12 months ago the global CMO of GE Health moved all his field marketing staff to the same sales incentives as the organisation’s sales people.

“They know they are in it together. If the sales people aren’t getting what they need and hitting their numbers, my marketing people don’t either,” Glenn Thomas, CMO of GE Healthcare told Which-50 between sessions at Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit in San Francisco last week.

The move reflects how the relationship between sales and marketing has evolved as digital has altered B2B marketing strategies to cater for new buying journeys. For GE Health, which develops and sells medical device technologies to healthcare providers, that means building brand awareness and engagement well before the customer interacts with a salesperson.

Thomas said the relationship was now much stronger but that there’s still a lot more that needs to be done to align sales and marketing.

In the past marketing’s job was organising the right events or the right collateral so sales could be the hero, he says.

“It was all about getting the customer and the salesperson together in the right setting and providing the right mood music,” Thomas said.

That is shifting to an increased appreciation from the sales organisation about the leads coming into the funnel, Thomas says.

“We all have this well understood idea that customers have pretty much done their research and made a decision before a sales guy turns up. So part of the job of marketing is to make sure you are top of their mind and make sure you take them as far along that journey as you can before a salesman is sitting in front of them.”

That puts additional responsibility on the marketers because they need to make sure they’ve been there throughout the awareness and consideration stages of the journey so “as it gets towards the final leg you are in the race and you’re being considered.”

Events aren’t going away – but they are being shaped by digital

Events are “still absolutely critical” and — when well executed — deliver strong ROI, Thomas says.

In the medical technology industry, marketing has been about getting the technology in front of the customer so they can feel it and play with it. That interaction is still important, but events are getting better integrated with digital campaigns.

“We are getting a lot better at ‘digitally wrapping’ the events. It’s the digital experience when you are in the event and the pre-engagement and post-engagement [before and after] the event,” Thomas says.

“Otherwise you just can’t measure impact, you don’t know if the right people have turned up, you don’t know if that event was truly helpful to the outcome to the sales people. Events aren’t going away it is just about digitising them a little bit more.”

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