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September 1

5 Keys to Marketing-Development Collaboration


Marketing development collaboration has long been the elusive dream of marketing managers and development directors. 

Sadly, the conflicts between these two departments may be unavoidable.

Both of these teams are responsible to drive revenue for the organization. When things don’t go as planned, interdepartmental relations can become strained.

First, there’s the perpetual blame game. Members of both sides are guilty of pointing the finger at the other when funding goals are not met.

Then, there’s the ongoing fight for control.

Who’s authorized to send which messages to which audiences? Who has to sign off on which messages? Who controls the donor database? Who should be at the meetings?

Add to that the inevitable slip-up in communication, and you could have World War III in the board room when an executive asks why that last major gift proposal fell through.

It doesn’t have to be that way!

I’ve been a marketer for close to 20 years, and I’ve had the privilege of working with some great development leaders in the higher education sector.

By following some simple guidelines, I’ve been able to enjoy working with these fundraising professionals. I’ve also seen these professional relationship principles at work in institutes that have achieved true marketing development collaboration.

1. Get together… often.

I love technology, but emails, IM’s, texts, and even collaborative project software can’t replace meeting with someone one-on-one.

Marketing leaders should meet development leaders over coffee or lunch at least once a month. This time does more than get you on the same page. It grows your respect and empathy for one another.

Sitting across from the other gives you the verbal and visual clues you need to understand where the other one is coming from.

If misunderstandings lead to conflict, than spending time to understand one another will lead to resolution.

2. Overcommunicate.

Seriously, you can’t overdo this one.

Communication not only sets up the other team for success by keeping everybody in the loop, it conveys your respect for the other side. It shows that you care about their success.

Communication is listening as much as it is talking, probably more so.

Practically speaking, this means that every conversation should start with goals and problems, not solutions.

Too many times, I have seen people come to a meeting with the problem solved, looking only to have marketing “pretty it up.” That short-circuits the process and can cause blame and animosity.

3. Give before you get.

Projects come out best when everyone is generous. Be willing to share your department’s resources, information, contacts, budget, and even the credit.

Something else to be generous with—space. Both marketing and development need room to get their jobs done.

During “all hands on deck” events, both departments have a tendency to pull each other away from their other organizational responsibilities. Here’s an example…

When marketing reports up to development, sometimes development does not think about the other marketing needs of the institution.

I have seen too many times the entire marketing department being hijacked during homecoming to man tables when enrollment is waiting for a time-sensitive communication piece to be sent out to applicants and prospects.

In the middle of these high-pressure events, development has to give up claims to marketing’s time and resources.

Likewise, marketing will have to give up some creative control when it comes to fundraising needs.

Brand standards are standards, not the ten commandments. There are rules to be broken that should be broken for the good of the institution.

Sometimes very specific things need to be done for development that might never be done for enrollment, and that is ok as long as it fits within the brand and the strategy of the institution.

4. Spend time with the other team.

Getting the teams together for collaboration and fellowship cultivates goodwill. But it also helps both sides understand and respect the overall process better.

Marketers can far too quickly suggest solutions that just don’t work or are not sensitive enough for a development officer. Marketers sometimes want to apply advertising techniques or emotional pleas where it just isn’t appropriate.

So, celebrate wins together. Solve problems together.

Eventually, each team will get better at providing what the other department actually needs rather than what comes naturally to them.

5. Integrate your work. Establish workflows.

Remember these critical project management basics to keep work flowing between your departments…

  1. Clearly define who’s responsible for each revenue objective.
  2. Every project should have a deadline and deliverables.
  3. Each task should have a worker assigned and its own deadline.

Taking the time to plan your projects and distribute responsibilities will help calm the blame game. It will also help you to assess what happened and what needs to change if you don’t hit your goals on time.

In the end, remember that you need the other team.

Marketing and development need each other to produce the resources and support necessary for the mission.

Make the effort to tighten your relationship with the other side. You’ll be glad you did.

If you need help with any of your marketing efforts, contact us and learn what our team can do for you. There’s no obligation.

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