Smarketing 101 for LSPs
As language service providers start to mature, they invest in hiring either marketers, salespeople, or account managers, and eventually staff all of these functions. These groups often operate in silos with minimal coordination across their activities. Yet, in an ideal world, a close collaboration ensures marketing brings in qualified leads that are interested in hearing the pitch of your sales team and then warms up these leads so that the sales messaging is more effective. When you break down the sales and marketing silos, you get “smarketing.” And it’s time LSPs embrace its principles.
The Shift in Responsibilities between Sales and Marketing
But let’s first review the usual division of labor in the growth roles of a company, because the traditional distribution of responsibilities between marketers, business developers, inside sales – often called sales development representatives (SDRs) – and account managers is evolving. This forces a rethink of responsibilities in the continuum of care from “suspect” to “client” to “evangelist.”
- Marketing owns a greater portion of the discovery journey than in the past. This trek begins when the prospect learns about the existence of your company and its capabilities. In the past, marketing success amounted to delivering leads to a salesperson. Now, because a greater portion of the journey is digital, prospects have often already gone through the top half of the sales funnel and developed some level of trust in your brand and capabilities by the time they communicate with a business developer.
- Sales takes over marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). Business developers or SDRs take over the lead and further qualify it to validate its fit based on your most-wanted client criteria. The transition from the marketing team to the sales team is a particularly sensitive transition point: it’s not uncommon that sales drops leads from the marketing team or finds that MQLs don’t match their desired targets closely enough. At the same time, marketing to these leads should happen in close collaboration with sales to increase closing ratios.
- A similar handover occurs when account managers take over from sales. When this happens depends on the LSPs’ business model, but typically, the business developers take a minimal role once the relationship is established, letting account managers and marketing communications take the lead in nurturing and growing the account. Any transition presents extra challenges to ensure a smooth transfer of data about a client. It takes extra care to provide a smooth journey in which all growth groups have a role to play, even if project and account managers run the show from this point on.
Synchronizing Growth Functions
The concept of smarketing has become a critical element of organizational design – that’s when you align the activities of sales and marketing teams, which should also encompass inside sales and account management. A coordinated approach maximizes your spend and enables a more cohesive journey for prospects and clients. You’ll approach prospects with a continuity of care that epitomizes a client-focused mindset and demonstrates that you are not contacting them randomly.
So, what can LSPs do?
- Make alignment part of your culture. This starts at the top with your highest-level managers for your sales, marketing, and account management departments and trickles down to the frontline workers in those teams. If you treat these functions as silos, then so too will your staff. Ensure teams are positioned to collaborate, not be adversaries. This involves performance goals and incentives that are aligned across the teams. Build a level of understanding so they respect each other – you don’t want salespeople to complain about marketing, or vice versa. Even simply sharing the same terminology regarding what constitutes a lead will help increase alignment.
- Increase communication across teams. If they are working in-house, think about mixing their desks together. If you operate in a virtual format, use collaboration tools to encourage getting each other’s input on an ongoing basis. Why not even create a smarketing@ distribution list to more easily share important information across groups?
- Hold regular joint meetings. This will enable sales to suggest ways to follow up on a new marketing idea for a two-pronged approach. Then have your lead marketer present options to support specific sales initiatives and the account management team assist with providing data that helps support strong campaigns. Any decision by one team should raise the question, “What does this mean for the other department?” – especially when you have a distinct division of labor – and also more generally, “How can we multiply the effects of this initiative?”
- Focus your effort on your ideal client personas. All teams should collaborate on continuously refining target market segments and the client personas that represent the ideal entry points to sell to organizations in those segments. Providing a feedback loop on leads will help improve lead scoring and in turn conversion ratios. Proactively collecting patterns on client behaviors can also help evolve your definition of most-wanted clients to better catch their attention.
- Synchronize your effort. Develop sequences of actions to move leads from one stage of the pipeline to the next by combining both marketing content and sales interactions. Leverage the concepts of lifecycle marketing so you don’t just bring in leads through your website or an event, but nurture those leads to bring them closer to being ready to buy – and eventually to grow their spend.
- Align data from all groups. Demonstrate the results of the synchronized efforts. For example, include in your reporting numbers on leads generated by marketing, the percentage followed up by sales, and the conversion ratio of these opportunities. Low conversion ratios could mean insufficiently-qualified leads, poor lead handover processes, or inefficient follow ups.
- Reduce communication latency and information losses between groups. Think about a prospect who reached out via live chat, downloaded a resource on your website, or whose contact information the marketing team derived from a virtual tradeshow. How much time will it take for your salesperson to receive the information and then contact the prospect? Develop relay mechanisms that take minutes or hours rather than days or weeks. Set expectations for the acceptable amount of time to follow up on a lead and to provide feedback to the marketing team regarding the quality of leads.
When alignment is reinforced through ongoing meetings that tackle topics such as a cohesive journey for prospects, efficiency in addressing the needs of prospects and clients, shorter sales cycles, and better understanding of the prospects’ pains, you will maximize your sales and marketing budget, enable salespeople to meet their goals, and create a smoother experience for prospects and clients.
About the Author
Director of LSP Service
Focuses on LSP business management, strategic planning, sales and marketing strategy and execution, project and vendor management, quality process development, and interpreting technologies
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