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The Universal Translator: How Marketers Can Improve Communication with Internal Stakeholders

Posted on Jan 28th, 2020
Written by Joshua Nite
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  • The Universal Translator: How Marketers Can Improve Communication with Internal Stakeholders
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    How Marketers Can Communicate with Internal Stakeholders

    Star Trek is one of my favorite franchises. It’s a beacon to guide humanity to a brighter future: One without wars and scarcity, dedicated to discovery and enlightenment. 

    (Can you tell I really loved the Picard series premiere?)

    Poster for the Star Trek series Picard

    (He has a PIT BULL named NUMBER ONE.) Photo Credit: CBS

    But the best tech in all of Star Trek isn’t the transporter, the replicator, or even the holodeck. It’s the universal translator, a gizmo that can process language in real-time and convey every nuance and idiom.

    We have a similar technology right now, but… well, it could use some work.

    “Shivers down my spine” turns into “chicken skin?” That kind of margin of error would cause some serious diplomatic crises in Starfleet.

    But we shouldn’t be too hard on Google Translate. Sometimes people speaking the same language have trouble communicating with each other.

    Marketers are good at speaking marketing-ese, for example. But within our team we likely have multiple dialects, and that causes communication troubles. And when we step outside of the marketing department? Well, we’re back to flipping through a phrase book, asking “Dónde está la biblioteca?”

    Here are a few pointers that can keep your marketing team from getting lost in translation.

    Tips for Fostering Better Communication with Stakeholders in 3 Key Departments

    #1: The Marketing Department: Build a Shared Dictionary

    Marketing is a multifaceted discipline these days, and you’re likely working with a diverse team to cover all the necessary skill sets. There’s the more technical-minded SEO folks, the more creative (but still strategic) design and content people, and of course the project managers who make it all work.

    Odds are, each specialty has its own lexicon. For example, our SEO and content teams have one definition for power page:

    Power Page [ pou-er peyj ] (n): A comprehensive, 2,000 word or more content asset that aims to be the best answer for a group of search queries.

    However, for account managers (the ones communicating with clients), a “power page” was a page designed to convert — what content folks would call a “landing page.”

    This misalignment in terminology was confusing for all of us. Once we sat down and agreed on common definitions, we were better equipped to give account managers what they were looking for, and keep our clients happy.

    via GIPHY

    I’ve found it’s valuable to have regular meetings with marketing team members in different specialties. Take a few minutes to understand what they do and the terms they use. The more your team understands each others’ roles, the better equipped you will be to work towards objectives together. 

    The more your team understands each others’ roles, the better equipped you will be to work towards objectives together. - @NiteWrites #B2BMarketing Click To Tweet

    #2: The IT Department: Use an Objective & Solution-Based Framework

    Of course, getting all of marketing speaking the same dialect is the easy part. What happens when you have to talk tech with the IT department? 

    For example, if there’s a shiny new martech solution you’d really like to implement, or if your design team needs to use Macs in a PC-only environment, you might have a hard time making the case.

    Your IT team is likely highly opinionated on these issues, but what seems like stubbornness is just practicality. They need to have a controlled, secure environment. If you sneak in your own solutions to avoid confrontation, you can compromise the work they’re doing. It’s better to try and speak in terms that will resonate with their needs.

    Keep the conversation grounded in objectives. Talk about the capabilities your team needs to have, and be able to explain why they matter. It helps to understand at least a bit of the IT architecture already in place.

    If you’re talking about adding a new solution, make sure your vendor equips you to handle objections from the IT team. Even better, involve IT in the search process — don’t try to bring them in at the end when you’ve already decided on a solution.

    #3: The C-Suite: Leverage Storytelling & the Bottom Line

    Even more so than getting IT on the same page, marketers can find it challenging to communicate with the executives who set budgets and make purchase decisions. In a recent interview, Zari Venhaus shared her tips for speaking a language that resonates with the C-suite.

    “If they’re not marketers, they don’t understand what we do every day and the impact it has,” Zari says. “We had to learn how to storytell.”

    If they’re not marketers, they don’t understand what we do every day and the impact it has. - @zvenhaus on storytelling for stakeholders #B2BMarketing Click To Tweet

    Zari’s team was able to use the same skills that make for great content marketing — empathizing, knowing your audience, and telling a compelling story — to address their internal audience. (We highly recommend you tune in to her full interview below; great stuff in there.)

    Ultimately, with the C-suite it comes down to proving the value of your marketing in concrete terms. That means connecting your marketing initiatives to revenue and ROI, whether it’s raising awareness or investing in new automation tools. It’s one thing to say, “With this tool, we’ll be able to increase conversion rates by .53%,” and another to say, “This tool will have a 135% return on investment within three months.”

    Become a Universal Translator

    We marketers are skilled communicators and strategists. We’re good at getting the right message to the right people in a way that inspires action. The key to good internal communication is treating our team members and stakeholders like our customers.

    That means first getting our messaging nailed down and consistent throughout the marketing team. Then it means delivering relevant messages — offering value, even — to the rest of the organization in terms that are meaningful to each stakeholder.

    As Jean-Luc himself would say: 

    Jean-Luc Picard says Make It So