Four ways to de-escalate the marketing wars

marketing battle ideasAsk any marketing professional at a small or medium-sized business — virtually every organization struggles with battles between marketing and other departments. Often, the fights erupt between the inbound marketing and the inside sales teams; how is a marketing-qualified lead defined, at what stage in the lead nurturing process is the contact handed over to the inside sales team, what activity markers are the strongest buying indicators, etc.

But it doesn't stop there. Marketing battles with engineering, senior management, and the services/support teams can also bring collaborative efforts to a screeching halt. Tension between departments is the easiest way to break a strong company culture, and letting that tension fester can turn cynicism into resentment and victimization.

There are ways to break the cycle of antagonization, though. Consider these four ways to de-escalate marketing's wars and reestablish harmony with the people who work with you to present your company's public face: 

#1. Get some skin in the game.

Marketing's weekly meeting is a sacred event to the parties who sit in the conference room. It's in this meeting that ambitious and creative ideas are hatched, tasks are assigned, progress is tracked, and positive metrics are shared and celebrated. But the camaraderie that allows the participants in the meeting to fully understand the size and scope of a big customer win is also a breeding ground for the kinds of distrust that spark a marketing skirmish.

The "cone of silence" gives everybody involved the free reign to complain about other people or departments in the organization who aren't living up to the expectations marketing has of them. Engineering promised those features two weeks ago, why haven't they delivered them yet? Services promised a case study from a customer in this vertical, why isn't it here?

Don't let the buddy-buddy nature of the marketing meeting poison the relationships the team has with other parts of the organization. Bring in representatives from those other teams on a rotating basis to see how marketing does what it does and why. One week, a sales rep can sit in and part of the meeting can focus on how the marketing-sales handoff is functioning and where that transition can be fine-tuned. Another week, someone from senior leadership can talk about future product direction and help brainstorm messaging over the next several quarters. The concept goes both ways, though — marketing reps should be prepared to sit in on other team meetings to understand how those teams work and why marketing's "simple" asks may be more complex than they realize.

#2. Find and develop unlikely content sources.

One of the most important aspects to accomplish with a company blog is that it can speak to multiple audiences with multiple voices. While it's reasonable for marketing to want to maintain some level of control of the "voice" of the company blog, your best posts may come from people without marketing backgrounds.

Consider: the engineering team walking through alternative applications for your solution may make for an incredibly compelling post. The level of first-hand expertise they can offer will register stronger than a marketing-created case study of a customer deploying that same use case. Engineers trust other engineers; they're inherently skeptical of marketing. And that's okay! You just need to know how to speak to that audience, and if that's with a new or unlikely voice, fostering that content source can help both marketing and the content source's department better understand each other's challenges.

#3. Share customer wins that other departments have a hand in.

Credit is a tricky beast — everybody wants some of it, everybody thinks they give it more than they get it, and nobody's as generous with it as they could be. Learn to give credit to other departments even when they're not expecting it. If engineers in presales had a positive conversation with a new customer and helped move the deal along, don't just make a note in the customer's record, call attention to it with the rest of the company. Share that big win widely and make sure presales knows their efforts are noticed and appreciated.

Everybody already knows that it's up to sales to close a deal. And certainly there are some deals in which the lion's share of the credit belongs to a single individual or department. But sharing the attention, even in those clear-cut instances, can help demonstrate that marketing is aware that they're not the only ones working to bring new customers in the door.

#4. Perform random acts of kindness.

It's not bribery, but it's close. If a department is under-the-gun for one project or another, be aware of the pressures they face and make things just a little bit easier for them. Support struggling to resolve a ticket with a notoriously picky customer? Proactively postpone any meetings you've got coming up, and buy the team coffee during that midafternoon lull around 2 p.m. Engineering working around the clock to meet a product development deadline? Marketing brings in lunch (or dinner) for them, unannounced.

In the same way that marketing wants other departments to be aware of and sensitive to the challenges marketing faces on a day-to-day basis, marketing has to be sensitive to the biggest struggles of other departments. Recognizing when another group is having a rough time is step one, but it's not enough in isolation just to see the challenge. There has to be some degree of empathy.

Similarly, in addition to publicly recognizing when another department contributes to a customer win, marketing should consider little rewards and tokens for individuals outside the department who go above and beyond the call. Gift cards, company swag, PTO (if you can negotiate it) — all of these demonstrate an appreciation for the efforts of others.


Marketing's job is hard. Sell the company, sell your experts, sell your products, and sell your value. Marketing needs the cooperation and assistance from others in the organization to accomplish any one of those, but marketing is the only group who's solely tasked with doing it. Working successfully with those other departments requires empathy and flexibility, not competition and infighting. De-escalating the marketing wars is a surefire way to protect company culture and enhance the customer's experience working with your organization.

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