Seven Things You Can Do (or Not Do) to Increase Marketing Success

Focus on SuccessOne of the good things about being a B2B marketing practitioner for so long is the perspective it gives me on what works and doesn’t. Following are some seemingly random yet important strategies to increase productivity and reduce disappointment. These tips are a blend of marketing success tips and personal productivity ideas that will keep you focused and happier on the job – as well as avoid unnecessary pain (the worst type of pain).

  1. Don’t download unlicensed photos. Really pay attention to this one. When you get the urge to copy and paste that interesting photo you stumbled across on the internet, STOP. It is not worth the potential legal and financial consequences. It’s like driving when you are inebriated. You may get away with it once or even dozens of times – but the one time you get caught can be extremely painful. If you doubt this, just read this article from someone who made the mistake.
  2. QA the email before hitting the “send” button. I know this one from painful experience. You write a brilliant email, either to go to one person or perhaps hundreds/thousands of prospects or customers. But perhaps you are distracted or didn’t bother to do a review. Within seconds you get a sinking feeling. Did I really hit the “reply all” button and send it to the entire company instead of the one person I had a beef with? Did I really include the damaging stuff at the bottom that recipients weren’t supposed to see? Did I really just send 5,000 people a message addressed to “Dear [first_name]:”.  As just one of many examples, Business Insider reported: UC San Diego mistakenly sent a welcome email to all 46,000 applicants for the freshman class, including about 28,000 who had already been rejected. In a case of false hope to the extreme, the school sent: We’re thrilled that you’ve been admitted to UC San Diego. Oops!
  3. Stand up and walk every 52 minutes. You’ve heard about the perils of sitting for long periods of time (e.g. “sitting is the new smoking”). And there have been many published reports on the ideal amount of time to work with intensity before taking a break. As many articles, including this one from Fast Company shows, 52 minutes seems to be the ideal time period, with a 17 minute break. I’ve tested this idea and the 52 minute work period works for me – although I am ready to get back at if after only a 7 or 8 minute break. You achieve two benefits with this 52 minute routine – shortening the deadly sitting thing while clearing the cobwebs and generating more productive output.
  4. Don’t take it personally. Remember that line from The Godfather, when Michael Coleone tells his brother, “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business”. This despite the fact a rival crime family shot up their father. Well, the same is true in the business world.  Much of the things we get upset about are not meant personally – it was just the other person doing what they perceived to be in their own self-interest.
  5. Assume good intentions. This goes along with the previous point. Whether it is a boss, co-worker, client or partner, people will do things that anger and/or disappoint you. One of the best pieces of advice I received about being married is that when you assume the motivations/intentions of your spouse, you are wrong 80+ percent of the time. The same is true in the business world. You are better off assuming the best – it makes for a more pleasant and productive environment.
  6. Don’t waste time chasing people. There are individuals in this world who are poor communicators. You send them an email or call and it takes days or weeks for them to respond. In my experience, this has nothing to do with how busy or important an individual happens to be. I know CEOs who are fast to respond and retirees who are glacially slow. Try to limit your reliance on such people or it will drive you batty – unless of course it is your boss, in which case you might want to look for employment elsewhere.
  7. Make stuff happen. There are business environments (and marketing departments) where action is encouraged and mistakes are accepted (as long as they are not repeated). And there are others where action is discouraged and employees are punished by those ready to pounce on any new idea. But if you are a doer, you must do. Marketing success and sales results happen because individuals try things. They may fail, but they learn the lesson and try again until they succeed. They have a propensity to act, not to ponder, think, meet and criticize.

Please share your own strategies to increase marketing success.

The Biggest Threat to Your B2B Marketing Success

Of all the threats to your ability to achieve marketing success, perhaps the most insidious is inertia.  According to Wikipedia, “Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to any change in its motion (including a change in direction).” This basically means that if you are currently doing little or nothing, chances are you will remain that way. Likewise, if you are doing stuff, but in the wrong way, you will likely continue to do stuff in the wrong way.

It follows that we should be aggressive and energetic in our B2B marketing outreach if we want to be competitive in the marketplace. But why do we fail to act? Let’s talk about some of the causes, as well as some of the ways to dislodge you from your B2B inertia.

