In B2B Marketing, the CFO May Be Your Most Important Customer

CFO MarketingMany B2B marketing managers believe that their primary customer is the Sales VP, or perhaps the end-customer, or even the CEO. While these are very important constituencies, you shouldn’t forget the person who may have the most influence over your career – the CFO.

My last blog post talked about how to get your share of the 2017 marketing budget, using several different budget allocation methods. However, none of these methods will work unless the CFO has faith that whatever you are spending contributes to revenue. This is what I call the “marketing as investment” model, instead of the traditional “marketing as expense” model.

Here are some things you don’t want your CFO to say to the CEO about you or your department:

  • Those guys spend a lot of money but I have no idea what they are accomplishing.
  • Why should we give marketing more budget if they can’t show better results?
  • Why is the sales team always complaining about the marketing department?
  • We have to cut the budget – let’s start with marketing since they are such a large expense.
  • Every time I ask marketing what they are doing, I hear a bunch of gobbledygook!

To make sure this type of language is never used to describe you, let’s look at what CFOs are looking for from their marketing departments. As you can see, four out of the top-six goals relate directly to measuring the effectiveness of B2B marketing spend and activities as a driver of sales pipeline and revenue.

CFO Marketing Survey

Note that the fourth goal listed is to achieve non-financial goals (i.e. brand awareness) but even here I would argue that the reason we spend time building the brand is to make it easier to achieve revenue. I’ve never met a CEO or CFO that would trade some of their revenue for a stronger brand (or for almost anything else). In the end, it comes down to the marketing department’s ability to increase awareness, generate leads and facilitate sales, all in the pursuit of more (profitable) revenue.

So how do you impress your CFO and ensure not only a favorable impression but more important, the necessary funds to accomplish your mission? Here are four strategies:

  1. Understand your customer.  Most CFOs have a set of challenges and objectives that are not the same as yours. See the world from their perspective and you are more likely to win the perception game.
  2. Tightly align with sales. Creating a service level agreement (SLA) to outline the processes, expectations and deliverables of both departments – will go a long way towards satisfying both the CFO and CEO. Chances are, if the sales team is happy with marketing, the executive suite will likewise be happy.
  3. Revenue…revenue…revenue. Whenever you can do so, shift the focus of the discussion from activities (expenses) to revenue (investment). Investments in revenue are much more palatable than increases in spending, so modify your language accordingly.
  4. Measure what matters. As a B2B marketer, you no doubt understand the importance of capturing all types of performance metrics. But the ones that matter most to the CFO will all point to how what you do, and what you spend, contribute to revenue. That is why our lead-to-revenue (L2R) modeling process always starts with revenue targets and works backward to set goals for inquiries, awareness, website traffic, and so forth.  

 I’ve worked with a couple of CFOs that had such a fundamental misunderstanding that they never could see the value in what their marketing department did. Fortunately, these types are not common and if you follow the above advice, you will not only have a more satisfactory working life but also a much healthier marketing budget.   

Secure Your Share of Rising B2B Marketing Budgets

Marketing BudgetThe press release announcing Gartner’s 2016-2017 Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Spend Survey showed that marketing budgets rose for the third straight year.  Marketing budgets increased to 12 percent of company revenue in 2016, up from 11 percent in 2015. Fifty-seven percent of marketing leaders surveyed expect their budgets will increase further in 2017. Only 14 percent of marketers say they are bracing for budget cuts, but this is up from 3 percent just two years ago.

At Fusion Marketing Partners, we deal with lots of B2B companies and our experience echoes the Gartner research. Here are some observations about why marketing spend is on the rise and why you may be in a great position to justify a larger spend as you craft your 2017 marketing budget:

1.     Prospects and customers spend more of their time with marketing assets than sales assets. Studies range on the exact statistics, but most strongly point to the fact that prospects do a lot of their research online, prior to engaging with a sales rep. If you don’t have the right resources to guide them, you lose the prospect to the competitor.

2.     Throwing more sales reps into the mix is not solving the revenue challenge. You need a complete lead-to-revenue strategy that covers everything from creating initial awareness to closing deals.

3.     Marketing has accepted a wider range of responsibilities ranging from customer experience to revenue–generating systems. As Jake Sorofman, research vice president at Gartner stated, “Over the last several years, we’ve witnessed an expansion of the CMO mandate, from what was largely a promotional role to what is now often seen as the growth engine for the business. … In more than 30 percent of organizations, at least some aspects of sales, IT and customer experience now report into the CMO.”

