“No man is an island,” the poet John Donne famously wrote, recognizing how humans are deeply interconnected with their environment. The same is true within a corporate setting, however — no marketing department should be an island, either.
Even if the marketing team meets regularly as a group to exchange ideas, discuss upcoming goals and evaluate recent progress, for example, there’s a lot to be gained by doing the same thing with other functional areas in a company. Those in sales, for instance, are obviously on the front lines in terms of generating revenue; their perspective on what customers are saying can be integral to making sure a brand is conveying the right messages. Customer service and support teams, meanwhile, are in some respects having a direct impact on how a brand’s reputation will evolve after a sale, and marketing teams should ensure there’s no disconnect.
Fostering a spirit of collaboration isn’t easy, of course. Everyone in a business has their busy moments, and may feel reaching out regularly to those in marketing just isn’t feasible or worthwhile. Other departments may not want to share certain pieces of information for fear of criticism. The biggest impediment to collaboration, however, is probably habit. Unless collaboration has been part of the company culture from the beginning, marketing departments will have to take the lead in changing it.
The good news is that habits can be changed, and often for the better. No matter what kind of bridges you’re trying to build within an organization, it starts with keeping the end results in mind. For example, collaboration can lead to lower costs because different departments aren’t duplicating efforts in a certain area. Collaboration can also make for a healthier working environment, which can contribute to a more engaged workforce.
Whatever your goals, know that fostering collaboration will be an ongoing exercise that you should treat as an educational journey, adapting your tactics based on what you learn over time.
1. Establish the KPI Connections
Some marketing departments are more rigorous about this than others, but hopefully you have a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that are used to evaluate the performance of a campaign, program or even individual members of the team. Some examples of KPIs include how many customers are reading your company blog, downloading assets like white papers or following your social media accounts.
While those KPIs should be specific to the marketing department, spend some time in your next team meeting discussing the ways in which they might align or support the KPIs of other departments. Sales is an obvious starting point, but it’s not the only one. If the marketing department’s branding work is effective, for instance, what might that mean in terms of the human resource department’s ability to attract the best-possible candidates in your industry? If the marketing team is effective in monitoring and interacting on social media, meanwhile, how might that change the way customers reach out when they have questions or complaints — decreasing some of the call centre volume, for instance?
Be as broad-based and imaginative as possible. Think about the technology tools you use: might they be a way to help the IT department shine, as well as your own group? The better you’re able to connect KPIs across departments, the easier it will be to identify opportunities to collaborate in highly valuable ways.
2. Start an Internal Storytelling Strategy
Great marketing departments tend to be comprised of outstanding storytellers, whether it’s thought-provoking blog posts, engaging videos or even online ads that convert prospects into buyers. In many cases, however, those storytelling talents are solely aimed at external audiences rather than coworkers in other departments.
Without taking your eye off the marketing work aimed at customers, think about how you could use the connections you made between KPIs to create a sort of internal content marketing strategy. This could start with a company-facing blog that talks about how the sales team is using CRM like Sales Cloud to crush its quota faster than ever before. An e-mail newsletter for the support team could include links to helpful articles about increasing customer satisfaction, or tips for managing social media inquiries. An ongoing video series on a company intranet could feature conversations with how those in operations are creating greater efficiencies, or what senior executives are saying at the events where they are delivering keynote speeches.
Just as great marketing content focuses on customers’ interests, you’ll notice all these stories are not about the marketing department, but other business functions. Most people are interested in seeing and hearing their own stories told, and it’s a highly effective way to demonstrate your commitment to collaborating on future projects.
3. Trace Back Content Inspiration
Marketers would be rightly horrified if someone in another part of the company looked at their ads, blogs and other content and asked, “How did anyone think this is relevant to our customers?”
In practice, though, the bigger issue is often that other departments aren’t paying close enough attention to the content their own firm is producing. They might assume everything is born out of research conducted by the marketing department, or by third-party experts they’ve consulted.
Instead, use whatever communication tools you have — and don’t overlook joint meetings or lunch n’ learns — to share where some of your best ideas are coming from, particularly if that includes your peers in other lines of business. A conversation with a sales rep about customers’ frequently asked questions, for instance, might inspire an infographic from the marketing team that tries to make answers to FAQs easier to find. Customer service teams might not only share why those reaching out are angry or disappointed, but the positive comments about the brand that could form the tagline of the next ad campaign, or serve as the starting point for a new case study.
Collaboration, in other words, isn’t just something you pursue and then forget about. Celebrate the outcomes of collaboration in ways that demonstrate you’re listening to other groups within the business and how that translates into greater success for the organization as a whole. Before long, you might soon see a growing number of peers ready and eager to work more closely with the marketing team, too.