  1. Insufficient knowledge. It’s hard to do what you don’t know how to do. When you are not sure, the easiest course (but not the wisest) is to simply do nothing. Often this is a result of trying to hide your liabilities. But some the most powerful and effective people you ever meet approach challenges in the role of inquirer, enlisting their curiosity and the knowledge of everybody around them to narrow down a universe of question marks into a few simple points of action. Be brave, go forth, inquire and learn.
  2. Information overload. There are myriad choices about where to spend your marketing dollars and effort. Too many choices can freeze you and make progress difficult. This often leads to analysis-paralysis, where we become so wrapped up in our inquiry that we use the inquiry process to mask our fundamental fear of action. But with rare exception, there’s no “wrong” place to start. Much of the difference is made with consistency of execution, then using your learning to refine (or abandon) current approaches. You can’t live in the theoretical realm. Only by doing will you accelerate your learning.
  3. Fear. People are naturally afraid of the consequences of making bad decisions. If the perception is that the risk of making a bad decision is greater than the risk of doing nothing, guess which option wins?  Companies that have a highly critical culture should not be surprised when inertia becomes the norm. The first step is deciding whether it is your fear or organizational timidity holding you back. Answering that question honestly will illuminate your next step.
  4. Resistance. Resistance is the internal naysayer that blocks creativity and prevents you from taking needed action to achieve marketing success. A fantastic book on how to recognize and overcome resistance is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. If you have a gnawing realization that there are big things you need to be doing (for your company or yourself), but are held back by some inner demon, Pressfield’s book could help you like it did me.
  5. Time and/or money. B2B marketing managers often tell me that they would complete so many more initiatives if they only had more time and/or more money. First of all, many of the most effective pull marketing tactics are quite affordable to execute. If you think you just can’t launch your content marketing plan because you don’t have that fancy automated marketing suite or the top-flight analytics tool, #3 might be the real reason for this objection. Most tactics show their value in the execution, so figure out what you can do on your shoestring—and do it aggressively. If you’re short on time, take a look at how many tactics or strategies you’re trying to execute. Doing 20 activities at 10% commitment isn’t going to tell you much about which of those activities is truly valuable.

Inertia can be fatal. At the least, it can create a limbo state in which otherwise promising people and organizations languish in a netherworld of promise that never quite becomes. If you are honest enough to examine whether your or your team has fallen prey to inertia, you’re already closer to seeing your way out.

Little Things that Make a Big Difference in Sales and Marketing Success

Most people have heard about the Pareto Principle: that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. Pareto developed the principle when he noticed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced 80% of the peas.  You hear about the 80/20 rule in a lot of contexts and I talked about how the Pareto Principle applies to sales and marketing in a 2010 blog post titled: The Four Pillars of B2B Marketing Success.

This 80/20 formula sounds very exciting but consider that there are things you can do where your effort is multiplied way more than the 80/20 formula.  For example:

  • Initiating contact with a strategic alliance partner that can bring in 50 times the revenue of the typical sale.
  • Making that one extra phone call that resurrects a stalled major deal.
  • Spending an extra hour to hone your value proposition in a way that is crystal clear to the target audience.
  • Investing 30 minutes to create new headlines to conduct A/B tests against your existing online or pay per click ads – this can lead to big gains in response rates.
  • Conducting a time-study analysis to identify areas where you get a large return on your time investment versus those areas with a small payoff.
  • Sending an email to a former boss, colleague or customer to heal a riff (this can have a huge payoff in both financial and psychological terms).

Note that all these items refer to actions, not thoughts.  You have to do something to get the results.  And while your sales and marketing results may vary on each of these actions, there are undoubtedly a few things you can do with small slices of time that have the potential for a big payoff for you and/or your company.  Often, these activities aren’t pleasant but they are quick.  As the doctor or your mom told you when they ripped off the Band-Aid, “this will only hurt for a second.”   So get the quick hurt out of the way quickly and reap the benefits.

Marketing and Sales – How to Achieve a Healthy Balance

Marketing & Sales Balance

After discussing the challenges of working with the sales department, a CMO friend stated something to the effect that “those sales people have no idea what we do around here.” Of course I have heard (and expressed) plenty of complaints pointed in the other direction. This got me pondering on the perennial topic of how marketing and sales work together. I’ve written and spoken fairly extensively on this topic, including a white paper titled: Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing. And one of my best received seminar topics is Marketing is from Mars and Sales is from Venus (thank you John Grey for the title idea).

