We recently spoke with Kay Kienast, the head of marketing for Seagate Technology’s EVault division.  Kay has served as an executive marketing leader for Xerox’ enterprise division, Lexmark, Cisco, and notable startup Avocent.


The topic of our interview is the importance of brand positioning.  Customers and prospects often have a hard time articulating their problem and understanding the real cost of the status quo. It can feel less risky to do nothing than to change.  To grow revenues faster than the market and the competitors you need to help them think through their issues, quantify their pain, evaluate their options and select your solution.


Without proper brand positioning and compelling messaging buyers will not act and you will not grow. We discussed how brand positioning needs to be consistent across channels.  How sales and marketing need to send a unified messaging to the customers to reduce confusion, regardless of the channel.


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What are the major challenges you have run into over your career as a B2B marketer when establishing a brand position?


The challenges also lead to big opportunities if we get them right. What I found is marketing and sales really still are not working well together. Sales and marketing are having meetings and talking to each other now but they are not working from a joint coverage map.


Most B2B organizations have both an outbound calling function and demand generation.  The outbound calling function is often referred to as a SDR or Sales Development Rep.  The SDR and demand generation roles can confuse customers if they are not working optimally together.


Orchestrate marketing and sales alignmentDeveloping a joint coverage map involves establishing the rules of engagement so all touch-points convey the brand position accurately. The rules need to determine exactly how all interactions are managed.  For example, when an MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) is developed by a SDR they will contact the prospect typically 5 to 7 times both with emails and calls. At the same time marketing is doing the same thing communicating with prospects through email and offers. Through these interactions the customer must experience a common brand without conflict. 


As marketers and sales leaders we frustrate the customers when we aren’t working well together. All the interactions need to be coordinated in such a way that it’s a consistent message.


 What is the biggest drivers that causes the problem of sales and marketing not working well together to position the brand?  


CRM and marketing automation tools give us the systems to work together, but there are rarely clearly defined joint goals.  No objectives or processes on how sales and marketing use these tools together.  The tools give us access to digital and social marketing capabilities and the opportunity to send many messages at minimal cost.  The sheer noise coming from marketing and the self-marketing done by sales causes distrust between sales and marketing.  If you think this isn’t true, just review if the sales team regularly asks for their opportunities to be removed from marketing campaigns.


How does misalignment between sales and marketing frustrate customers and prospects?


As a customer, imagine the frustration if you have marketing, SDRs and the direct sales force contacting you often with disparate selling messages.  We need to look like the same organization however a prospect engages. There needs to be continuity between the regions for both support and the sale and service of those solutions.


The status quo situation that our customers and prospects find themselves in is that we are confusing them because we’re not on message.   The customer doesn’t have the same experience when they’re engaging with your brand through different channels.


 How can we improve the customer experience to properly convey the desired brand positioning?


We need a joint marketing and sales go-to-market plan, versus the way sales and marketing goes to market separately.


Today sales ops will identify the target customers, the territory and the rep assignments.  On the other side, marketing is creating a target list, a demand-gen plan, a social media plan, and on and on and on. It’s 2 separate organizations trying to put together very different plans. We need a single plan that sales and marketing can both support. That might even mean that we have to look at our organization structure and evaluate whether having two disparate functions is not the way to go.


Once a plan is in place, there needs to be very meaty weekly, and bi-weekly meetings focused on the key performance indicators. Revenue should be the major key performance indicator with both sales and marketing evaluating performance.


 One plan jointly created by a single marketing and sales team represents an ideal state. How do we go from our problematic status quo so to speak to this opportunity filled future?


It will be different for every organization, but should be approached with a phased approach. Prioritizing the joint coverage map as a first step.  Developing the plan together in a coordinated fashion and in phases is the right approach.


What do you say to the skeptic who says that it’s never going to happen?


IDG shared new research at a conference last month that indicates that a third of the Fortune 2000 companies will be gone within the next 3 years. That’s very scary to think about.  IDG described the pace of digitization and the disparity between the organizations will cause a chasm and customers will not buy. The cost of doing nothing is pretty scary.


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Greg Alexander

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by getting the product team, the marketing department, and the sales organization into strategic alignment.

Greg is the host of The SBI Podcast, the most listened to sales and marketing podcast on the internet.


He is the host of SBI TV, a monthly television program broadcast on the internet featuring top B2B sales and marketing leader sharing their strategies to grow revenues.


Greg is the Editor-in-Chief of The SBI Magazine, the leading B2B publication focused on sales and marketing effectiveness.


He is the author of two critically acclaimed books Topgrading for Sales and Making the Number.


Greg has authored over 100 articles on SBI’s award winning blog, The SBI Blog.


He graduated from The University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BA in English and received his MBA from Georgia Tech.




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