qualified opportunities and become more efficient with their time
  • Potential ways to address prospect needs quickly and shorten the sales cycle

Lead classification also highlights for both marketers and sales teams where the focus should be to grow the business. This communication allows for closer alignment, creating a closed loop of information and ultimately a win-win for the teams and business.

Time, energy and budgets are allocated towards launching campaigns that drive growth with the business metrics that matter.

Here’s a 3-step guide to getting started developing lead classification criteria.

1.) Demographic Information

What insights could be collected through lead generation efforts to demonstrate great lead quality? List the demographic criteria for the lead that is important to your business. This could include: Company, Company Size, Role/Title or Budget, Authority, Need, Time (BANT).

2.) Behavioral Activity

What is the lead activity that would ensure the lead is sales ready? Have they visited your site once or multiple times? Have they download an educational piece of content or requested pricing information? List the behaviors that will tell you how interested someone is in your company. This could include: email opens and click-throughs, social engagement or content downloads.

3.) Buying Process / Interest

What are the pain points, needs, motivations, challenges and interests of the lead? Identifying buyer frustrations will allow Marketing and Sales to speak directly to why a buyer should care during the buying process and help accelerate the buyer through the buyer’s journey. This could include: the current solution isn’t effective, there are challenges with getting things done or they don’t have the right strategy in place.

Let Data Guide Your Strategy

Growth-driven marketers know efforts should be tied to business goals and be capable of producing insights. Data should guide the strategy, playing a role behind all efforts with the forethought that marketing can then pass along these insights to sales. Marketing strategists should ask what new insights they can uncover through campaigns that are built to engage with the organization’s target audience. For example, “If it doesn’t produce a sales-ready lead, at a minimum what data-driven insights do we plan to uncover?”

Marketing teams can uncover:

  • What a buyer’s pain points are
  • What problem a buyer is trying to solve
  • What product/service the buyer is most interested in
  • What the budget is for the buyer’s project
  • What time frame the buyer has
  • And many more…

Related Reading: How to Use Marketing Data for B2B Company Growth

With powerful insights, you’ll never have to be in a meeting again where you speak to creating “pretty” instead of “results”. As a growth-driven marketer, you’ll have the information you need to classify leads, nurture them until they’re ready to talk to sales, and improve your ability to speak to your campaigns’ ROI.

Leaders will have a team focused on growth and marketing campaigns driving towards their business objectives.

Your team will consistently ask themselves “Is this strategy or work I’m doing going to generate insights and results that will be meaningful to the business goals?”

And, best of all, marketing and sales will be unified and in position to directly impact the business’ bottom line.





Source: Zoominfo: blog.zoominfo.com/sales-and-marketing-alignment-statistics/

Source: HubSpot: hubspot.com/marketing-statistics

Source: State of Inbound: https://www.stateofinbound.com/




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Ironpaper is a results-driven digital marketing agency. Ironpaper integrates design, technology and marketing for the web to drive meaningful results for clients. We are based in New York City and Charlotte, NC.