Three Ways Marketing Can Improve Cross-Functional Relationships

May 21, 2013

Staff Contributor

5-21-13_thumbExecutives hate to hear the S-word. The very sound of it is abrasive to their business sense, and hearing it tossed around the office is an affront to the culture they’ve tried to build. That word, of course, is “silos” – the word used to describe the extent of divisions between functional departments within the organization.

Deep down, humans really don’t like to share and that means a siloed organization is one that will struggle to thrive or reach its full potential. In Robert J. Herbold’s book “The Fiefdom Syndrome,” the author addresses the turf battles that often undermine company strategies, and your marketing strategy is not exempt from those battles. The author points out those fiefdoms tend to hoard and hide information in order to reflect the view that puts them in the best light. When it comes to your marketing strategy, the discipline of collaboration across the entire organization is an element you cannot give up on.

Departments need to work together and coordinate their efforts in order to maximize their effectiveness. Sales, marketing, HR, customer support, finance – they all need to be on the same page if the organization wants to ensure a consistent brand experience for its customers. But how do organizations get past the dreaded S-word and establish internal working cross-functional relationships?

Engagement, relationship-building, some creative brainstorming…Sounds like a job for marketing!

By leveraging the marketing department, organizations can take down a lot of birds (proverbial, of course) with one stone. Here are three ways marketing can get departments to work together, realize their common interests and goals, and contribute to the brand as a whole.

1. Engage subject matter experts (SMEs)
Both sales and marketing need content to pass off to clients and prospects. This can include salesy resources like product brochures and flyers, but it also includes valuable thought-leadership content like white papers and data sheets. Creating these assets is typically marketing’s responsibility, but there’s a great opportunity to engage employees outside of marketing in a manner that will help chip away at the foundations of your silos.

Marketers are smart people, but their expertise is in marketing. While they can pull together a white paper from research and make it sound good, they may not be considered experts on the subject matter associated with your products or industry. The people who build your products and provide your services, however, would be considered experts on the topic. Solicit their help when developing content. You’d be surprised how eager they will be to help because someone is acknowledging them for their unique intellect. This will help your content resonate better with your audience and will establish relationships across the company.

2. Build brand advocates
This is a topic we’ve covered before, but it can have such a big impact that it bears repeating. You have employees across the country engaging with clients and prospects, but are they all sharing the same message? Marketing can teach sales, customer support and professional services teams how to better communicate with clients through various channels, especially social media. If you can encourage everyone in the company to participate in the dialogue online in a meaningful way, you’ve just created a whole army of marketers advocating for your brand. You should also include HR in this process by making brand advocacy training a priority during the onboarding process for new hires.

3. Help a blogger out
Your company probably has a blog and it’s probably updated by marketing, with contributions coming from marketing and maybe a couple of executives or department leaders. But as we discussed with content creation, other employees have value in their voice as well. Get sales reps and product managers to contribute on a regular basis. They know the types of questions the audience is asking and probably have a better grasp on the answers to those questions. Even if marketing is still writing the articles, at least there’s dialogue taking place in the form of topic brainstorming and idea development.

To put a business spin on an old saying, no department is an island. Marketing can help departments bridge the chasms that can sometimes separate them in a productive manner that plays to everyone’s strengths. This won’t just make the organization work better together, it will make the employees feel like a more engaged and valued part of the company.

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Tags: branding, silos, blogging, brand advocacy, employee engagement, marketing, content development, content marketing, brand consistency

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