A common lament of marketing teams is that they often find themselves acting as a service desk to the sales team. In B2B marketing, it is a consistent dilemma.

Marketers are often asked to run an event, advertise a product or produce giveaways to support a sales campaign. There may be merit in trying to re-educate sales, but marketing is better advised to align itself to the buyers’ journey rather than arguing with the sellers. Specifically, marketing should own the overall plan and contribute to its execution selectively.

Marketing can take the lead in mapping out the buyers’ journey, but it can’t do this alone. Salespeople (and pre-sales people) have great knowledge of the way buyers engage. Input from both departments is crucial.

The marketing team can then identify those steps in the journey where it can make the greatest contribution. Here are a few practical contributions it can make.

Environmental marketing (EM) – getting the market ready through advertising, PR and other positioning activities

Begin by identifying the best buyers to ‘trouble’: that is, those to whom you can demonstrate a problem in their business because of the absence of a product or service. Trawl through customer lists to research these businesses. Do the same for businesses that leaked from your funnel even though they still need your help. Assess the differences between the companies that did buy and those who did not.

You may invest in research such as focus groups or telemarketing. Why was one group troubled enough to buy, but not the second group? Then set out to find more businesses with these attributes.

Marketing can position your business with this new group of names. They may not be troubled enough to act now, but you need to ensure that they contact you first if anything changes in future.

Channel readiness (CR) – getting the channel ready through recruitment of direct and indirect channels, creating collateral for them to use, training them and managing their skill and motivation levels

One of the best things marketing can do for sales is to convince buyers that the pain of inaction is greater than the pain of taking action. Doing nothing seems like the easy choice until you spell out what may happen if they procrastinate.

Marketing can obtain great third-party data about the consequences of inaction, and package this into content (seminars, presentations, professional white papers, spin scripts for sales meetings). Then train salespeople in the use of these tools.

Demand generation (DG) – getting the market and the channel together through seminars, white papers and tele-prospecting.

There is little point getting a salesperson to meet a buyer if the latter is not yet troubled by the problem you solve. Worse still is a buyer who is troubled by the wrong problem – the one that your competitor solves better than you do.

Marketing through seminars, white papers, Direct Mail, permission-based emails or articles placed in trade journals can alert buyers to problems that require action and pave the way for sales. The marketing team’s job is to identify businesses that genuinely need help.

Finally, marketing can take those buyers who have leaked from the funnel and nurture them back into the fold until the time is right to re-engage. All eyes are on the buyer, and marketing can provide the vision to capture their business.