13 Questions That Will Help Align Communications and Marketing

It’s debatable whether or not time heals all wounds. Sometimes, though, the passage of time adds perspective. I recently ran into a former colleague, an outstanding digital marketer. When we were co-workers we went at it tooth and nail. Now we agree that the problems between us were due to poorly defined roles between marketing and corporate communications. We also agree that those issues may have prevented us from doing some really great work.

Communicators and marketers are at their best when they can crystallize messages and share them consistently across platforms. Communicators play a critical role in attracting customers and keeping them, in building a loyal and trusting customer. Yet if we as communicators are failing to align our goals with those of sales, marketing and customer experience, we’re missing the boat.

As you start to think about your 2018 goals and priorities, consider convening a meeting of the marketing and communications teams (calling them partners can’t hurt). Also invite other business units you support.

The meeting should be a question session. This process can create the foundation for an integrated communications plan that results in great content creation deployed on the right platforms for your target audiences and measurable outcome and performance metrics.

Here are some questions to ask during the meeting:

  1. What are the metrics that matter to us?
    • Outcome: What do you want to achieve?
    • Performance: What will we do in 2018 (e.g., launch X service or product by Y)?
    • Process: How can we help you hit those performance metrics?
  2. How can we help improve the customer (or prospective customer) experience?
    • Alignment: How will visitors or readers know they belong with us?
    • Service: What do we offer that will help prospective and existing customers the most?
    • Empowerment: How can we help our visitors be the hero of their story?
  3. What’s the theme of our story? This question is about more than defining key benefits. It’s about understanding what we want and why, so we can make a stronger connection with the reader/viewer/customer.
  4. What are the 10 most common questions that customers ask us? How can we make it easier for them to find answers? It might also be helpful to ask for copies of customer correspondence – both compliments and complaints.
  5. What are the points of difference between communications, sales and marketing? The answers tend to center on ownership and process. Turf wars often result when partners forget about the customer. Think about how you can find optimal outcomes for the customer.
  6. What is your most strongly held belief about our business and how we’re communicating our strengths internally and externally? Are we doing this well?
  7. What is our shared objective? Seek the one thing you’re holding onto to get to the future.
  8. What’s going to change about our business over the next year? How about during the next three years? What seems that it will never change?
  9. What's the benefit of inaction? In many cases, good ideas get tossed because "this isn't the process" or "that's not something we do." If we ask ourselves the question the other way around, i.e., “What do we gain from not doing it?” we might arrive at a different outcome.
  10. Are we hunting antelope or field mice? Are we focusing on communicating important points or things that customers find obscure?
  11. If we look ahead 12-24 months, what will be our biggest wins? What will move the sales or profit needle? What can communicators do to make those wins even bigger?
  12. If we look ahead 12-24 months, what is our biggest risk? Are there things that communicators can do to mitigate that risk?
  13. What are two-three product features or services that have (or will have) the biggest impact on our business? Why do those things matter to customers? Walk it back from the feature and keep asking that question: “Why does that matter?” Eventually you will end up with the core essence of the product/service.

And if you don’t always get along with your business partner, you might also consider asking, “If two strangers were put in our seats, what would they do?” This can help remove the personalities and baggage and lead to some great work.

Peter Osborne is founder of Friction-Free Communications. Contact him at: [email protected]