Death to Silos!By Sue Duris

I like how creativity pops up when you least expect it.

It’s amazing, really.

That’s what happened to me while reading and commenting on Gini Dietrich’s post, Where Does Social Media Belong?.

The discussion circulated around whether the corporate social media function should reside in PR, or someplace else.

While there were many great responses, we all seemed to agree: Social media is in a silo, and when silos happen, everyone loses.

I said to someone, “Death To Silos!” and here we are…the birth of a post!

Silos Benefit No One

I often write about the disconnect between sales and marketing, and how people (employees, prospects, and customers) suffer as a result.

Why do silos happen in the first place?

The root causes can take on many forms: “That’s the way we’ve always done it!” (corporate culture is at fault), or someone is protecting their turf.

In the case of the sales vs. marketing problem, sales doesn’t trust marketing to give them good leads, and marketing doesn’t trust sales to give them good market data, so that they can give sales good leads.

A need is identified, but no one wants to take ownership or responsibility.

Trust Me, Baby

First, there’s the no-trust factor.

Take sales and marketing silos as an example.

Neither sales nor marketing trusts the other will help them do their job, so they help themselves and only themselves.

Silos result.

Teamwork is nonexistent.

Sales are lost.

The only big winner is the competition, because your potential customer is now your competitor’s customer.

No Comprende, Señor

There’s also the problem of little to no communication.

Good communication is the foundation of every successful project. Without it, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

Where there is no teamwork, there is no feedback. Internal confusion results and progress stops. Internal confusion has a way of spinning out of control and leaking outside of corporate walls.

The marketplace sees this confusion and bails, resulting in the loss of existing and future business. In the case of social media in a silo, this opens up potential issues: off-brand messaging, social media policies not being followed, and no plans in place in the event of a crisis.

Danger in the Comfort Zone

Complacency is the most troubling of all. People don’t want to get involved in tearing down a silo. They are used to things the way they are, and are not going to rock the boat. They put their head in the sand, do their jobs, and leave the problem to be fixed by someone else.

Silos must be busted.

Here are three strategies to breaking down silos in your own organization:

  • Champion the effort: It is important department leaders ensure there is open communication between everyone in the organization. Open communication removes potential trust issues immediately. If there are issues between or within departments, leaders should bring key stakeholders together and devise a go-forward plan of working together.
  • Consider cross-functional teamwork: In cases such as social media, create a cross-functional team committed to the success of the initiative at hand. Establish roles and responsibilities, set guidelines, enable differing points of view to ensure the initiative is successful, and communicate regularly to other parts of the organization. Remember, teams are made up of people with differing viewpoints and drivers. Ensuring that everyone’s needs and ideas are represented will ensure your success.
  • Focus on the customer experience: Teams should focus on the bigger picture – helping prospects and customers. If they do that, winning new business ensues. Pulling groups together to develop plans for enhancing the customer experience will place ownership, teamwork, and the desire to help customers above self interests.

Making these changes will result in busted silos – or no silos at all. Everyone wins.

Sue Duris

Sue Duris is the Co-Founder and President of M4 Communications, Inc., a Palo Alto, CA-based marketing strategy and communications firm that helps startups build strong marketing and customer experience infrastructures that enable them to grow. When not at M4, she’s cheering on her favorite Pittsburgh sports teams.

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