4.     Smart marketing managers have learned how to prioritize spending on productive and measurable activities that tie into revenue. This ‘lead-to-revenue investment model’ makes the budget process more efficient and predictable. Read more about the top 10 sales and marketing metrics.           

Im often asked to advise companies on how to establish the correct marketing budget. In addition to the percentage of revenue described above, there are several other methods:

       Competitive Parity: With this method, you figure out what competitors are spending and then budget enough funds to keep up with, or surpass, the partner. The problem is, it’s usually difficult to find out what they are spending and their circumstances may be so different that a head-to-head comparison is not helpful.  

       Objective and Task: This is our go-to method. We set the objectives, identify the tasks necessary to achieve those objectives and then determine the budget necessary to complete those tasks.

       Lifetime Value (LtV): The LtV method works in scenarios where it is worth spending more to obtain a new customer because they produce so much revenue over the time they do business with you. This will often produce much higher spending scenarios than the more traditional and formulaic methods. For example, Salesforce.com spent $25.4 million to achieve its first $5.4 million in revenue. 

       What You Can Afford: Sometimes, your marketing spend is limited by the amount of money you have left over after other expenses — or the amount the CEO or CFO gives you to accomplish the mission.

       Lead-to-Revenue (L2R) Budgeting: With L2R, we establish the revenue targets and work backwards to determine how many opportunities, qualified leads and inquiries are needed to meet the revenue target. L2R is a highly effective way to make sure you spend the right amount on lead generation, but it is not so helpful when it comes to budgeting for other expenses like personnel, PR, website, etc. 

Regardless of the marketing budget methodology you use, it is important to start the process early enough in the planning cycle to ensure the right allocation. If you truly believe (and I hope you do) that marketing has a big impact on revenue, you are doing your company a favor by helping them invest in an area that will have many positive benefits downstream.

Improve Your B2B Marketing in 30 Minutes or Less

B2B Marketing Act NowYou are overwhelmed, I am overwhelmed – the whole darned world is overwhelmed. It seems there is so much required of each of us that we can’t find the time to get those big projects finished. But the good news is – there are many smaller actions you can take – in 30 minutes or less – that can individually or collectively have a big impact on your performance and your company’s results. Here are 20 such items.

  1. Obtain one (or more) customer testimonial(s).
  2. Call up a sales rep and really understand what is going on in his/her world. Better yet, call two.
  3. Write the introductory paragraph to the next great piece of sales collateral.
  4. Come up with a new and compelling offer.
  5. Call or email a strategic partner and get some joint marketing going.
  6. Figure out a strategy to add video and/or audio to your website and sales materials.
  7. Write a quick online customer survey to make sure you are on the right track.
  8. Improve your landing page performance by 10% or more by upgrading the copy, images or offer (perhaps all three?).
  9. Draft the outline for your next killer webinar.
  10. Tweak the copy on your best email promotion – with a goal of boosting response by 10%.
  11. Write the title and outline for your first or your next eBook.
  12. Evaluate your brand message/value proposition for differentiation and freshness.
  13. Figure out one way you can better support your company’s revenue goals.
  14. Write a memo to get budget authority for your next lead generation campaign.
  15. Come up with a theme for the next major social media outreach – perhaps one that will go viral.
  16. Write the first paragraph of your next blog (or the whole blog if you are really fast).
  17. Upgrade your metrics dashboard to best prove marketing’s contribution to revenue.
  18. Jot down three action items that can improve your website – from both an awareness and conversion perspective.
  19. Send a thank you note to a key customer, partner, vendor or colleague.
  20. Stop and ponder your good fortune – if possible, find a way to pay-it-forward.

Not all of these action items will require 30 minutes. Some will take you a bit more, some a bit less. But the point is, good marketing is not just about having a great overall strategy – it’s also about the daily smaller blocks of time – and how you can make these moments count. As I talked about in an earlier blog post, Actions Trump Ideas in B2B Marketing and Sales, we marketers are paid to make stuff happen.    

The Danger of B2B Marketing and Sales Statistics

Marketing LiesMark Twain made the following observation, which he attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Let’s talk about the third type of lie, statistics, and how misleading statistics impact B2B marketing and sales.

