Aligning sales and marketing sometimes feels like an age-old puzzle that’s stumped some of the great minds of our time. But an innovative approach may be the cypher that finally cracks the code to bring marketers and salespersons into cohesion.
Britt Erler, Quartz Network Executive Correspondent dives into the concept of one-demand marketing with Gabrielle Wesley, Director of Marketing at Mars Pet Care.
Gabriell reveals the answers to common questions about this approach:
- What is one-demand marketing?
- How does one-demand marketing align sales and marketing?
- How can organizations implement and succeed with one-demand marketing?
Quartz Network: Could you please give the audience some context about your current role and what your team works on at Mars Petcare.
Gabrielle Wesley: I have the privilege of working in the fantastic pet care industry with Mars Petcare. We have brands that you know and love, such as Pedigree, Iams, Nutro, Sheba, and Crave. I’m really excited to talk about how we approach the one-demand consumer.
Quartz Network: Let’s talk about this one demand approach to marketers. What does it do? What are the strengths of using it, and kind of your insight into what’s been successful?
Gabrielle Wesley: Let’s start off with what a one-demand approach really is. It’s where the two primary consumer-demand driven functions—that accompany sales and marketing—work together collaboratively to drive a specific goal or to drive the business. It’s important for a lot of different reasons. It’s important to marketers because our job is to drive consumer interest in a particular product, but we can’t do that unless it is readily available on a store shelf. Sales’ primary function is to make sure they are getting distribution and display working jointly with retailers.
Quartz Network: Has this approach been made more difficult, now that everything is so virtual? People aren’t necessarily shopping in person at stores as much anymore. Has that changed kind of a strategy for you and your team?
Gabrielle Wesley: It hasn’t changed the strategy, but what we have seen is people are definitely shopping online much more. For those of us that were already engrossed in the e-commerce platform and making sure that our products are readily available through online retailers, we were in a perfect position for the panic buying of the pandemic, and the switch from brick and mortar to e-commerce buying. Brick and mortar played a strong role during the pandemic. For some people, the only chance they may have had to go out was when they went to a retail store, so we wanted to make sure we had our products available on the shelf when they were there.
Quartz Network: Why is the one-demand approach so crucial for marketers?
Gabrielle Wesley: It’s crucial for marketers because one of the things we love to do is get our product in innovation out on shelves. We want consumers to be interested in it. We spend a lot of our time with fantastic marketing assets and creative ways to drive people to the stores and drive interest in the product. If it’s not there and available for them on the store shelf, then we basically drove the traffic for no reason. That’s why it’s important to collaborate with our sales partners, because our sales partners are the ones that have that first line of relationship with our retailers to drive category growth within a particular retailer. Without their partnership, we can drive traffic to the store, but if the product’s not there, that’s one of the most frustrating consumer experiences that people can have.
Quartz Network: How do you measure the success of this one-demand approach?
Gabrielle Wesley: It’s really two ways. I’m a marketer that believes sales lift is the best measure of whether your assets are successful. If you see an ad on television or online and it drives you to buy that product, if we’re measuring the sales lift before and after exposure to that ad, that is how I know that ad is successful. The other way we measure is through velocities. Velocities are basically how much time it takes for a product to be shelved, and then purchased. So you go to your retailer, that item scans, and I know how many times that item scans in a given week. If that happens faster after seeing the creative, then I know that creative is effective. Is it slower or at the same rate? Then, that ad is not as effective.
Quartz Network: What are some other key areas that marketers should focus on to make sure that they’re doing this correctly?
Gabrielle Wesley: I think from a one demand approach, one of the challenges we have with the two functions is that marketing tends to plan very far out. We’re thinking about things minimum two, three, four, and five years ahead of time, whereas sales is more a real-time focus, what’s going to happen in the next six months? What’s happening in the next 18 months? Some of that friction comes from just having different objectives and a different timeline. One of the things that I suggest is that marketers take a step back, and work with sales to measure the effectiveness of what’s happening right now versus really pushing sales to think so far out in the future. Ultimately, if you’re not performing well in store today, you’re not going to get to the 3-5 years out to be able to be successful.
Quartz Network: A lot of companies consider sales and marketing as two separate departments, but the movement here is that they’re becoming one giant ecosystem. What are some of the challenges you see? Why is it sometimes so difficult for these two major functions of an organization to collaborate?
