Marketing Doesn’t Work. Or so I’ve Been Told…

In my consulting practice, I focus on helping B2B companies begin or renew their revenue growth through marketing.  I find many small companies that have never marketed, some who have done it poorly and others that just aren’t happy with their results.  I also find the occasional CEO who tells me, point blank: “Marketing doesn’t work.”

Not that these small-company CEOs have ever actually tried marketing, often they have not.  But that doesn’t stop them from holding the belief that it doesn’t work. Entrepreneurial CEOs are seldom at a loss for confidence and I often chuckle at the confidence they display when they explain, sometimes at length, why marketing won’t work in their business.

marketing man

Sometimes I wonder why then would the CEO even meet with a marketing guy if they don’t believe the solution works.  I think they do it sometimes to appease others on the staff.  Perhaps, they do it to satisfy their own curiosity. Or maybe they enjoy telling me marketing doesn’t work.

In trying to understand and manage this,  I came up with four potential reasons for this somewhat widely held belief.

  • They have never actually seen marketing work.  The CEO has never seen it work, ergo, it doesn’t work.  Often a minor side point is that it’s never been tried, so it has never worked.
  • They base all of their observations on “sales”  CEO says “ I talk to customers all the time. They don’t want marketing.”  What happens in the last mile of a long sales cycle is not marketing, it is closing the sale.
  • They can’t bear to spend the money.  With no confidence that any marketing spend will provide value, they spend nothing.  Some CEOs spend almost nothing on anything, and marketing is way down the priority anyway.
  • Somehow, they don’t notice their competitor’s marketing.  A failure to look at your own web presence (or to have issues pointed out and not care) and compare it to a couple close competitors is an easy and often valid way to view things from a customer perspective.  Why then do so few companies do it?

I’ve recently had the chance to check in with some companies I spoke to last summer. Each of the CEOs told me they didn’t think marketing would work in their business.  When I asked around to see how they did now 5-6 months later, I found even more issues.  We have a “serious sales issue” said one company.  “Money is still really tight” was the feedback at a different company.  The sales manager was let go at another.  I felt like I had predicted all of it.

I should feel vindicated with the negative feedback from those that did not want my advice.  I don’t.  I feel sorry for these folks, as I or some other marketing professional could have helped them avoid the very dilemma they face today.

Hopefully, we can win over these doubters and have them see the light, one CEO at a time!

Have your experienced executives who did not believe in marketing?  How do we turn them around?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

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What’s So Cool About Marketing Automation, Anyway?

There’s been a bunch written about this topic.  Creating the tools has made several companies really big.  Oracle paid $810 million for Eloqua in 2012.  Marketing automation has been touted as a marketing revolution.  But what does it all mean?  Why do I need it?

I was an early adopter to the marketing automation world.  Tied a big system to a big system and reaped the benefits.  Yes, it was cool.  But many of the same functionality can be obtained in other packages and gosh, you only really use 20% of the functionality.

CRM adjusted

Before you go off and purchase a system without thinking the whole marketing automation process through, take a few moments to go over each of these capabilities.  How important is it to you?  How do you do it now and can that be improved?  You may find that you have tools in place to do many of the aspects of marketing automation.

  • Email tools.  Within any marketing system you’ll want to send out emails and track when they are open-end and clicked on, etc.  This is the core of a marketing automation system.  Automatically sending out follow up emails, based on if the original email was opened, is a key marketing automation task.  Some email programs can do these as well.
  • CRM integration.  It’s ideal to have all data on each prospect stored in the CRM; every website visit, every email received every phone call and trade show visit logged.  Not every combination of systems will yield a fully integrated  view, however, the CRM remains the place to store your customer data.
  • Website analytics.  You will want to integrate date from your website visits, especially these who have responded to your offers.  If your system is a bit more sophisticated, each known prospect’s web visits will be added to the CRM, giving you a much more full view of what prospects are doing.
  • Lead scoring.  Finding the ripe prospects in your CRM based on their “digital body language.”  This works most effectively with a large number of prospects who interact often with your website and emails.  You set rules of how points are assigned and also the point levels when actions, such as sending additional emails, or a phone call, will be taken.
  • Lead nurturing.  This was cited as the feature most companies wanted from marketing automation.  It’s the automated equivalent of keeping in touch with the customer and at it’s best implementation, it is an automatic education of the customer, leading him or her down a predefined content path.  Some folks called this “drip marketing” but the concept has evolved to a more involved science.
  • Landing pages.  Some marketing automation platforms offer landing pages, some do not.  It’s kind of a nice to have, since many cloud services call effectively fill in the blank.  Creating quality landing pages quickly and getting them solidly linked to your CRM is an important and repetitive task.  The automation part of the system can make a big difference here.

