CIM is wrong to call for merger with sales

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Sales and marketing departments have a bit of a difficult relationship. There’s some underlying tension there and that has always been the case. So what’s the answer? Well, merge the two, obviously. That’s the solution according to the latest report coming out of the CIM.

The CIM’s Marketing and Sales Fusion report predicts an imminent dead end in the evolution of the separate marketing function and urges organisations to bin it.

A joint sales and marketing department, says the CIM, can increase alignment, help an organisation hit its revenue targets, increase accountability and work at the speed necessary to compete.

We already know from responses to the story we wrote when we covered this online last week that many of you agree. “It’s a good idea that has worked,” say some of you. “Not something I’d feel too aggrieved about,” say others.

A merger of the functions ignores the fact that sales isn’t the only key relationship the marketing department should have

So why am I not convinced? Well, there’s a lot of stuff in there to unravel. Not least the question of how bloody odd it is that something like this should come out of the CIM (one sceptical senior marketer that we spoke to described it as the marketing body “waving the white flag of surrender” in the face of diminishing budgets).

But the main concern for me is whose job it would be within a joint sales and marketing force to look after the brand. If the measure of success is short-term sales numbers being hit, whose job is it to build the sort of brand power that sees McDonald’s and Coca-Cola as market leaders despite losing out in blind taste tests?

The sales function is vital to any business and needs to be treated as such but I wouldn’t want to leave marketing to a sales director (or, as Mark Ritson argues, the responsibility of sales to your marketing director).

And who is looking after the customer experience? Marketing should be more closely aligned with sales, but a merger of the functions ignores the fact that sales isn’t the only key relationship the marketing department should have. Our recent coverage of the latest in customer experience built a strong business case for effective working relationships with your operations and logistics departments. And with consumption of digital media increasing by the day, the relationship you have with your technology or IT department is vitally important. Think too about your agency relationships. Will a sales-led marketing function really fully grasp the need for some serious time spent with your creative partners as you struggle with embodying the brand in your creative work?

There’s a reason why we at Marketing Week argue for marketing to be placed at the heart of the organisation and it isn’t just self-serving. It’s because by doing so you place the customer’s needs at the heart of the organisation – something a lot of us already claim to do.

We publish again on the January 5. From all of us at Marketing Week, a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year to all.

Mark Choueke, editor

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