B2B MarketingExceptional B2B Marketing
Strategy and Results

Join us for actionable business-to-business insight that will help you get B2B sales and marketing results. You will find many valuable ideas here across a broad spectrum of B2B marketing topics and issues.


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.






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.

If Einstein Can Take a Little Rejection, So Can You


Our subject today is rejection, that insidious killer of big dreams. All of us who have had any degree of success have no doubt had people tell us that our ideas were too different, too radical, too “out of the box,” too whatever! This is true if you are a marketer, salesperson, product manager or in virtually any other occupation. But lest you take such rejection too personally, I want you to know that you will be in very good company. No less a figure than Albert Einstein received a harsh rejection letter from the University of Bern when he applied to join the doctorate program.

I was as astonished as you probably are upon first reading this letter, which states that the Theory of Relativity is radical and artistic, and not actual physics. So why should your (probably) less-impactful ideas be taken any more seriously than Einstein’s?

Einstein Rejection Letter












Here are some of the other things you will hear if you take a stand and want to do something that is outside the norm:

  • That will never work.
  • That’s not the way we do it here.
  • We tried that already.
  • That idea is too radical.
  • The research doesn’t back you up.
  • We can’t take a chance on your idea.

As B2B marketers we face rejection on a fairly regular basis. Seldom does the CEO or CSO jump up and shout, “That’s the greatest idea I ever heard!” when we propose new branding, new offers, a new sales model, etc. Let’s face it; there are some people in the executive suite who would find a way to criticize sunshine.

I once worked for a tech CEO who would have tried to re-write Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. He seemed to thrive on knocking down anyone else’s ideas. I’ve also worked for great CEOs who are open-minded and let you test out-of-the-box ideas – and these have sometimes proven transformative, both to our marketing efforts and the company as a whole.

The point is, if you back off from your convictions and shy away from rejection, you will probably not accomplish very much, and this will not benefit you or your company. Better to keep in mind the words of Bo Bennett: “A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.”

Lest you think that Albert Einstein was an isolated example, how about the likes of Walt Disney, Oprah, Robert Redford, Stephen King, Michael Jordan and Bill Gates. Yes, the richest man in the world had a business failure after dropping out of Harvard when a company he founded called Traf-O-Data failed. Good thing Gates and the others didn’t let a little rejection stop them. Many other examples of famous rejections are listed in this article.  As you and I take actions that cause us to face rejection on any scale, we should be pleased because we are joining very good company.

12 Quick B2B Sales and Marketing Fixes

Marketing FixAt Fusion Marketing Partners, we sometimes deal with clients who have both longer-term strategic issues (business model, lead-to-revenue strategy, etc.) but also a need for tactical quick fixes in the areas of lead generation, revenue and so forth. In medicine, they refer to this as the “chronic” vs. “acute” condition. And the challenge when dealing with both is similar to the expression about rebuilding the plane in mid-flight.

I write a lot about curing the chronic conditions of sales and marketing, but today will address the acute condition — when you need leads and revenue quickly. Here are 12 tactics to get you started:

  1. Stop doing what doesn’t work. Forgive me if this sounds blindingly obvious, but the fact is, inertia is a powerful force. We sometimes get caught up in our routines – even when they don’t produce such great results.
  2. Rebrand or reposition. I am not talking about a total rebrand or reposition here (which addresses the chronic condition), but rather modifying the messaging to match the needs of a particular target segment.
  3. Remarket to past prospects. There may be gold in your opt-in contact list, but you need to get out your shovel and mine that gold.
  4. Borrow an idea from your competitor(s). You may have competitors with large budgets and lots of marketing people whose entire goal in life is to take business away from you. Why not pay them back by borrowing one or more of their best tactics and modifying to your unique needs?
  5. Make a new offer. If your old standard offers are not working, try something entirely different. Do a drawing. Conduct a survey. Buy prospects pizza if they attend your lunch event or a coffee gift card if they talk to you in the morning. Test new offers until you find one or more that work.
  6. Send out a press release (or two). Although they are more of an awareness tool than a lead gen tool, press releases are a fast and inexpensive way to get the word out. And no, “My product is the greatest thing since sliced bread,” is not a proper subject for your release.
  7. Do 20% more. There are two major ways to improve marketing and sales productivity – do what you do better or do more of it. Sometimes the quickest fix is to focus on quantity.
  8. Measure and refine. If you aren’t measuring actual vs. anticipated results, you are likely not going to get better performance. I will be covering this topic in my upcoming webinar, How to Eliminate the “Promise vs. Reality Gap” of Marketing Automation.
  9. Incentivize your sales force. Smart sales managers know about the power of selective incentives to drive short-term gains in revenue. As one of my favorite CSOs often reminds me, sales reps are coin-operated — they go where the money is!
  10. Get rejected. Sales is both a quality and quantity game. If you are not being rejected often enough, you are probably not talking to enough potential prospects. When your revenue numbers are anemic, make sure your reps increase their activity at every stage of the sales cycle (e.g. do 20% more as mentioned above).
  11. Ask your prospects questions and then act on what they tell you. Here are four of the best questions:
    • What are you doing that is working?
    • What are you doing that isn’t working?
    • What is the one improvement that would add most to your success?
    • What does your ideal situation look like?
  12. Hire professionals. This may be a bit self-serving since my company does outsourced B2B marketing, but the fact is, those of us who have practiced these tactics hundreds, even thousands, of times usually have a good track record when it comes to getting results.

How to Choose the Right Marketing Automation Technology

Marketing automation technologyIn my last post, I talked about how the promise of marketing automation is often not matched by the reality. And one of the most important aspects of achieving success is to make sure your technology is a good fit with the size of your organization and the complexity of your marketing and sales processes.

Here are a few guidelines to help you make the right selection.

  1. Processes should lead, not technology. By this, we mean that you need to thoroughly understand your business objectives and develop the processes that best drive the objectives. Only then should you look at technology. For example, your business may be heavily reliant on telesales, so you must consider integrating this key process when looking at MA system features.
  2. Pay attention to two important acronyms: Time-to-Value (TtV) and return on investment (ROI). In short, you want quick TtV and large ROI.
  3. Ease of use is a crucial factor. Any product you consider should not come with a steep learning curve. We have seen many expensive systems neglected or underutilized because they were too complex for the average user. Back when software was actually delivered in boxes, we referred to this as “shelfware” because you would find the software sitting on someone’s shelf, not being used.
  4. Flexibility is critical. Even if your software fits your needs today, it may not do so if your business processes change. Make sure you have systems that are configurable – which means they can be changed without software coding and expensive outside resources.
  5. Make sure the solution is scalable. By this we mean that you will not have to purchase a new solution or significantly upgrade your existing solution as your company, data and number of users grows. At the most, you should only be required to add new licenses.
  6. Pick the right deployment model. For most companies, a Cloud/SaaS solution is the right option. Cloud software is much easier to implement, requires no hardware purchases and can be operated anywhere the user can get to an online connection. It also tends to be much easier to customize/configure than on- premise solutions.
  7. Find the right balance between a proven solution and new technology. The solution with the most customers may be appealing, but it could be based on an older architecture that gives you less flexibility at a higher price.
  8. Don’t forget integration. If you already have a CRM or marketing automation (MA) application, it is best to choose a new technology that works well with your existing solution. In particular, pay attention to your CRM, demand generation tools and website. Systems that don’t play well together cause lots of headaches.
  9. Monitor marketing metrics. Make sure your chosen solution allows you to capture the key performance indicators important to your marketing operation.

Note: this post was excerpted from our new whitepaper, Navigating the B2B Marketing Automation Minefield.

Why Too Much Marketing Automation Can Be Worse than Not Enough

Marketing AutomationThere is an oft-repeated expression among boaters: “The two happiest days in a boater’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells that same boat.” Having owned sailboats in a prior life, I can definitely relate to this statement. Likewise, many B2B marketers who are so excited by the prospect of marketing automation as an easy answer to many of their problems can find that it creates as many problems as it solves.

As I write about in our new whitepaper, Navigating the B2B Marketing Automation Minefield, we see five common problems with MA systems:

  1. Too complex. Companies have bitten off more MA than they can chew. They intend to self-implement and utilize an existing employee to manage the system. But in reality, it often takes one or more outside consultants to implement, and before you know it, your part-time system coordinator becomes a full-time system administrator. Even worse, if the system administrator leaves or becomes ill, the system is paralyzed.
  2. Lack of process. The most effective MA implementations are highly flexible and driven by a well-thought-out process. Conversely, failed systems often force an overly cumbersome set of processes on managers and users, which often leads to a lack of usage and a slow death for the system.
  3. Poor data quality. Marketing and sales technologies are only as good as their data. And if that data is old, inaccurate or spotty, the system will produce poor results. Best to clean and normalize your data before implementation. For MA, this starts with your list data and extends through your collateral and website.
  4. Solving the wrong problem. We had a client who believed the answer to their marketing problems was to purchase a fairly expensive MA system. However, their root problem was poor messaging and the inability to qualify the trickle of leads they were already generating. Fortunately, we were able to redirect focus to solving these problems first, and then help them implement an effective MA system.
  5. Little or no integration with sales department. Great synergy is achieved if the marketing and sales functions follow a seamless lead-to-revenue path. Conversely, if these two functions (and associated technologies) are not coordinated efficiently, results will be poor. For example, if the lead nurturing stage is skipped and the marketing department sends poor quality leads to the sales department labeled as MQLs (marketing qualified leads), the sales team is going to be unhappy regardless of the sophistication of the technology.

I realize that this post is all about problems and not solutions to marketing automation challenges — but as they say, you have to admit you have a problem before you can solve it. (Twelve-step programs come to mind: “Hi, I’m Chris and I am a recovering business software user.”)

We’ll talk about solutions in my next post. In the meantime, feel free to download the new whitepaper.

How CEOs Can Improve the Value of Sales and Marketing Efforts

CEO Marketing KeysCEOs have likely already conferred with their leadership teams about how they will deliver sales- and marketing-fueled growth for this year and beyond. Yet while no successful leader submerges him or herself in the nuts and bolts, you must have a dashboard, even an informal one, for guiding your team, asking the right questions and keeping your eye on the high-level feedback.

Here are 5 key ongoing conversations CEOs need to have with their sales and marketing leadership to achieve their teams’ visions of revenue growth:

1. Verify that you have strong processes in place for each of the 4 major parts of the marketing and sales model.

Sales Model Steps

The outcomes your leaders deliver will only be as good as the processes within these critical parts of the funnel (and the ones that connect them). It’s not for you to define and build minutiae, but rather to be able to speak to your team’s proposed plan for systematically managing profitable conversations within each part of the funnel and transferring prospects efficiently from one to the other.

2. Keep things simple and focused on as few priorities as possible. CEOs should be on alert when they feel they are looking at a sales and marketing plan with too many moving parts: too many products, too many offers and too many messages. If strategy is clear, the executive leader’s contribution is to provide critical focus so that resources won’t be spread too thin in half-execution of an overly broad plan. Trust your instincts when gauging if a plan will deny you concentration of force and offer guidance on where to pare activity.

3. Forge a service level agreement (SLA) between both departments. Aligning the efforts of your sales and marketing leaders for maximum impact—thereby removing vague areas that will eventually devolve to unproductive finger-pointing—is one of the best uses of your leadership muscle.

The SLA should specify:

  • The number of leads required, and when:
  • What constitutes a sales-ready lead
  • How leads are distributed to the field
  • How sales reps disposition leads
  • How marketing’s contribution is measured through a closed-loop system

4. Ensure that effective sales lead management is built into the process. When asked, your marketing chief should be able to succinctly tell you how he or she is going to qualify inbound inquiries and how they’re going to create an ongoing program to nurture these leads until they are ready to engage in the buying process. Quality sales lead management can boost sales performance by 100% or more. Ask, and if you don’t hear a brief and compelling answer, you’ve got a problem.

5. Require a consistent flow of relevant content. Just as your leadership should be expected to have a process for creating marketing campaigns and guiding prospects through the buying cycle, they should also be able to define and tell you how they are going to execute a process for delivering content that will create higher marketing and sales conversion rates. A systematic and disciplined stream of thought leadership, case studies, blog posts, white papers and more will all be critical to achieving your goals.

Starting these 5 critical conversations and shepherding their progress can have a profound impact on your revenue and profit this year. Executive attention—at the proper level of detail—is vital for progress, as is the ability to be nimble and pivot when market feedback dictates. In a business culture obsessed with disruption and “next big things,” it’s easy to forget the simple value of enforcing a solid sales and marketing plan—and backing it up with efficient processes.

Note: this article was originally posted at Chief Executive Magazine May 7, 2016.