There is still very much a lack of alignment between marketing and sales. A lovable cat and dog relationship where marketers accuse salespeople of being trigger happy and impatient and salespeople claiming that marketers are too process driven and scapegoat them for poor results.

Having worked in client side B2B tech sales and working [not as] closely [as I should] with internal marketing teams, I always held the assumption that they can indeed be martyrs. Just a simple question of, “Where can I find a logo?” and being met with a highly strung face plastered with worry and a short delay before they respond, “I’ll send it to you in a bit!” was all too common. This was promptly followed by an antagonising wait with a typed up email ready to go only to not receive my logo until later that week after a couple more chases.

However, what I didn’t see as a salesperson is how a marketer’s role has dramatically intensified over the past few years. The rise of content marketing as a common business practice has added a huge task to marketers’ jobs. Not only do they need to stay on top of traditional campaign-driven marketing and promotions, they now have a continuous and infinite content stream to maintain. So of course my marketing manager probably has too much on their plate to drop everything and send me a logo!

However, busy marketers do present an issue in an organisation by creating “shadow marketers” – in the form of salespeople who think they know what they are doing.

Shadow Marketing

Take my predicament for example… if I was a little more impatient, I would’ve probably gone on google to find a logo of my company and sent that over instead. Problem? It’s not always immediately obvious when a logo is out of date, skewed or too low res for purpose. This makes the business look sloppy which isn’t something we want to get across.

I’ve seen dozens of times before where salespeople have decided to run their own email campaigns as they don’t want to wait for the next official one. This is easy to do via sites like Mail Chimp or even using mail merge on Microsoft Word. Problem? Over targeting an audience, incorrect messaging, incorrect tone and style.

Finally – content modification. Slightly old school salespeople may not like the style of wording in particular forms of content so will sever away to give it their own style. Again, this looks sloppy and is not on brand.

And we’ve all seen those badly written blogposts on LinkedIn that are factually incorrect…. the terror continues!

Now I’m not blaming salespeople for this activity. More information and tools are making it easier for client-facing folk to go rogue with marketing material. They have good intentions but the risk to your overall brand is too great.

Working together

For marketers to pull back control over their content, they first need to embed the strategy within the culture. Marketing needs to work WITH sales to ensure any doubts are ironed out.

Next, we need to make it easy for these rebels to “officialise” their work by simply making it easier for them to contribute content and ideas to the mix. Check out these great tips from Search Engine People on how you can turn employees into an army of content creators.

Not only would this reduce the burden on marketing teams by allowing them to play editor with the content, it also encourages cross-functional collaboration and team work. Not to mention – some really authentic and insightful views from the field.

All this can be stored within a content repository where salespeople can gain access to everything they need in the form of case studies, logos, common RFP questions etc.

In summary – shadow marketing is frustrating as hell but all that’s needed to reduce it is alignment between sales and marketing. Listen to what salespeople need and ensure its adequately prioritised or give them the tools and knowledge to self serve. It’s all about gaining leads and making sales at the end of the day which is a core objective for both parties.

Have you had any awful experiences with shadow marketers?