Once you have thought through your needs, you will be better able to match up the systems available to your specs.  You’ll likely get the most for your money and the least disruption this way.   You might find that you can already do many of the marketing automation tasks with your current tools.

What marketing automation tools do you use?  What functionality do you use the most?


You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

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How has B2B Lead Flow Changed?

Recently I have had the opportunity, more than once,  to consider and explain what’s different about today’s B2B marketing.  It seems the standard that exists in the mind of many outside of the marketing discipline is a lead flow where marketing played a much smaller role.  In that mindset, marketing found leads and sent them all off to sales.  Aside from the occasional last-ditch follow up campaign most of those leads fall dormant.

Now, that mode of operation helped grow a number of great companies, some would say.  The time-honored tradition of following up on leads became a B2B pastime.  So did complaining about lead quality and executing poor follow up.

For example, in the “old days” marketing would set up a trade show, do a promotion or devise a game that brought booth traffic, and then sales interacted with prospects in the booth.  Out of a show came a small number of “hot leads” and a larger number of lesser quality “scanned leads”  Of course the “hot leads” got entered in the system and followed up on quite quickly.  The larger number of “scanned leads,” not so much.  Really, marketing’s role was to instantly hand off all leads to sales.

Marketing Funnel

Enter the 21st century marketer, armed with advanced marketing automation and lead nurturing tools, carefully-created content and end-to-end CRM visibility.  These tools have changed the nature of the game for B2B marketing forever.  Now a “lead” stays in marketing for long periods of time, being nurtured by steady and consistently-applied campaign rules dictate each email, call and question.  This is the middle section of the chart.

Marketing then can “watch” the digital body language of leads and, in a lead scoring environment, can automatically move these to the sales process when they are ready.  The systems can also dictate and advise when a potential customer should be called in the process.  In that manner they can also feed the exact right content for the prospect’s stage of the purchase process.

Within a campaign executed by an automated marketing system, you take different paths based on feedback from the prospect; did they open the email?  Did they click on any links?  Have they visited the website?  All of these actions can be input the lead nurturing campaign and each result can dictate different reactions.

Back in the stone ages of marketing “sales” did these tasks.  Often poorly or inconsistently.  Using a process that was basically untrackable.  But we’re over that now.  Take a deep breath.  We can move on now!

Using one of these systems also allows the marketing team to work on new and creative campaigns rather than executing repetitive marketing execution tasks. It’s all good!  Consider bringing it into your world!

What is the state of your marketing lead engine?  Are you nurturing your leads properly?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

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The Trouble With “Appointment Setting” Firms

Recently, I revisited a contract with an appointment setting firm as a lead generation activity.  Not that I had ever had resounding success with these type of programs in the past, but it is kind of a pure lead-gen activity and sometimes that is called for.  It’s also seductively turnkey. Without much real work you can get one of these firms up and running and starting to produce leads in a couple weeks.  At least that’s the promise.

Appointment Setting

But is that seduction justified? Is it really that easy?  Sign up with one of these firms and leads and appointments magically appear.  Let’s take a look at the potential shortfalls of these programs.

  • Who provides the list?  The calling campaigns these firms do need a list to fuel them.  These firms tend to get very basic (read “cheap”) lists and call around for the titles they seek.  Since they focus on calling efficiently, they bridge the gap themselves.  But this approach makes for lousy targeting and gives the client little in the way of real targeting tools.  The real problem here is that by the time you realize the list is bad, you’ve  already called into it for weeks.
  • Goals not 100% aligned.  The client wants leads that go down the funnel quickly and turn into sales.  The appointment setting firms wants to set up appointments with the correct type of person from the target accounts.  These are not the same goals and it’s actually hard at the end of the day to make them the same.   Despite great attempts to avoid it, leads that are off-target will come in and will erode the program’s effectiveness.
  • Focus is on the appointment, not the interest.  As these campaigns roll out, sometimes they get behind. After management catches on, additional pressure (always) and resources (sometimes) are added to the game.  That pressure forces the phone reps to push even harder for the appointment, leading to less-than qualified or uninterested prospects,
  • Some firms use incentives  Some appointment setting firms offer a fairly large incentive for the prospect to get on the phone.  It seems logical that a prospect that is getting an iPad mini for taking the appointment is almost analogous to the folks that sit through long vacation time-share presentations for a questionable quality gift afterwards. These folks will take the call and sit politely through the pitch and may even admit to the caller “I just wanted the Big Bertha they offered for taking this call.  Sorry.”
  • A certain type of person responds.  Obviously, someone who answers their phone.  Not everybody does.  Already it’s a biased group.  If they answer their phone they may get a number of sales calls and not differentiate yours from others.  Who agrees to an appointment if they don’t want the product?  Many folks who likely didn’t understand what they were getting into or are easily persuaded.

