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

8 Secrets to Becoming a LinkedIn Group Star!

It’s kind of an understatement to say that LinkedIn groups have become popular: there are over 1.9 million of them.  They cover (obviously) a wide range of topics.  The best ones are thriving communities where industry professionals interact with one another and share valuable ideas and insights from their professional worlds.

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For some an online community such as LinkedIn can be ominous to the point of non-participation.  This means missing out on the valuable connections and learning that LinkedIn Groups have to offer.  LinkedIn is much more than an online resume site and the groups are a major part of the community.

So here are some hints you can use to get more out of your LinkedIn Group experience:

  1. Join groups that match your interests.  With 1.9 million groups there a good chance you will find a group that matches your interests exactly.  Search out those groups.  If there are several groups in your topic area, try them a few at a time.  Leave groups that do not keep your interest.
  2. Not all groups are created equal.  You may join some groups to keep in touch with college or company alumni or to get updates from a specific organization.  Not every group requires frequent interaction; the LinkedIn tools allow you to choose the frequency of interaction.
  3. Watch a group’s behavior before posting.  You’ll want to fit it, not stand out, at least at first.  Watch the tone and style of posts and comments, etc.  See what kinds of topics get commented on most often.
  4. Stay on the topic of the group.  The best groups do not approve posts that are not of specific interest to the group members.  The closer you stay to home with your post topics, the more often you will be approved and the more often group members will comment on your posts.
  5. Do not “self-promote” Unless the group was specifically created to post your home carpet cleaning business or your catering success, you should not be sharing it.  You should post things that will be interesting to other readers.
  6. Bring new information to the group.  Find and post articles that bring new ideas to the group, don’t rehash the same old topics.  You also want to look like a thought leader and by posting articles about new concepts and up-to-date marketing techniques, etc., will help you get there.
  7. Post insightful comments.  The writer certainly enjoys the “Great post, Bob” comments, but the whole community on the group enjoys a well thought addition to the discussion.
  8. Focus on creating and participating discussions.  The best contributions are those that promote interaction and discussion between group members.  It’s a beautiful thing when it works.  You should look for these discussions and get involved.  When creating a discussion, ask questions that are food for thought, make it easy for people to comment.

LinkedIn is here to stay and offers each of us an opportunity to promote our personal brand and grow our networks and the LinkedIn groups are central to that.  Each of us should spend some time learning to get the best from the LinkedIn community.  The effort pays off!

Have you gained from the LinkedIn groups?  What are the topics you like to see?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

How to Keep Your Content Short!

There is a study recently released from Pardot that covers a number of content related issues.  One of the most reported, retweeted and rehashed findings from the study was that 70% of the 400 B2B buyers in the survey thought that content should be less than 5 pages. Frankly, I am kind of surprised that anyone is surprised. If we could get the same information in 1 or 2 pages, why would we want 5?

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Some of the popular social media tools have us looking at ways to spread more gospel with less characters. There is a whole science of distilling your message down to the right number of words or characters for different media. These are all good trends taken from the tactics newspaper writers have used for years.

But it’s not just Tweets and Facebook postings that could use an eye toward brevity; nearly all our communications can benefit from the trend. I went to a business school that had an across-the-board maximum size for all written assignments. The theory was, if you can’t distill it down to a page or page and a half, then no one will ever read or understand it. The training served me well!

Here are then, some tips to keep your writing short, sweet and to the point!

  • Start with an outline.  It seems obvious but if you start by distilling your message down to three points, communicating the three points in a concise fashion now becomes an easier task. This works for blogs like this one all the way to voice mails. Detail the things that must be communicated and start from there.
  • Decide on the tone of the communications.  Determine the level of background to be presented along with the main points. Make it the same for all points. Don’t go in to great depth on the first point and less and less for each one.  How deep you can go will be determined by the overall length of your piece and the number of points you must make.
  • Use visual tools.  You can make a shorter communication more clear with bullets, numbering and the like. These tools make it easier for the brain to absorb the content.  Pictures, chart and graphs also make the data easier to embrace. New content choices like “infographics” have taken the task even further by providing tools that are not limited to just words on a white background.
  • Remove unnecessary words.  The old litmus test was that if the sentence/paragraph meant the same if you removed a given word, then the word should be removed. Many communications can benefit from this type of review and end up shorter with no loss of clarity.

