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.

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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: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Top 4 Signs you MUST Clean Up Your Marketing Database Now!

Marketing databases are one of those things that every business has and frankly, few truly understand.  In my work as a consultant, I work with many businesses over time and one of the first orders of business is to analyze the existing database.  The incoming CMO must make an assessment of the value of that database and determine if what is there is sufficient to meet your lead generation goals.

Marketing Database

After many iterations of this, I have a set of observations about the process.  In general, my going-in assumption is that “something is useable here” That’s a good assumption to start with but as they say, “your mileage may vary.”   Here are 4 clear signs that you should be thinking about a database refresh and clean up:

  1. No one knows where the database came from.  This is the first sign of a dead database.  If there’s no documentation and you truly do not know how the database was built over its life, you are headed for disappointment when you actually use the database.  It’s even worse when you get more than one story about what is contained in the database.
  2. Most records are just name and email.  It seems to be human nature to overestimate the completeness and quality of our data.  Having just an email address is not a marketing database, it’s an email list.  A database has enough data such that you can begin to tell what is what and start to segment the data.  No one would intentionally build an email-only database and expect segmentation from it would they?
  3. Each mailing brings spam notices.  Many of the vendors that we use to send out email (including Marketo and Eloqua) will ding you whenever some level of bad emails are sent out from your account and ultimately will reduce your ability to execute.  If you do not clean it up, it will be more difficult over time to send out emails and the vendor may shut you off altogether until you clean up your act.  Use an email verification service and only mail verified emails addresses.  It’s not cheap and takes some effort, but it is worth the hassle. It will keep you out of hot water.
  4. The percentage that have opened an email in the past year is tiny.  In general, if you email someone and over some extended time they do not open your emails, they are not likely to all of a sudden begin opening your emails and acting upon them.  Consider reducing the database to just those records that have opened or clicked on an email in the past year.  While this feels like a radical action, the non-openers are very unlikely to ever respond, so you will not miss them in your database.  You may also pay less to your Marketing Automation vendor for housing a smaller database.

The joy of having a clean database is a marketers’ dream.  Once you have one it’s real hard to go back.  A clean and maintained database will become a source of new leads with minimal hassle.  A database filled with unclean data will yield nothing but frustration.  Bite the bullet and clean up your database now!  You’ll be glad you did!

What issues do you have with your marketing data?  Have you taken steps to clean up your database?

 

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

 

Developing Content for Today’s “Content Marketing” World

Today we have marketing channels not even imagined a decade ago.  It has brought us a whole new vernacular; we “Tweet” messages and count “Likes.”  We talk relentlessly about it being a content-driven world.  The styles and forms our content can take today really call for an organized way of creating the message and properly disseminating it to your audience, at the proper time.

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Where to begin on content?  From the beginning is usually the best choice.  Here is a step by step guide to creating content that works:

Start by defining your audience.  Describe who they are.  Find out what they are reacting to now.  What content seems to matter to them?  What’s the answer to the age-old question “what keeps them awake at night?”  This way you can come up with topics that you know will resonate with your audience.

Determine how you will reach your audience.  Where does your audience go for information?  Will Twitter be an effective way to reach them, or might LinkedIn be better?  Does your audience embrace Facebook or might a blog be a better vehicle.  What is your off-line promotional strategy? Don’t assume you’ll just blast your message all over the place, be targeted and use each communication vehicles’ strengths.

Match content length to the tasks.  Each of the marketing channels you have available to you have different norms as to the length of message that can be effectively delivers.  Twitter has their 140 character limit, but you can also send along a link to longer content.  Blogs have an established norm of around 500 words.  White papers run thousand of words.  These vehicles deliver different things sought at different times during the sales cycle.

Be aware of the sales cycle.  Different content is needed by potential buyers at different times in the buying cycle.  There is the early stage when the prospects are educating themselves, the middle stages where they are evaluating options and the later stage when they are looking to justify a potential decision.   Content therefore, should speak to one of these stages and be offered when the prospect is in that stage of the process.

Commit to the long term.  Content marketing is not a one-time promotion; it’s a long term way of doing business.  It takes time to develop an audience, hone your content and learn to distribute it.  It’s also good to ask the audience now and then, to make sure you are hitting the mark.  It does not happen overnight.

“Content marketing” has become the marketing buzzword of 2013; we’re all trying to figure it out and apply it to our worlds.  Recognize that we evolved to where we are today; there we no overnight revolutions on the way.  Content is still content, it’s just operating in a more complex world. There are also different expectations from the audience.  If you recognize all of this and can apply it in an organized way, you’ll soon be a content marketing expert.

What has been your biggest challenge moving to “content marketing?”  Where are you in that process?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Start Treating Your Content Like Gold Now!

Content has been a big topic the last few years.  It seems every time you see a survey of the things that CMOs are concerned about, producing enough quality content is usually their number one concern. We even have a style of marketing now called “content marketing,” which of course doesn’t actually market content, it uses content to market other products.  Are you following this?

Content is Gold

Content is the fuel that makes today’s marketing work.  Simple as that may sound, not everyone has swallowed the Kool-Aid yet.  Can you do quality marketing without quality content?  Perhaps.  There are some businesses that are not in the stage of the market that content earns it’s keep.  Some products don’t really lend themselves to the written word; others fail in diagrams.  All is not created equal.

So to help you understand the landscape, here are 5 important points to contemplate:

You can calculate and communicate the exact value of your content.  You can learn in pretty good detail exactly what kinds of content resonate with your audience.  Especially if you hold some other variables constant (audience, medium) while you vary the content.

You can pass content as value to your channel partners.  Everyone wants and can use quality content.  Especially your channel partners.  It used to be that channel partners would look to their vendors for MDF or “leads” and while money still talks, compelling content that supports the marketing effort benefits everyone.

Use different content for the top and bottom of the funnel.  It’s best to use broad subjects and provocative subjects to entice people to enter your funnel where you can educate and nurture them.  Bottom of funnel content will be more product based; reviews, case studies, technical white papers.

Content can be reused.  I know it’s crazy to overstate the obvious, but quality content can be used in much more than one was.  Snippets of a white paper make blog posts; a reworking of a brief can make a contributed article.  Some folks are absolute artists at doing this.  Find one for yourself and stretch your content!

You buy it once, it pays many times.  This is my favorite. Having quality content is a bit like having money in the bank.  You can use it to make money in a campaign, you can use it to make our channel partners smile, you can use it in your PR on your website and in your emails.  And you only have to buy it once!  The inventory that never depletes.

Today’s marketing not only  requires the ability to find, write or purchase content that gets the most out of your campaigns.  It also requires a knack in actually using that content..

How does your content stack up?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

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: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

5 Easy Ways to Achieve Excellence in Your Sales Support

I have always believed that one of marketing’s most important activities is to provide the sales team with support.  A large part of that support takes the form of sales materials; leave-behind brochures, email attachments, case studies, PowerPoint decks and the like.  These items touch every sales prospect at some point.

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Often, I have found that these items are forgotten about and are older than they should be or have been modified by the sales team with less than perfect results. I vividly remember the look in the eyes of my partner, the VP sales, while on a train ride outside of London.  We were on our way to a major presentation, one that we had traveled 5500 miles to present.  He was reviewing (and trying to fix) the presentation his salesperson had put together for the meeting.  It was horrid.  The salesperson modified my team’s slide deck with different fonts on each slide and a real lack of proof reading.  Needless to say, he wasn’t our salesperson for long after that.

How then to turn sales support into an advantage?  Try these 5 tips to get started:

  1. Listen to the sales team and address their needs.  Some of the best marketing materials can come from salespeople asking for something in detail or explaining to the marketing team what the elements of their pitch seem to resonate most with customers.  I recommend listening to them and their experience and creating materials they know they had a hand in creating.  It goes a long way to make them feel supported.
  2. Gently coach them on basic branding.   The basics of branding do not come naturally to many people.  I find it helpful to explain in advance the full story and reasoning behind every tweak of the tagline or change in the look of the website. The sales team must buy-in and assimilate these things for them to fully take hold.
  3. Keep top-quality presentations in your sales team’s bag of tricks.  Whether your sales folks are road warriors, forever visiting potential customers’ offices or they do what they do over the phone and WebEx, PowerPoint presentations are often a key tool for them.  They establish credibility for the company and present an structured overview of product offerings.  I believe it is marketing’s job to keep these fresh, up-to-date and on target.  I have gone to the extent of changing the PowerPoint format and background every year, so that both I and sales management could recognize out of date presentations immediately.
  4. Focus on having excellent follow up materials.  Again, whether after in-person meetings or phone conversations, salespeople can emphasize key points when they have the right follow up brochures, case studies and article reprints.  A steady supply of good content helps them do this.
  5. Make sure salespeople actual get the message.   I experienced one extreme situation where I went into a company 6 months after a poorly-executed name change.  I walked around the sales area and realized that some salespeople where still using their old-name business cards and announcing themselves on the phone using the old name.  When I asked, I was told “Well they don’t know us by the new name.”  I’ll leave you to guess my reaction to that.

The marketing team has the same responsibility to the front line salesperson as our armed forces has to our fighting men and women at the front lines of battle.  They must have confidence that they are armed with the best possible tools. Make sure your team is doing their part.

What has been the best sales support you’ve seen?  Where does it fall down the most?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

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: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm