Sales Vs. Marketing 2017

king-kong-vs-godzillaForbes presents an excellent article on unifying sales and marketing. Note the emphasis on content and joint keyword strategy among its many important points. This article leads me to repost my entry from a few years back on sales and marketing working together:

Ali vs. Frazier. Magic vs. Bird. King Kong vs. Godzilla. Cool. Sales vs. marketing. Not cool. Still, this internal conflict persists in many companies. Philip Kotler, one of the giants of marketing, co-wrote “Ending The War Between Sales and Marketing,” an excellent overview on creating cultural and operational harmony between the groups.

Having worked both sides of the sales/marketing fence, I know the perennial complaints… “Marketing doesn’t give us stuff we can use” … “Sales just likes to ‘wing’ it.” … “You spend a ton of money on fancy marketing that nobody cares about.” … “Sales is just looking for someone to blame when they can’t close.”

Kotler and his co-writers, Neil Rackham and Suj Krishnaswamy, speak wisely on the need to define roles between sales and marketing, moving toward the ideals of alignment and integration. Dialog and cooperation are the watchwords. Unfortunately, as Kotler, Rackhame and Krishnaswamy point out, many companies struggle with any form of interdepartmental coordination (you can say “synergy” until you turn blue). Under these circumstances, even the proximate functions of sales and marketing are likely to remain in their proverbial silos.

Early in my marketing career, I heard a definition that resonated: “Marketing’s job is to put prospects as deep into the sales pipeline as possible.” To the salesman in me, that meant qualified prospects, aware of the product and the value proposition, whose objections have been reduced due to information and impressions already received.

Gleaning from the observations of Kotler et al. and my own experiences, here are some steps to synchronize sales and marketing:

  • Get field reports from sales. What’s working? What’s not? What’s the competition doing? What are customers saying? Make sure sales has supporting evidence.
  • Involve sales in the strategic marketing process (see above). This minimizes surprises and resistance when the strategy becomes tactics and the tactics become deliverables.
  • Prep sales in message delivery. Review active marketing messages with salespeople to make sure these themes reappear in sales presentations (or are not contradicted).
  • Create a strong sales support function. Let sales know that marketing has its back for customized communications as needed.

Sales and marketing must be united since they are two elements of a single process: identifying prospects and converting them into satisfied customers. Their disconnect is ridiculous, destructive, and all-too-common. Open the peace talks now. Have a senior exec (C-suite if possible) take ownership of the new cooperation between sales and marketing. Leave the rivalries for sporting events and monster movies.

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Fake News and Real Gatekeepers

Image result for pope francis trump fake newsIn the wake of Donald Trump’s election, fake news has become a major news topic (note the irony). These are fabricated stories published on the web, designed to stimulate traffic with sensational headlines and claims. The sites presenting fake news resemble traditional media in name and design. Their content is easily shared on social media.

Fake news epitomizes the post-truth era, a social and political climate in which emotion and pre-existing belief outweigh independently collected and verified facts. Amid the victories of Trump and Brexit, Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as its international word of the year. Concern over the effect of fake news on public opinion and actions surged when a gunman stormed a pizzeria falsely identified as a front for a child sex ring led by Hillary Clinton.

Publishers of fake news have multiple possible motives:

Fake news is not a monolith, nor is it the product of a oligarchy as traditional media companies have been considered. Fake news is a decentralized consequence of the Internet, which has greatly simplified the broadcasting of content and fragmented its consumption. Tabloid stories, propaganda and conspiracy theories are not new. Their presentation and distribution, however, has undergone a revolution in the past two decades. The Internet, the heralded “fact checker,” has become the great source of disinformation.

In their book Media Now, Straubhaar, LaRose and Davenport explore the theories that describe the relationship between society and media. The gatekeeping theory establishes the deliberate efforts of editors, producers and journalists in mainstream media outlets to select and shape news stories. New media bypass such gatekeepers who would enforce accuracy and objectivity among their functions. Concurrently, public trust in mass media has hit an all-time low. Detractors of mainstream media consider its gatekeepers fallible and biased, requiring web-based watchdogs for balance. Two landmark cases illustrate this shift:

Three election cycles after the mainstream media debacle that forced Dan Rather’s retirement, many are rethinking the freewheeling approach of Internet journalism and commentary. Such retrenchment is by no means certain. Mainstream media, and the polling they reported, failed to anticipate Trump’s win. Newspaper editorial boards overwhelmingly denounced Trump, including those of several major conservative publications and the historically neutral USA Today. All this suggests mainstream media being out of step, a perception that will continue to invigorate fake news.

Jeffrey Herbst, president/CEO of Newseum, insists that the media gatekeeper is not extinct; the job has moved from media producers to media consumers, the “demand side.” That means us. offers guidelines for spotting fake news. It takes some work. The ability to filter, assess, and benefit from media is known as media literacy. Straubhaar, LaRose and Davenport make the case for such active involvement with media:

Instead of simply letting media bombard you with a cacophony of messages, you can learn to use different media effectively to obtain the information you need to make productive decisions. You can be an active seeker of information and an active participant, contributing to the market place of ideas and a democratic form of governance.

As the demand side, will we demand enough of our institutions, our leaders, our media old and new, and ourselves to neutralize fake news?

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Clinton and Pollsters Lose

On November 8, Hillary Clinton lost her bid for president of the United States. “Shocking” and “upset” were some descriptions of the defeat. National and state polls had put Clinton ahead for most of the race. News media conveyed the certitude of the polls, revealing an axis of inaccuracy as state after state fell into Donald Trump’s column.

This is not the first mass failure to foresee the next president. In the 1948 election, New York governor Thomas Dewey was considered the favorite over incumbent Harry Truman, with major media reinforcing polls’ conclusions. This led to one of most famous images in American political history as a triumphant Truman held up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with its errant headline on election night.

How could so many polls have been so wrong? Errors in both methodology and the data gathered are the likely reasons, mistakes that can affect political polling as well as research for marketing and public relations. Issues stem from the necessity to examine a small portion (the sample) of the electorate/marketplace/public (the target population) to draw overall conclusions.

Research errors can include:

  • Sampling Error–the sample does not accurately represent the target population.
  • Frame Error–the criteria for selecting the sample are inaccurate or incomplete.
  • Respondent Error–respondents intentionally or unintentionally give incorrect answers.

Republican strategist Mike Murphy said on election night, “Tonight data died.” The widespread failure of this election’s polls could be due to a number of factors relating to classic research errors such as those above. Polls may have underrepresented Republicans initially opposed to Trump who ultimately voted for him, leading to a sampling error. Trump supporters may have given inaccurate answers, respondent error possibly due to the best light phenomenon, avoiding criticism of a seemingly undesirable choice or action. They may have shunned exit polls, nonresponse that creates a sampling error.

Not all polls and media missed the mark. The USC/LA Times Poll and the Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP Poll gave Trump the advantage going into November 8. Critics dismissed the polls as outliers, compelling Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, to defend the USC/LA Times Poll in a pre-election op-ed that explained its unique methods.

Polls, media (represented by the cartoon itself), and a smug Thomas Dewey line up against Harry Truman in the 1948 election.

In his textbook, The Practice of Public Relations, Fraser Seitel reminds us that political polls are snapshots of public mood, not predictors of outcomes. Their value rests on applying the latest insights and methods while diligently avoiding traditional research flaws. The media largely accepted the bulk of 2016 presidential polls. The Clinton campaign did as well in not anticipating the threat to its Rust Belt firewall of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Emulation of the methods used in the USC/LA Times Poll and Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP Poll is likely in future elections. Effective execution of polling and accurate analysis of results are less certain.

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