We put our marketing team, sales team and president in one room for five hours. You won’t believe what happened next!

If you’ve landed here hoping to see a video of people in suits fighting like animals in the wild (think Mean Girls), you’re probably going to be disappointed. Sorry.

If you’re interested in seeing how sales and marketing can work together to make wonderful things happen, then you’re in the right place. This post is a lesson in strategic marketing, and how starting with the basics can make all the difference in a marketing plan.

So what happened when we put our sales team, marketing team and president in one room for five hours?


(Okay, not really magic, but something with the potential to create magic.)

Here’s the situation: If you’ve spent much time on our website, you might know that we offer a pretty broad range of services. We offer presort services to help businesses get discounts on postage rates; statement processing services for banks, credit unions and anyone who sends bills to their customers; and integrated marketing services with print and direct mail as a primary focus.

While being a one-stop-shop is great for our customers, it can be a bit of a headache for our sales and marketing teams. The reason: our services provide benefits for many different roles in many different ways, which makes it difficult to adequately communicate that to the people who need to know.

Other marketers, does this sound familiar?

Even if your business specializes in one thing, it can still be difficult to nail down the proper messaging if you haven’t TRULY examined your audience. Which is why we decided to get everyone together to determine the top five customer personas who we should be educating about our product.

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, your audience is ultimately the same: HUMANS. On the other hand, humans can be very different from one another. Especially in a B2B environment, the needs, wants and concerns of our audience vary from company to company and role to role. We can work directly with a marketing director who wants to increase revenue, an IT manager who is focused on integrating new technologies with existing platforms, and an operations manager who is concerned with streamlining processes. If we try to use the same message to reach all three, we are bound to fail with at least two.

So we called our sales team and president to a meeting, fed them candy and lunch and “picked their brains” for five hours.

And it was beautiful.

Here’s what we got out of it – and what I think you could get out of this type of meeting, too:

  • A list of the primary job titles/roles of the people we (want to) work with most often. It sounds so simple, but the first step to creating an effective marketing plan is to define WHO you should be talking to. As I said before, we could work with so many different roles; but our limited time means that we can’t create marketing content for every type of person. That’s why we narrowed it down to five.
  • An understanding of the roles, motivations and buying concerns of our key audience members. In a blog post a while back, I discussed the importance of defining your audience – and getting to know them – before developing a strategic marketing plan. This step is going to be invaluable as we create content to help educate our customers and potential customers about our industry and our business.
  • Direction for our marketing plan. Now that we know WHO we should be talking to, we can figure out where we need to be to get in front of them.
  • Direction for our marketing message. What matters to an IT manager is not the same as what matters to a marketing manager. We were able to distinguish the different members of our audience to help determine how we’ll communicate the benefit of our business to them. This principle also applies in B2C settings.
  • A greater sense of collaboration between marketing and sales. Including everyone in this strategic planning session helped us build trust between sales and marketing and create a sense of shared responsibility. Plus, it just made sense. Since our marketing department isn’t necessarily interacting with customers regularly, we needed help from sales to get an idea of who we should be talking to, and how they like to hear from us. If you don’t have a sales department, it may be customer service representatives or front office staff – anyone who has regular interaction with your existing customers.
  • A lot of laughter. Most people might cower at the thought of a five-hour meeting, but it helps when you have great people, food and candy/coffee/treats to keep people awake and engaged. Yes, we lost steam at some points, but we were able to power through and even had a few suggest that they could go on longer.
  • A new word for the EYR dictionary. Strategery (n.) – Formal definition coming soon.

So here is your challenge: If you haven’t already figured out your key audience personas, take the time to talk to your sales team about it. You may have to do it one-on-one over a few weeks, or you may be able to schedule a five-hour meeting. Either way, get to know your primary audience members – who they are, what motivates them, what buying concerns they have, and what might push them toward choosing you over a competitor.

The next step after that? Establishing the buying process and the information each persona needs at each step. But that is for another meeting…

P.S. Thank you to Jay Hildago and the American Marketing Association West Michigan for an incredibly timely event focused on building customer personas for lead generation. Your presentation helped us tremendously! (Read a recap of the presentation here.)

P.S.S Another big thanks to SpeakEZ Lounge for providing us with the fuel to get the job done. Lunch was fantastic!

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