Ops: How do you bridge the gap between sales/marketing and your ops teams?

Tips on sales/marketing and engineering/ops collaboration – from the 2017 series of Threads discussions.

Discussion host: Andrew Callard, Marketing Business Consultant/Coach, Business Developer, Project Manager at Aimed Business.


Sales and marketing is a science, just like ops and engineering. It should command equal rigour and status within your organisation.

Marketing begins early for start-ups

Founders are mistaken in any belief that marketing happens retrospectively, to shout about their great idea. Marketing helps share the founder’s vision, it asks and addresses questions, and lays the ground for a solution offering.

Marketing brings your prospect to a point at which they feel ready to engage by giving them the data they need as they need it. Sales are based on your prospect knowing, liking and trusting your people or brand. The sales process can only begin when both parties are ready to talk about buying. 

Both marketing and relationship development should continue thereafter. Marketing should ensure that the existing client base is taken with the business to the new position as repeat business is less costly than new. 

Marketing focuses on perceptions and how to change them. Some perceptions are deep-rooted. For example, traditionally a ‘heavier’ product is assumed to be better quality and engineered. Customer delight may come from adding unnecessary weight to meet an irrational expectation.

Sales/marking & ops/engineering collaboration

It is costly to build a product no-one needs or knows about. You will see benefit from embedding your technical marketing people amongst your Ops/Engineering functions who can then understand why “it must be green” is important to Sales, In return, Marketing can understand why their insistence on a particular shade of colour is the least of Operations’ problems in delivering the product at all.

Marketing and Ops/Engineering should run seamlessly in parallel with no surprises as the result of teamwork and communication. It’s not necessary for them to like one another, but it is essential they trust when one says it can’t or mustn’t be done.

Effective sales and marketing should be systematic, backed by an end-to-end processes which are reasoned, proven and repeatable. There is a place for instinct too, provided it is evidence-based through prior experience. 

Finding marketing value

Marketing value comes from thinking differently and asking “why” or “consider this”. The water glass in the Ashfords meeting room was chosen for reasons beyond just being an efficient way to hold water; otherwise we would all buy the same glass. The different thought may lead to creative fantasy or genuine insight. The Nintendo Wii came from the question “what do mothers want from a child’s electronic game?”.

Value is an expectation based on a comparator and a level of trust. A common experience is the constant bombard of calls and emails from recruitment consultants. Hence the often-used opening statement “we are not like other recruitment consultants” i.e. “you can trust me”. But businesses find it difficult to truly differentiate the recruiter’s range of services from throwing of multiple candidates from the database ’til one sticks, through to the bespoke alternative Hiring Department experience. 

Begin with narrowcasting, as distinct from broadcasting, in your early social media activity. You aren’t shouting into the ether, you’re having authentic human-to-human discussion. Your brand and values will inherently convey.

Hiring your first marketing person

Your first hire in marketing – whether in-house or outsourced – should be multi-skilled, with generalist capabilities spanning strategy, product development, technical marketing, branding, comms and process. You can augment these skills later, once you have momentum.

Giving the right product experience

Consider the morale boost of refreshing the office, its seating plan, layout and decor. Cross pollination of product ideas and positive internal perceptions among your team will be conveyed into external communications.

Opportunities to pass

It may be better to ‘no-bid’ than to price yourself out of a contract that you don’t want. Disclose your reasons constructively, illustrating what it would take for the project to become viable. This retains trust, and leaves the prospect free to return in future.

Published by Andrew Gifford

Co-organiser of Threads South West. Founder/MD and people person at techfolk. Interested in the people aspects of running a progressive business.

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