Gabrielle Wesley: I think the biggest one is what I said before around timeframe. Sales plans for the here and now, usually in six, eight, and 18-month increments because what they’re working on is in real time. Is something performing right now? Is something going to get on display in the next 3-6 months? Or reset a retailer reset windows to the next retail reset windows? A reset window is when a retailer looks at their shelf and decides to put new products on the shelf or remove them based on performance. That is how sales plans to reach from reset to the second reset.
Marketing plans in years, so next year, two years out, three years out. What happens is, because sales has more of a short-term focus, and marketing has more of a longer-term focus, we’re just not playing on the same playing field sometimes. What I encourage marketers to do is to look at effectiveness of their ads in the here and now, which is something that sales could utilize as leverage with their retailer.
Quartz Network: What are some other ways that you can make sure the two teams align, especially in a virtual environment? What advice do you have?
Gabrielle Wesley: I think the biggest advice I have for sales and marketing teams to work together is first and foremost, to acknowledge that you need each other. Both functions are needed for the success of the business. If you can acknowledge that one needs the other just as much, that’s the first battle.
The second is to find common goals and be very specific in those goals. Define a priority, such as driving distribution for this product at this retailer. Those specific goals are things that the sales team can get around, versus I want to grow this business to two times its size in three years. Those types of goals, while great in a marketing organization, are not specific enough for a sales team or retailer to really get behind and develop initiatives against.
The third thing I would say is, know your role and stay in your lane. I think one of the conflicts that sales and marketing have is that the sales team tries to help the marketers with their roles, and marketing goes too far into sales territory. Make sure we’re defining our roles and staying in our lane. For example, if you’re designing packaging, or putting together a marketing plan, it’s nice to have sales input, but sales need to know that that is a marketing responsibility. Conversely, distribution and display and pricing are solely in a salespersons camp. Recognizing and valuing what each brings to the table, and staying in your lane, are really important for one-demand collaboration.
Quartz Network: Do you believe marketers should gain sales experience and vice versa, or should they just stay separate in their roles?
Gabrielle Wesley: I have found that having a rotation in sales has made me a better marketer. I’ve had the privilege of doing that both at the Associate Brand Manager level, at the Brand Manager level, and now, at the Director level. Having experience with a rotation in sales has helped me to understand how to be a better marketer, how to get my items on the shelf, and build partnerships with retailers in order to make a product successful, so I highly recommend it. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to have a sales rotation, have a sales BFF. Walk the stores with them, understand what their objectives are, and sit in their shoes for half a day, or even an hour. It’ll give you a stronger understanding of what it takes to be successful in sales, because it’s hard. It’s a hard job. There are a lot of metrics that the sales team has to look at every single day. It’s very helpful, as a marketer, to understand what those things are so that you can be of help to them.
Quartz Network: How have you seen sales and marketing work together successfully, both at past roles and current?
Gabrielle Wesley: Where I have seen them work very effectively together is when they have a common goal. One of the things I remember is when I launched a new innovation. I had a sales BFF that walked right next to me to every customer meeting. As a marketer, sometimes we shy away from going to customer presentations. Let your counterparts know that you’re willing to go and present to customers to provide a different expertise, a different face, or a different perspective. By doing that and really feeling comfortable in front of a customer, but staying in my lane as a marketer focused on product benefits and driving consumer interest, I think that that engendered a lot of trust from my sales team. Thus, when I ask them for help and input, they’re willing to provide it. So, it’s a give and take, for sure.
Quartz Network: Did Mars already have this great marketing and sales alignment when you started, or is this something you had to develop?
Gabrielle Wesley: I think Mars does a really nice job of the collaboration between sales and marketing, but it’s up to every single individual. Every product, every category is very different. As a marketer, we have to have the mind to be able to say when to pull back and when to push forward. I think some brands and some categories, pet for instance, we have lots of different channels within our space. We have pet specialty, we have e-commerce, we have food, drug, and mass, and each one of them is very different. I may spend a lot of time with my counterpart that helps with food, drug and mass, maybe a little less so with convenience stores, or things like that. Knowing the organization and being able to flex your style to be able to partner effectively with that salesperson—every organization can have a great one-demand approach, but it all comes down to its people that get this done.
Quartz Network: Any final pieces of advice that you have in general for marketing leaders that are in your position?
Gabrielle Wesley: I think one of the biggest things the COVID environment taught marketers is to stay current. You never know what is going to be thrown at you, so you always need to be ready. As marketers, we need to always stay ready and be ahead of the curve.
The second thing I would say is to always be in learning mode. There’s always something you can learn about another function, whether it be sales, R&D, innovation, or sourcing. There’s always something you can learn in order to be a better marketer. Just be open to that.
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