It’s also a fact that many firms find great value in these lead generation programs and some clients work into 7 figures with appointment setting firms.  These are the ones that worked out the bugs, improved the process until it worked.  That takes a while.  Those firms persevered through the start-up issues and eventually developed what they needed at a good-enough price.   Moral of the story; it’s harder than it looks to do it right.

Have you used outside appointment setting firms for lead generation?  What has worked or not for you?


You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

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The 5 Things I Hate Most About Product Packaging

I am packaging challenged.  There, I’ve said it.  My family has known for some time, now I am admitting it to you.  I have trouble opening the packages that contain cheese, orange juice, batteries, potato chips and any product packaged in a  “bubble pack.”  While I think Oswald acted alone, I’m quite sure there is a conspiracy going on here, to create packaging that meets manufactures’ needs but drive consumers crazy.

I’m sure you have your own favorite packaging issues.  We are surrounded by them.  Here are the five that get my goat the most.

Impenetrable plastic packaging.  On a business trip recently, I had to purchase dental floss and a cheap iPhone charger.  Purchasing the items at a drug store near my hotel was quick and easy.  Once I got the items back to my room, I realized I had absolutely no hope of opening them with the tools I had.  The front desk of course, helped me out with a pair of scissors, but you get my point.  Why does an iPhone charger need to be in such hard-to-open, sealed protective packaging?


Boxed breakfast cereal.   Worldwide, the breakfast cereal manufacturing industry generates about $33 billion in annual revenue.  Why then, is the “state of the art” in breakfast cereal packaging a wax paper bag that, after opening, you kind of roll-up and stuff back down in the box?  Not air-tight nor does it protect against moisture, but at least the cereal doesn’t fall out, right?  Really?  That’s the plan?

Packaged cheese.  We live at a great time in history.  Huge strides have been made in re-usable packaging for cheese.  The zip-lock closure is everywhere.  It’s great when it works as designed.  It never does for me.  The “Tear Here” instruction is a joke because when I try, it tears everywhere, often making the zip-lock portion hard or impossible to use.   I shouldn’t be eating so much cheese anyway.

Batteries in bubble packs.  We use a lot of batteries at my house.  Between dog-walking flashlights and me being a guitar player, batteries are plentiful.  Batteries, by their nature, get stored for long periods of time.   Many have prominent “Good Until” dates on them, presented as a benefit when they are seemingly decades in the future.  Then how come batteries are sold in bubble packs, great to hang in stores, terrible to store in my cupboard.  The cupboard we have for batteries is a joke, with multiple battery sizes precariously stacked in their crappy packaging and loose batteries always falling out.

Mountains of paper packaging.  As someone who works from home a bit, the fast food drive-thru is often an attractive and mindless meal choice.  When I indulge in it, I am absolutely astounded at the packaging to food ratio.  Our fast food is wrapped in paper, packaged in a box and stuffed in a bag, all items brightly printed with the fast food chain’s marketing.  It cracks me up sometimes that the food is in all that packaging for a very limited time.  At the end of a fast food meal you are often left with an over-the-top amount mountain of this silliness.

I know there are a lot of issues in developing packaging for a consumer product.  The cost, the shipping and the retail store shelf are all issues that need to be taken into account. I get it. My point here is that is seems to me that the consumer’s needs are way down the priority list.  Just sayin…

What product packaging frustrates you?  What would you like to change?


You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

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5 Steps to Execute Real Competitive Intelligence in Your Business

Competitive intelligence and analysis is often considered the domain of the largest companies that can afford outside consultants or a department dedicated to that task.  In my career I have run one such organization in a Fortune 500 business and earlier, worked in the function at IBM, in a department numbering well over 100 people.

competitor analysis

However, competitive intelligence is just as important for the small and medium-sized business.  Understanding your competitors and being ready for their actions is part of every executive’s job in the smaller business.  Often it is the marketing function that takes the lead on creating the discussion and developing whatever documentation is required.  Following these simple steps will put you in a good position to be aware and react to competitive actions and avoid “business blind spots.”