There is certainly a symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing. But while both departments are highly dependent on each other, they can also have different motivations and metrics. And therein lies the problem. While the only metric in the end that really counts is revenue, marketers and sales may have a different perspective on what it takes to achieve that revenue (at least in the long term). For example, the sales department often has a short-term focus because of the necessity of making the quarterly revenue targets. Marketing not only has to support the current revenue targets but has to generate awareness and leads to fuel the sales engine in subsequent quarters. This is why companies who have the marketing department report to the sales VP sometimes regret the decision. They get a short-term bump in revenue but pay a price in future growth.

If you are the marketing side of the sales-marketing equation, there are two very important things you can do to ensure a good balance between the two departments – both of these topics are covered in the white paper. First, you need to quantify marketing’s contribution to revenue. By this I mean the part of the revenue pie that is not generated through customer up-sell, existing service contracts and so forth. This is the part of the revenue that the marketing department can influence by building awareness and generating leads.

Second, you need to negotiate a service level agreement with sales that covers items like:

  • Number of leads required and when
  • What constitutes a sales ready lead
  • How leads are distributed to sales reps
  • How sales reps follow-up and track leads
  • How marketing’s contribution is measured through a closed-loop system

Earlier, I mentioned that marketing and sales had a symbiotic relationship. We often hear the term “symbiotic” but what exactly does it mean when it comes to the marketing and sales departments. Here are two definitions of the term.

  1. A close, prolonged association between two or more different organisms of different species that may, but does not necessarily, benefit each member.
  2. A relationship of mutual benefit and dependence.

Note the big difference between the two definitions. In the first, the two organisms (e.g. sales and marketing) do not have to benefit each other. But according to the second definition, the two organisms are both mutually dependent and beneficial to each other. Now that is the way to achieve healthy balance and a healthy bottom line, not only between marketing and sales, but also for your company’s bottom line.

Marketing Statements that Show Your Company is Out of Touch

As B2B marketing outsource providers, we get to hear some interesting statements about marketing. Some of these statements indicate a philosophy that can be detrimental to achieving your marketing and sales objectives. If you hear any of your internal personnel saying any of the following, consider it a red flag and address the issue right away.

  1. Why should we spend any more time working on the website? That’s what our sales team is for. This is a very scary statement that shows a lack of understanding about current trends in B2B marketing and how prospects look for potential products and solutions. For example, according to Hubspot.com, in the B2B arena, 80 percent or more of the product research is done by the potential buyer before they interact with you. They are at your website reading your marketing material and they are judging you by what they see and read there. If your website stinks, they go away. It is that simple.
  2. Our marketing department stinks so we’ll hire more B2B sales reps. B2B companies have been implementing the “hire more sales reps” strategy for years and most of the time, this doesn’t work. Throwing more bodies at a flawed process just multiplies the problem. The better approach is to implement a marketing machine that generates inquiries at a relatively low cost, convert a healthy percentage of these to qualified leads, and then focus your sales teams on closing, not prospecting. Yes this really works.
  3. Why should we waste time on pull marketing and social media? That stuff doesn’t work. I have heard this many times and it always makes me laugh. Why? Because some of our best clients come to us through our pull marketing or social media initiatives. And our clients have themselves used pull marketing to generate quality sales leads and revenue. It takes patience and persistence but if you practice pull marketing correctly, you will get results.
  4. Since we are selling a commodity product, we have to compete on price. Once you go down this path, it seldom gets better. Creating a compelling and differentiated brand for your products and/or services is hard work but it is essential to revenue and profitability. Here is a blog post on this subject of Brand Promise from CustomerThink.
  5. We can’t compete because our product is weak or lacks features. This type of internal product bashing can lead to no good. As a marketer, you need to find what makes your offering superior, and when you cast doubts on your own product, it just gives everyone an excuse for failure. If you can’t be enthusiastic about what you are doing, do yourself and your company a favor and find a new position.
  6. The sales team can’t sell its way out of a paper bag. This type of thinking is just as dangerous as denigrating the product. I’ve written a lot about how to bridge the gap between marketing and sales. Here are a few resources to help with this challenging problem.

    It behooves both departments to work cooperatively and there is nothing to be gained by this type of infighting.

If you hear any of these types of statements from your marketing team, or have the urge to make them yourself, please take corrective action. The marketing game is tough and you need the right mindset to beat the competition.

Measuring B2B Marketing Success

Get a bunch of B2B marketing professionals together and ask them: What are your most important criteria for benchmarking performance and how do you define marketing success? You’ll probably get some blank stares and muddled answers. “Well, we find that in this world of Web 2.0, commitment to advertising synergy…” blah blah blah. But the fact is that good marketing is both an art and a science.

Unless you can explain concisely how your department measures and reports on work output, you will not be recognized as a good marketer, let alone be viewed as indispensible in a tough economic climate. Start the thinking-through process by asking yourself these six questions.  Note that some of these are soft/qualitative measurements while others are hard/quantitative measurements – both are important.

  1. Do you have a well-defined value proposition that is communicated in all your marketing messages and promotions? Can your entire team express this message in a concise and compelling elevator pitch?
  2.  Are you targeting the right individuals at the right companies? Do you know who these people are and have you captured them in a system (CRM or database) that allows for ongoing targeted communications?
  3. Is your brand/image being accepted by the marketplace? Are you seen by your prospects and customers in a way that is consistent with the way you see yourself?
  4. Does every part of your end-to-end marketing and sales model work? Are you both effective and efficient at every phase of the process or are there gaps that keep you from achieving your goals?
  5. Do you have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the sales department that specifies the quantity and quality of leads you will be delivering? Is this a sufficient quantity for the company to achieve its revenue objectives?  If you need more information on how to determine lead requirements, read our article How Many Sales Leads Do You Need?
  6.  How many of the leads that you deliver to sales are truly qualified – do they meet the agreed-to criteria and have the potential of actually buying something from you?

B2B marketing is tough but it is even tougher if you don’t know how to evaluate your marketing success. Each of the above questions forces you to reflect on a different part of the value you’re providing to your organization. I’m not saying that these specifically should be your marketing success benchmark questions – but I am saying that you need to determine and release your own performance indicators. Remember that you can’t improve what you can’t measure, so start measuring and keep improving.

A Formula for B2B Marketing Success

When it comes to marketing strategy, it’s always useful to work from a proven formula. This doesn’t mean you have to follow the formula exactly as written, but it does give you a good starting path.  The following Formula for B2B Marketing Success illustrates why a prospect may not respond to a particular marketing promotion, no matter how well targeted or creative and it also explains why you must apply the principles of consistency and persistence.

F x I x P.I.Q. = R

Frequency

The “F” in the formula stands for Frequency, and refers to how often we share our message with customers and prospects. Frequency refers to all contacts; whether online, social media, print, email, telephone, or, in-person. Frequency is the portion of the formula most neglected by marketers. Since it takes an average of 7-8 contacts from initial awareness until the sale is closed, you must keep communicating until the prospect either buys or asks you to stop the contacts. The idea is not to annoy your prospects, but rather to practice friendly persistence.

Impact

The “I” in the formula stands for Impact, which is the part of the marketing campaign that has the greatest influence on the results achieved on a particular promotion. Without impact, marketing and advertising programs are lifeless, dull, and worst of all, they don’t generate response. High impact is achieved with penetrating copy and graphics, strong offers, clever sound and video and professional selling techniques. Most important, impact is generated through a consistent and compelling message.

Prospect Interest Quotient

Part three of the formula is the variable over which the marketer has the least amount of control. “P.I.Q.” stands for Prospect Interest Quotient, which is that position your prospects finds themselves in at the exact moment they reads your email, sees your social media outreach, receives your telephone call or logs into your website.  P.I.Q. is a complex blend of several different elements, some measurable and some not, including: physical presence; work load; point on the buying cycle; current attitude toward your product or service; financial situation; and mood (receptivity).

No matter how strong your marketing strategy is, or how creative your promotion, if you contact a prospect shortly after they purchase a competing product, your offer will fall on deaf ears.  P.I.Q. can work for you as well as against you. Communicating to a prospect at a time when they are optimistic about the future always increases your chance of getting the order. Likewise, it is tougher to drive business when the economy is bad.  However, applying the rules of this formula will always contribute to your marketing success, regardless of the economic climate.

Results

The final part of the formula, “R”, stands for Results. Results in any marketing campaign are dependent on the first three elements of the formula.  And the most neglected part of the formula is frequency.  While you have control over the creative impact your efforts convey, unless you communicate often enough, you won’t catch a large enough quantity of prospects in the right Prospect Interest Quotient (P.I.Q.), to achieve strong success. Likewise, it is important to make yourself visible through your online presence to prospects who are seeking what you offer.  This is always a good marketing strategy.

By the way, here is Albert Einstein’s formula for success: “If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y plus Z. X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut.”   Well said.