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We conduct annual attitude and awareness studies for a major government contractor that provides large-scale technology solutions to federal agencies in six discrete business areas. The first year we surveyed the target audiences, we found that most were aware of only one or two of the company’s solutions within each business area. In fact, in some areas, fewer than 2% of the target market knew the company offered the products.

Our client combined this data with other study results, including a ranking of the agencies’ highest priorities and perceptions of the company’s strengths and weaknesses, to take some performance improvement actions.

  • They developed a multi-year strategy that included an integrated marketing plan to raise awareness of targeted solutions within each business area. Product development, BD, and marketing staff members closely collaborated on this strategy development to ensure that it aligned with the organization’s longer-term product and sales strategies. The cross-functional team also ensured that all customer-facing staff members were working in concert on a cohesive client development approach.
  • The company also developed a selling approach that eliminated its rigid product-line silos to more effectively leverage cross-functional opportunities that meet broader customer needs. Previously, as with many large government contractors, BD and sales staff rarely coordinated across product lines unless they were reacting to a specific client request. The new emphasis on cross-promoting solutions required better and more frequent communications to sales and BD staff members on the breadth of product lines as well as how to better identify and holistically approach potential opportunities outside of their own businesses areas.

Over the four consecutive years we’ve conducted the survey, Market Connections and our customer have observed notable improvements in the market’s awareness of solutions targeted in the awareness-building campaign. More importantly, by implementing a marketing and business development strategy that integrates across the organization, the company is identifying and responding to emerging opportunities much more effectively, resulting in an increase in their contract win rate.

As this case study demonstrates, you could be limiting success by assuming that your staff, customers, and prospects have solid awareness and understanding of your full portfolio of offerings. Utilizing market research to establish a baseline and measure year-over-year improvements is the only way to replace those assumptions with true knowledge.

These frustrations are common in organizations that neglect to strategically align sales and marketing. While each department typically develops a strategic plan, they are rarely connected to one another. However, with leadership’s commitment and facilitation, cross-functional collaboration can produce impressive bottom-line results.

Effective alignment starts with a mutual understanding of buyers’ wants, needs, preferences, and motivators. This requires that sales and marketing management and their key staff members work closely together to share data, assumptions, success stories, failures, and challenges. Then, sales and marketing should jointly champion a market research initiative, ensuring it’s designed to fill the knowledge gaps critical to both departments’ success in driving revenue growth. A research expert can provide guidance on the best means of gathering the market intelligence, whether it’s identifying secondary data that already exists and/or conducting customized primary research, such as a quantitative study, focus groups, or in-depth interviews.

With current and complete market insights in hand, the cross-functional team will be properly armed to collaborate on closed-loop outreach programs, including defining the tactics, themes, messages and offers as well as the follow-up and closing strategies. The team should consider multi-layered programs that carefully integrate marketing and sales activities designed to indentify suspects, engage some of those into prospect relationships, and then convert some of those into customers. It’s also worthwhile to consider how sales and marketing can utilize the new market data to collaborate on individually customized, strategic pursuits of targeted accounts.

In addition to valid market intelligence, the success of such carefully structured outreach programs will be dependent upon clearly defined roles, tasks, and timing for sales and marketing individuals as well as ongoing collaboration, coordination, tracking, and improvement. It’s also important for the team to avoid biting off more than it can chew in terms of the number and complexity of programs, as that will lead to failure and drive people back to their silos. In fact, to enable transparent accountability and fully optimize the chances of success, organizations should utilize an automated tool for managing the execution, tracking, and measurement of these programs.

Though true strategic alignment of sales and marketing requires an investment of time and resources, it unquestionably pays off – right to the revenue line.