  1. Know who your competitors are.  It’s always good to have a discussion about competitors in your strategic planning process.  Bring in information from the sales team, as they will be the first to notice shifts or new entrants.  Recognize also that all competitors are not created equal; some will operate in the exact customer targets you have and other may not.  Potential new entrants are also worthy of discussion.
  2. Create an easy depository to gather competitive intelligence. In strict military-style intelligence systems, gathering and analysis of intelligence are done by two different groups.  In practice in a smaller company, creating a place where even the smallest bit of data can be reported and stored up for later analysis can be very helpful.  Something as simple as a specific email where items can be stored and later searched by competitor and analyses may be useful.
  3. Keep your SWOT analysis up to date.  Going through the exercise to create and maintain SWOT analyses is worth the effort in most situations.  Limit the real analysis to your core competitors if it the task seems onerous.  Here, the process and sharing of information is as important as the end product.
  4. Give your sales teams the data they need.  Giving your sales teams the competitive pricing and product information they ask for and keeping it current is a bit of work, but it is high-value and worth the effort you put in.  It also creates a baseline of information gathering, much of which is done by your feet on the street sales folks.  Rewarding them with good analysis they can use in their day-to-day sales calls completes the cycle and motivates them to collect more.
  5. Watch out for business blind spots.  Brainstorm the actions your competitors could take that would materially affect your business.   Detail who the new power player entrants to your markets may be.  Determine the ways you would know those actions were in progress and set up monitors for them.   Set out in your strategic plan how you might counter such actions.

There are many books and articles written about this topic that can be used as learning tools and further study on how to make it happen.  While the typical SMB can’t devote huge amounts of time and effort to CI, to not address it at all creates a risk you don’t need to have.  If you implement these steps, you’ll be well on your way to properly covering the competitive bases.

What competitive intelligence do you routinely gather?  Have you done any real analysis with it?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

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5 Shocking Facts About My Blog

So I think I’ve been doing this long enough to consider myself a blogger.  Officially, yes, I am a blogger.  I write a blog!  Now that I have reached this lofty designation, I am able to look back and make meaningful observations about how different it looks now that I am, well you know.


Pretty sure I went into it with my eyes open.  Since I have been writing and producing marketing materials forever; tackling a blog is a related activity, right?  Well, yes and no I guess.  Here are some things I learned along the way:

  • The headline/subject is the most important part of the blog  I guess I knew this before I started, but it more true than I ever imagined.  There are lots of blogs, lots of Tweets and lots of Facebook postings.  Everything goes by quite quickly.  If the subject is compelling and catches the eye, you have a chance of a few folks clicking on and reading more.  Hopefully, the shocking headline works for this blog.  Without the catchy headline, the reader is on to the next post…
  • 500 words is an excellent length for a blog.  I see longer and shorter postings, but I find I don’t like them.   I shoot for 500 words and find you can set the stage, make a good point and summarize it, all in that length.  It’s a quick enough read that people actually will finish it.  I find that when blogs start to be 700 words (and often broken up by more headings) it goes a bit too long.
  • Pictures are required.  I wasn’t aware of this at all.  Published my first few blogs without any pictures or graphics.  Started looking at other blogs and found that the visuals helped make the topic interesting.  I started using photos and wow, it made the posts more attractive.  Like the blue “Blog” bubble here.  I purchase most of the pictures from a royalty-free photo site, although I have also added charts I have made, or pictures I have taken.  The tchotchke photo was a picture I took of stuff in and around my desk.  So now, I will always use a photo or graphic with my blogs; I like the way it looks both on the blog and in the LinkedIn postings, etc.
  • The feedback has been amazing.  I guess I have had some beginner’s luck in starting my blog and that has allowed me to get a pretty good reach with my ideas on “marketing, business and management” and have had great discussions and comments from marketing professionals all over the world.  When you see the map of who read your blog today and it includes several continents, you get a feel for the power of the communications we have.

So, am I glad I started the blog?  You bet!  I’ve had great fun, have met many, many new people as a result.  It helps me work through issues I am having as a consultant and gives others a quick look at my marketing and business philosophies.

Is it more work than I thought?  No, I think I had a good handle on how hard it would be to keep it going.  But I do keep it going.  Now let’s publish this one and move on!

What have been your blogging experiences? Are you still looking for the 5th fact in this blog?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm