Do I need to persuade you that communication is important? Of course I don’t – you know better than me that talking personally to your customers or prospects through your website, ad copy, or marketing email is vital. But what if I told you that communication between your own teams is no less important and can impact your revenue, lead generation, and brand reputation? A bit less obvious, but let’s dive into it.
My exploration of the topic started several years ago when consulting the organisation that had an absolutely horrendous internal communication system and no corporate rules as to the information circulation. People could be professional and friendly, but they had no idea what other departments were working at and how their own work could affect the business development and set goals.
IT support – Digital Marketing and Sales
Once we’ve encountered a huge drop in the website behavioural metrics over a weekend: 100% bounce, 1 second time spent on page. SEO nightmare! Though the website was available all that time, I contacted web admins team to find out that they were having a maintenance, and all of the website pages were substituted with the “See you later” message.
In due course, many of the pages got re-indexed (200 server response on the substituted pages) and the repercussions of the event were noticeable for a rather long period of time.
But we are not here to discuss how to treat web maintenance that went wrong. The root of the problem was in the communication. The technical team was not trained to share their schedule with other departments, which resulted in:
- Incorrect approach to the maintenance from technical SEO perspective that lead to:
- Indexation problems;
- Behavior metrics drop;
- Negative effect on rankings.
- Activity unaligned with marketing schedules that lead to:
- Lost visits and transactions from email campaigns;
- Lost visits and transactions from campaigns launched on social media;
- Negative impact on the brand reputation among followers and subscribers (both existing and prospective customers).
- Customers (unaware of their cabinets and transactional information being unavailable during the maintenance time) unable to reach the cabinets online resulted in the negative feedback on social media and via call center and email support. Sales and operations teams were not in possession of the maintenance schedule and could not answer complaints timely and to the point, which resulted in:
- Negative impact on the brand image online;
- Increased workload for the customer service team;
- More refund requests.
All of the above resulted not only in a revenue drop during the maintenance time but also in a decreased return visit rate and negative public feedback.
Analysing the aftermath of the situation uncovered two main points to consider:
- Departments need to communicate regularly – not only during the coffee breaks, the internal culture of information updates is vital;
- Employees need to have a clear perception of the entire business process – otherwise, after such unexpected problem, you will hear “But what does our technical maintenance have to do with your marketing and optimisation stuff? And we are not responsible for warning emails not sent to the clients.”
For sure, this situation is an extreme example of failed inter-department communication in the organisation. But there are other connections between your teams you definitely will want to establish to improve overall results in not-so-obvious ways.
Customer Service and Sales – Content Marketing and Social Media
Once we needed to launch a corporate blog from scratch for a B2B company operating in the industrial field in which no one on the content team was actually really experienced. Hiring outsource copywriters would not work for the same reason, the chances were little to find experts in the field willing to write for us (and to dive into the given solution details at a very quick pace).
So what’s the life saver here? We went to the customer service team asking them to share the most frequently asked questions by the customers, the most usual problems occurring with the first time clients, – and the most often given answers and advice.
The second shot was at the Sales team. What are the most common prospects’ objections they face when selling? What’s their way of overcoming them?
In a course of a week, we had months’ worth of materials to publish on the blog, re-purpose for the social media distribution, and even try for the guest blogging pitches. The collected data was especially useful for targeting the upper purchase funnel: general problems set, common and innovative ways to address those pain points, and of course the in-house solution’s advantages to introduce to the prospects.
In my opinion, it does not matter what industry you are working in, the go-to place for your content should be your own sales reps and customer service angels who live and breathe the product you are offering and speak the same language as its consumers.
R’n’D – Digital Marketing and Customer Service
Niche topical content based on data provided by sales and support can generate and nurture leads, but in order to go further in your funnel and address purchases and retention level, you might need something more specific.
Data driven content strategy to encourage sales and work on customer retention might be hilarious – if you have the correct data. You can hire the best copywriters in the world, but they won’t move the needle for your business before they have data to operate with. And this data is within arm’s reach – In your research and development department.
That is especially useful in the B2B environment. Only the content that will answer your (potential) customers’ specific needs, address their pain points and educate them on your solutions and best practices for your product can actually generate more revenue and then assist in turning the first time customers into recurring and loyal clients or paid subscription users.
Once you have your list of customers’ usual questions and concerns from the Customer Service team and the most frequent prospects’ objections from the Sales, your content creative team is all equipped with topics to uncover. Moreover, you can get the technical data needed to educate existing clients on the problem and your solution via communication with your technical departments.
Sure, your developers and engineers won’t write for you. But consider incorporating the approach that will let you ask them the correct questions so you will have the insight needed for the meaningful content strategy compilation.
- What are the latest improvements on the product;
- How to use the product in the most efficient way;
- Tips and tricks for the experienced users;
- Custom solutions for the users’ needs.
You will be able to leverage these and many more topics for your content strategy if you are in touch with the development teams constantly. And don’t forget, all of their updates are to be communicated to the customer service department to use in communication with clients when needed.
Vice versa, the most regular problems reported by the clients and their wishes about the product updates and improvements can be used by the R’n’D teams to analyze and come up with the further development plans which might be willingly approved by the C-suite as addressing the immediate customers needs.
PR, Digital Marketing, and Social Media
The need of cooperation between these three teams seems the most straightforward and obvious but still, their operations are going in silos sometimes. Not so unusual picture, it appears, when the guest blogging outreach is performed as a simple link building activity not having the opportunity of gaining trust, widening the brand exposure, and addressing the audience as its primary goals.
Another great example may be the situation when a company participates in a large industry event, and the team is doing great to contribute a lot to sales and (offline) lead generation through networking, but how is it leveraged in a long term perspective for building online brand reputation? Because of being unnoticed on company’s official social media, on industry blogs, and related media, the team’s success won’t be considered a success immediately after the event is over. The leads from there should be followed up first.
A simple communication between the event team and the content and social media departments may give an enormous amount of material to use in online publications that will generate new leads and help to build a strong expert profile that will last for a long time after the original event. A joint effort of online and offline public relations teams, digital marketing, content and social media departments can really move the needle in terms of growing sales and revenue.
So, that’s agreed. But how to approach it?
The process of building the stable relationships between all of the teams involved in business is complicated and sensitive. People do not want to feel as if someone is trying to use their time and effort to do the tasks that are not in their immediate field of responsibility.
So, that’s where the integrated view on the business process comes into limelight. The corporate culture of sharing successes and challenges, feedback for the colleagues and readiness to help with the strong understanding that the needs of your own department and team will be met in return is a must.
And that is becoming even more important if part or all of your teams are working remotely or are in different locations. Technically, the healthy communication cycle might include:
- Internal news updates for all of the employees – corporate email newsletter should not only celebrate business success but also highlight wins of all the teams, both technical and customer oriented;
- Corporate culture of email/messengers feedback – you need to set a routine of answering requests from other departments. As I always say, “I do not know” is an actionable answer and is way better than no answer at all. All the teammates must be sure that all of their cross-department questions and requests will be answered in a timely manner;
- Inter-team Technical Talks where delegates from different departments share their successes, challenges, interesting examples of daily work, etc. – so that all the teams are aware of what others are working at. Consider using online conference tools here and gamify the process where possible to keep everyone engaged and interested!
- And, of course, encourage personal communication between staff – especially if the teams can only connect online and there is no chance of having a small chat during a lunch or a coffee break.
As more and more companies across the globe work with the remote teams, it’s important to build and maintain internal online communities for your employees. Facebook and LinkedIn offer suitable options with their hidden online groups, but there are plenty of other handy solutions like the HipChat chat rooms, intranet resources with forums, or the discussion boards.
Don’t get me wrong here: chatting about personal matters during the work day is not the best practice of a corporate time management. But to build a healthy and productive internal communication between team members, the reasonable level of personal engagement is definitely needed. And to achieve that, dedicating some time to chatting or commenting on the personal news might be considered a wise time investment. The less official communication channel company has for its workers, the more efficient information sharing between departments is.
The need of cooperation between SEO, SEM, SMM, marketing, and PR teams is pretty obvious. But let’s not overlook the importance of information coming from sales, customer service, and operations teams for the proper online communication on social media, in online communities pre- and post-conversion; and the possibility to use those insights in such digital marketing activities as topic and keyword research, link prospect research, etc. Moreover, communication between SEO and IT is essential for technical optimisation. But along with that, R’n’d and IT teams are in a possession of information that can be used for expert opinion content.
Working with companies that have their teams employed remotely in different locations and time zones, I cannot stress enough how important it is to build solid and continuous online communication cycle within your corporate divisions. It can immensely help you to achieve your primary business objectives more quickly and efficiently.
This is a guest article by Natasha Kvitka. With over 10 years of experience in search Natasha specialises in brand online reputation management and integrated digital marketing strategies development. Currently a digital marketing strategist at GiftBasketsOverseas.com. You can connect with Natasha on Twitter and LinkedIn.