According to truthpizza.org, “an obvious problem with statistics is that they can be simply be fabricated. Of course this could be true with any claim, but because statistics use specific numbers, they have a quality of authority about them, and we may be a little less suspicious than we would be for a more descriptive argument. Saying “83% of high school students admit cheating on tests” just sounds more authoritative than “most high school students admit they cheat on tests.”

Take for instance, the below chart which has been widely disseminated and quoted. It supposedly shows how a seemingly reputable organization called the National Sales Executive Association compiled data on how multiple contacts impacts sales close rates. The first time I saw this chart, I had a feeling that the stats are bogus – the data totally conflicts with our team’s experience with lead-to-revenue programs and metrics.

Misleading Statistics

Let’s dig into one of these statistics – 2% of sales are made on the first contact. Are you kidding me? There are many industries where making the sales on the first call is the norm so where does this 2% figure come from?

Of course it is important to follow-up on sales leads and be persistent, which is the point of this graphic. However, these statistics are made up and not based on any credible study. Adam Honing published a very good article about these false claims on Customer Think and an internet search will quickly show you that the purported organization called National Sales Executives doesn’t even exist. The problem is that people who are basing any of their marketing and sales initiatives on these lies pay a price when the reality turns out to be different than what the so-called stats indicated.

As another example, a business/life coach posted the following on her LinkedIn update: “Nine out of 10 people would rather die than change”. Really? Go ask the next 10 people you meet whether they would rather die than change. But I won’t be surprised to find other people quoting this fabricated statistic.

In regards to B2B sales, I’ve had two senior sales executives tell me that their teams close 50% or more of all qualified leads. Really?  Between my client-side and provider-side experience, I’ve probably run and measured several dozen lead-to-revenue programs and have never seen this level of proficiency. And in both of these instances the actual data showed that the close rate was below 20 percent.

And don’t even get me started on the companies that publish misleading data to sell their products – e.g. “According to an independent study, 92 percent of the people who take our weight-loss supplement lose 20 or more pounds their first month.” These fraudulent marketers know that gullible prospects hear what they want to hear and will discard common sense to buy the magic pill.

The following story, from a blog called Talk Money Café, shows how statistics can be manipulated: A mathematician and an accountant are in the same room for a job interview. The interviewer’s first question to the mathematician is:  “How much is $500 plus $500?” The mathematician replies:  “$1,000, of course.” The interviewer then turns to the accountant and asks the same question: “How much is $500 plus $500?” The accountant replies:  “Whatever you want it to be.” The interviewer then tells the accountant: “You’re hired!”

The moral of this story is to be skeptical of statistics – especially those that defy common sense and make your marketing goals harder to accomplish.

Are You Practicing Sales Enablement or Sales Disablement?

Sales GrowthWe marketers like to think we are making a big contribution to revenue, but in fact, we may be doing all kinds of interesting stuff but being perceived as inefficient when it comes to truly enabling sales. The operative word here is “perceived” because regardless of what we are actually doing (and accomplishing), perception is what will guide our future in the organization. To put this another way, we not only have to do the right stuff, but also prove that the stuff we are doing has beneficial impact on sales.

Our job as marketers is to minimize complexity and help simplify the salesperson’s job, not overcomplicate it with more systems, processes and digital paperwork. So what can we do to enable sales without making their lives more difficult? Here are six suggestions that are guaranteed to increase your sales enablement effectiveness and marketing department’s value.

  1. Generate a steady stream of qualified leads. Yes, I know this is easier said than done but good leads are the lifeblood of the B2B sales organization.
  2. Have a great website that educates prospects, makes them more receptive and shortens the sales cycle.
  3. If marketing is responsible for the lead qualification process, do this quickly, accurately and relentlessly. Sales will love you for this!
  4. Help the sales team message correctly – with timely product training and by providing branding statements and messaging templates (e.g. email and presentations) that are compelling and consistent.
  5. Produce quality collateral that helps optimize every stage of the sales process.
  6. Organize collateral in a simple content management system (CMS) that lets reps quickly find the latest assets. Please choose one that is easy to use, not full of overly-complex features.

David Brock, President at Partners In EXCELLENCE, offers a great perspective on sales enablement with his recent post, Stop!, Your Help Is Killing Me!. Paraphrasing slightly, David says that when trying to help sales, we layer on training, tools, systems, processes, programs, and support teams, including content management systems, marketing automation, email, social selling, research tools, account planning, call planning, e-learning, territory management — and on and on. All of these tools are oriented to help sales people be more informed, prepared, productive, effective, and efficient. But in the spirit of being helpful, our own organizations are making our lives much more complex and difficult! Unintentionally, by giving sales people more, we are overwhelming them, often causing them to produce less.

One of my pet peeves is that, too often, the systems we foist upon the sales department are so complex and burdensome that they damage productivity and frustrate reps that would otherwise make their numbers. Marketing ProcessEdward Deming certainly had this right. It is much better to start with simple, efficient processes and then implement the right technology to automate these processes.

In the interest of candor, there is one additional factor to keep in mind. The person/people who will be most vocal about marketing’s contribution (or lack of contribution) to revenue may not always have your best interests in mind. Examples of this include the Sales VP who missed his/her numbers and wants someone else to share the blame, or the CFO who thinks the company finances would benefit from cutting your budget in half. This is why you must be impeccable not only in carrying out your mission but also in collecting the metrics that prove that you are keeping up with the service level agreement (SLA) you negotiated with your Sales counterpart.

Seven Simple Ways to Differentiate Your Company and Products

DifferentiationMy clients probably get tired of hearing me talk about the virtues of differentiation. But it’s usually better to remove the competition by developing your difference than it is to take on the competition directly. Companies that do the latter are considered commodity providers and this is not a good position to occupy in the marketplace. Following are seven ideas to help you achieve effective differentiation.

  1. Focus on the one thing! Don’t be like one of those companies that aspire to be the best in quality, service, pricing, innovation and every other attribute. While this sounds good in theory, life doesn’t work that way. There is a well-known saying in the upper levels of the sailing community: “Will it make the boat go faster”? Just like these elite sailing teams, you need to pick your core value and concentrate your forces on being the best in that area – whatever your version happens to be of “making the boat go faster.” Or as Curly said to Mitch in the movie City Slickers: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s***.”
  2. Give something away. On a recent trip to Gothenburg, Sweden, our tour guide gave everyone in the group a free shot of the local “fish vodka.” Since it was a free walking tour, the guide’s income comes only from the tips of satisfied tour participants.  Kurt found a great way to create goodwill with his customers – not to mention loosening them up a bit!
  3. Provide convenience. For many of us, time is the most valuable commodity. Whatever you can do to deliver your products and services quickly and effortlessly will be appreciated and set you apart. It starts with a quality website that makes it easy for prospects and customers to find what they need without talking to someone. This removes frustration and saves your sales reps’ valuable time. One important tip: What your engineers find to be understandable is not the same as what your prospects find to be understandable. This needs to be validated.
  4. Be a niche marketer. In both the B2B and B2C worlds, unless your marketing budget is large, it most often pays to fine-tune your target audience. This will not only differentiate you, but usually provides for better profit margins and close rates. For example, an enterprise software company could have different flavors of its offerings for the retail, manufacturing and services industries. The key is to provide not only product/feature differences, but also to communicate the value proposition in a way that speaks to the specifics of a particular audience.
  5. Show trustworthiness. People not only want to know that they are getting value; they also want to understand that the risks of the purchase are worth the cost. They want to know that you company and staff are credible. Customer case studies, reviews, guarantees and third party recognition are especially helpful.
  6. Provide a hearty welcome. This idea isn’t for everyone, but a company called Parking Spot has a driver who gives her Denver International Airport long-term parking customers a hug when they get on her bus. Her enthusiasm is contagious after a weary day of traveling and not only does the company benefit, but customers (including me), give her larger tips. Whether in-person, over the phone, or via the Internet, figure out a way to “hug your customers” that differentiates you from the competition.
  7. Offer a new pricing strategy. As an example, Rolls Royce has begun offering their aircraft engines for free, but charging for power by the hour while offering full support of the product. This is not only a disruption of the B2B manufacturing industry, but also highly differentiating. Pricing strategy deserves its own blog post but suffice it to say – this can be a quick way to differentiate yourself, especially if your pricing model makes it easier and less risky for the prospect to purchase.

Whether you manufacture jet engines or drive an airport parking bus, the principles are the same. But when you do find your one thing – your unique way of hugging the customer – don’t simply try it and go on to something else. Company reputations aren’t built on a single transaction, but rather over a series of positive interactions. Persistence and patience will win the day.

Answers to Six Key B2B Marketing Questions

B2B Marketing QuestionsAs I talk to clients, business owners and fellow B2B marketers, I hear the same questions and concerns on a fairly regular basis. Chances are, you currently face one of these questions. And although each question is surely worthy of its own blog post, I wanted to address what I’ve been hearing in digest form. (I will delve into these topics in greater detail in upcoming posts.)

  1. Should we do push marketing or pull marketing? This depends: While I am a huge proponent of pull marketing and have used it to generate millions of dollars of revenue for our clients, it may not be the total panacea for what ails you. It’s likely that you may have awareness and lead generation requirements that can only be met with push marketing techniques. If so, by all means use the tactics that are necessary to meet your lead objectives. But with that said, you should start transitioning your marketing programs towards the pull model right away, and adjust the balance as conditions warrant. If you do this, you can protect your short-term mandate (deliver leads now) while building a much more effective and cost-efficient foundation for future success.
  2. Should we gate our content or provide it for free? I’ve seen companies that won’t let you download so much as a data sheet without providing your name and email address. At the other end of the continuum are companies that don’t require you to register for anything. Usually, the answer is found between these extremes. My practice is to require more when you give more. If it’s a data sheet, let the prospect download it without registration. If it’s a more valuable asset like an in-depth video or whitepaper, ask for at least some minimal data.
  3. How often should we communicate to our prospects? Again, the answers run a wide gamut, from those that communicate once per month to once per day (most fall in between). Of course, this depends on where the prospect is in your sales funnel. If they are active in the buying process (e.g. in the middle of a free trial), an email every other day may be in order. But if they are simply prospects in your opt-in (nurturing) database, a frequency of 2-3 times per month should be most effective. By effective, I mean that they will not forget you, will not unsubscribe from your list, and some reasonable number of them will respond to your offers.
  4. Should we devote time and/or budget to social media? My quick answer to this is “Heck, yes!”…unless you lack something to say or the time to say it. Social media is a key component of most pull marketing strategies. But you need to take it seriously and commit to at least some consistency in blogging, posting, tweeting, updating, etc. I wrote one of my favorite blog posts on this subject over five years ago, titled Is Social Media a Marathon or a Sprint?
  5. How often should I/we blog? The short answer is: as often as you have something to say. But if you can’t commit to once per month (3-4 times is better) it’s best not to blog at all. If you blog for any length of time, you will develop a quality/quantity rhythm. Not every post will be brilliant. If you are prone to waiting for the perfect topic at the perfect time, just remember what Voltaire said: “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” Voltaire was right — set a floor in terms of quality standard, write something and get it out there.
  6. What marketing tactics are performing best?  In the B2B marketing world, tactics shift depending on the product, offer, target audience and timing. Generally, we are having good success with pay-per-click, LinkedIn and email (if we can build a quality prospect list). We support these tactics with organic search optimization, content syndication and social media.

Facing unique dilemmas of your own? Feel free to start a discussion in the comments section or reach out if you want to explore in-depth.

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Market Research – 8 Strategies for Getting it Right, Quickly

File folder with words Market Research and financial graphs.I had a really good conversation with a business colleague who is launching his products into a new channel, with fresh messaging, pricing, etc. We talked about all the various ways of validating the concept before formally announcing it to the world. Like all entrepreneurs, he wanted to know that his chances for revenue and profit were high before making a larger commitment. Specifically, he wanted to know the following before launching into the new channel:

  • Potential size of the market
  • Best target segments
  • Details of the offering
  • Most appropriate keywords
  • Pricing options

My friend’s first instinct was to do traditional market research activities like focus groups and telephone/online surveys, supplemented by tools like SIC code analysis. However, my caution was that these types of tools — while instructive in the qualitative sense — are not that precise when it comes to answering the real question: Will people/companies spend money on a particular offer, and if so, how much? The key problem is that market research is based on the theoretical (e.g. would you buy this) and not the practical (sign the contract).

After being involved with hundreds of product launches in my career — some backed by heavy market research and others thrown into the market based on little more than gut instinct – I can find no correlation between the amount of time and money spent on pre-launch research and the degree of success enjoyed by the product.

According to Product.com, about 85 percent of new consumer product launches fail, and these are some of the most researched types of products on the planet. One other notable point from Product.com is that products often fail because managers become too ego-involved with pet products and overestimate their chance of success. Best to get the ego out of the process. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when analysis showed that the Sony Walkman was going to flop in the marketplace. However, Sony Chairman Akio Morita overruled his lieutenants and created a massive revenue stream. Steve Jobs was another founder who relied on his gut more than market research.

Even when you do a lot of research, you can still get it wrong: the market shifts, a competitor outflanks you, the economy crashes, etc. All this is not to say that you shouldn’t try to validate your idea before launch – of course you should. But please do this in a way that minimizes your costs (time and money) and maximizes your speed to market.  Here are a few ideas on how to accomplish this:

  1. Ask people who are already selling something similar. Your direct competitors will probably not talk to you, but those with complementary products or who are in non-competing geographies may give you great information.
  2. Query people at community share sites like Quora.com or Reddit.com. These are open business forums where people answer questions and provide input on subjects of interest.
  3. Crowdfund your idea. This is more of a long shot, but there have been notable success stories of companies launching (and pre-selling) products before they were ready for market.
  4. Take advance orders. What a great way to validate your product – offer it for a discount for pre-ordering. This is definitely a confidence builder for both product manager and CFO.
  5. Run test ads (e.g. pay-per-click). More companies than you realize actually run ads before the product is available. There are ways to do this without offending potential customers.
  6. Talk with people who bought a competitive product or service. While you may not have a short-term sales opportunity with these people, their opinions are valid since they actually made a transaction.
  7. Check out which books people are buying on Amazon that are related to your business area. This will give you a good idea of what the current hot buttons are and perhaps provide you with some messaging strategies.
  8. Do online keyword analysis to determine what terms people search on to find a similar product or service. Look at your competitors’ — as well as your own — notions of the motivating benefits and/or pain points.

By the way, LinkedIn can be an extremely useful tool in target segment sizing as well as product validation and message testing. There is much more to say about this, so I will save it for a future blog post. In the meantime, contact me at info@FusionMarketingPartners.com if you have any questions.

B2B Sales and Marketing Transformation

Sales and MarketingI just viewed a great online video that deserves its own blog post. The speaker is Barry Trailer, Chief Research Officer of CSO Insights (now a division of MHI Global) and the topic was the CSO 2016 Sales Best Practices Study Results. Barry and his colleague, Jim Dickie, have been following and reporting on the best practices and outcomes from sales organizations for over a decade. The information is always interesting and informative and as I will share below, it can help transform both the marketing and sales organizations.

As a B2B marketing professional, I make it a point to follow and understand what my clients (B2B sales organizations) are doing and thinking. This is important for you, as well. You may think of your customers as being the end users of your products or services, but in fact, if the sales team isn’t happy with you, life can be very unpleasant.

So what did Barry say that was so interesting?  You can see for yourself, but here are four key takeaways that stood out for me:

1. 94% of world-class companies indicate that sales and marketing are aligned (vs. 34% of all respondents). To be sure, sales and marketing alignment is somewhat subjective; there are no hard and fast metrics that prove or disprove alignment. However, if you don’t have it, you know it, and it is definitely costing you revenue and productivity.

2. 84% of world-class companies have specific criteria as to what constitutes an acceptable prospect. This has been a recurring theme with CSO and Trailer. The lack of well-defined criteria causes many problems, including:

  • Lost opportunity as reps forgo qualified prospects because they spend so much time chasing unqualified prospects.
  • Missed quotas due to reps spending time on potential deals that are actually undoable.
  • Discouragement and burnout from what would otherwise be effective reps.
  • Failure to accurately forecast revenue, leading to all types of problems with the C-suite, partners, customers, analysts, etc. (especially for public companies).

Many marketing departments are great at the “quantity” aspects of their jobs. If the sales department says it needs X number of leads to make its number, marketing salutes and delivers X number of leads. However, if our colleagues who carry business cards with a “sales” title believe that what we are giving them is a bunch of non-qualified, uninterested and non-relevant tire kickers, it makes for an unproductive and tense relationship.

Granted, the sales folks may not know exactly what they want or may have unreasonable expectations – but it is better to be upfront and address the issue early than pretend it is going to work out downstream.

3. Life gets really good when you move up the value chain. When you can move the perception of how your clients see you from a vendor to that of a consultant, contributor or trusted advisor/partner, everything changes in your favor. The image below (sorry for the poor quality) shows the differences in how sales reps approach the account and what they bring to the table.

Sales Value Chain

It requires a lot of mental energy and elbow grease to move up the value spectrum, but the rewards are great in terms of referrals, access, repeat business, trust and credibility. Equally important is what you will get less of: competition, sales cycle, price sensitivity and the importance of any particular feature.

Let’s use the last point as an example. If you are a trusted advisor/partner, contributor or consultant, it is great to not have the specter of your competitors coming out with a new feature that could cause your clients/customers to abandon you. Your higher-value relationship is a barrier that can prevent other companies from taking your revenue.

4. How you sell is more of a competitive differentiation than what you sell. You’ve probably heard this familiar refrain from salespeople and marketers alike: “Our product isn’t good enough to sell in this market,” or something like this. But the real problem may be that you are selling at the lower end of the value chain and being perceived as a commodity supplier, where sales cycles are long and price pressure is greatest. As Barry put in, the CSO definition of selling is “Establishing and elevating relationships over time.” Just remember the formula Elevated Relationships = More Revenue and More Profit.

In the spirit of not providing information without some practical application, let’s talk about what you and I should do as a result of these three takeaways:

  • Get aligned. If you want to be a world-class company, you need to do what 94% of them do: gain alignment between the marketing and sales organizations. For some relevant info on how to do this, read my article about marketing and sales alignment. Interestingly, this post was published four years ago and has an Olympic theme.
  • Get specific. While alignment is somewhat of a qualitative attribute (you know it when you experience it), you have to be very quantitative when it comes to establishing lead criteria. You need to create a service level agreement (SLA) that is specific about lead quantity + attributes.
  • Get close. By this, I mean that you should modify your marketing and selling processes to intentionally move up the value chain and get closer to your clients/customers. You may not be able to leapfrog levels – customers that now view you as a vendor may not instantly accept you as a contributor or partner – but you can begin the journey right now.

Any one of these three strategic actions can have a strong positive impact on your revenue and effectiveness. Combining all three can be transformational.

Are You Marketing to Gain or Pain?

Marketing Gain vs PainAs a marketing or sales professional, you have a choice in how you message your company and its offerings, with the goal of driving favorable responses (e.g. opt-ins) and purchases. And while many permutations are possible, there are two primary motivators of human behavior: gain and pain.

Gain.  People take action because they want a gain of some sort. In the B2B world, such gains can include:

  • Generate more revenue
  • Increase profits
  • Achieve department or company goals
  • Get promoted
  • Gain salary increase
  • Obtain Job security
  • Find fulfillment/job satisfaction
  • Happiness
  • Personal knowledge
  • Gain recognition/status

Note that some of these “gain” terms are business-oriented and others appeal to the personal motivations of your prospects. While good employees want to do the right thing for their organization, they are also always asking the question: “What’s in it for me?” While you may think they are buying to improve productivity metrics, the unspoken motivator may be that the buyer wants to learn your software system to become proficient and enhance his or her resume.

Pain. On the other side of the same coin, pain is a huge motivator. It is the “what they are running away from” stimulus. Pain avoidance drives people to purchase products and services as varied as aspirin and enterprise software. Here are some examples:

  • Lower costs
  • Improve efficiencies
  • Reduce waste
  • Work fewer hours
  • Decrease turnover
  • Get your boss off your back
  • Avoid termination
  • Achieve fewer cancellations
  • Avoid harm

Both the pain and gain motivators can lead to the same place (e.g. your CX solution) but where is the traffic coming from and which type of search converts in greater numbers? When you combine this data with relevant gain and pain messaging, you can really target your message effectively.

I read a fascinating paper about this subject recently called The Psychology of Action produced by Ceros and MarketingProfs. One of the paper’s most startling and interesting points is this:

“The psychological fear of losing something or experiencing pain is twice

as strong as the potential to gain or improve something.”

One example of this can be found if you search on the term “messaging pain avoidance.” When I did this, the fourth search result was an ad for “amputation avoidance.” I would submit that for most of us, the urge to avoid having a leg amputated (if you are in that unfortunate situation) is a stronger motivation than to have your legs work better.

As to what drives your particular prospects, there are two great ways to find out. The first is to ask them what motivated them to talk to you in the first place and/or to make a purchase (or not purchase!). The second way is to conduct online research to determine what search terms people are using to find you and your competitors. For example, these two vastly different search terms can lead to the same type of product in the customer experience (CX) industry:

“Stop customer churn” (pain)

“Boost client retention” (gain)

The smart money says to go with what gives your future customer night terrors. But as always, it’s up to you to learn about your prospect’s world – and test, inquire and improve until you find the unique triggers — positive or negative — that produce the desired result.