One of the good things is that there is much good content in the world that you can look at and emulate to make your content even better. Note the way others get to the point quickly and completely without a lot of extra words. This style of writing gets read and gets the message across.  Adapt the style as your own!

Have you ever tried to reduce the size of your content? What techniques have you used?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

5 Reasons You Absolutely Must Have a Marketing Plan!

I am always amazed when I become involved in new business situations and learn there is no marketing plan in place.  Even a brief or ultra high level plan is better than no plan, yet many businesses live without a plan at all.

I’ve had all the conversations and heard all the “explanations”  of why there is no marketing plan in place.  These explanations soon start to sound redundant and point to the same recurring fears that executives have about marketing plans.  Now, in talking to these folks, I believe these fears are real to the executive, they just don’t hold water upon an inspection of the facts.

Marketing Plans

Marketing Plans are very important!

Here then, are my Top 5 Reasons You Must Have a Written Marketing Plan:

  1. It really doesn’t need to take long.  Developing a marketing plan can take a long time and often does. There may even be reasons to take more time and gather data, talk to customers, etc.  However, there are techniques that can create a viable marketing plan in a day or two.  Many businesses need this type of quick plan and execution to capitalize on market opportunities or to refocus the marketing effort immediately.
  2. No business is too small.  Many folks think that a formal marketing plan is the domain of the large multinational firms and not for a very small business.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If your business needs customers to survive, then you need a plan to get them.
  3. It’s more than a just a document.  The process of putting together a plan will include many stakeholders who gradually understand and buy in to the plan as it’s developed and aspects are discussed.  Getting the team in alignment is an important goal of a marketing planning process.
  4. Planning is the only time you focus on the big picture.  Growing a business is often an exercise in firefighting.  Solving this morning’s problems.  No time to worry about the big picture.  All the more reason that periodically you step back and chart a course for the future.  Otherwise you may find yourself with a rudderless ship you cannot control.
  5. “Failing to plan is planning to fail”  I hate to roll out this old cliché, but in this case it fits.  Your likelihood of any success is much higher if you set the goal and create a plan to get there.  Hope is not a strategy.  Without a plan you will waste resources, be forced to make panic decisions and, since you have no clear goal to reach, will ultimately fail.

Looks like I have presented a pretty poor prognosis for anyone who does not use a marketing plan.  I do so because it is the largely the case.  Marketing is one area of business that needs to be carefully planned and results examined and the plan continually adjusted.  Don’t wait!  Begin today!

Do you have a written marketing plan in place?  Do the points above address the reasons why not?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

The 5 Biggest Social Media Mistakes Companies Make

Social media.  Much had been written, everyone is talking about it.  Everyone wants to know what you are doing in it.  Still many folks do not understand the process.  But that doesn’t stop some companies from jumping in anyway.  However, that might not be the best strategy.

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Executing a social media strategy that makes a difference takes thought, planning and consistent execution.  In social media many companies feel the pressure to be involved and jump in before they have really thought it through.  They end up making one or more of these easy-to-avoid mistakes:

  1. Starting without a plan.  A fairly common way for some companies to get started in social media is to sign up for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts and then “let’s see what happens.”  It’s also likely that almost nothing will happen and certainly the world won’t beat a path to your door to see what your next pearl of wisdom will be.  Social media is a crowded place and you need to carefully stake out your audience, your voice and your expertise.  It will not “just take off” on its own.
  2. Not knowing the audience.   Social media platforms are excellent places to find and grow an audience for what you have to say.  However, your content must be relevant to the audience to get noticed.  You’ll attract different audiences based on how your position your social media accounts and by the content that you post.
  3. Broadcasting the same exact thing over all networks.One seemingly popular strategy is to join all the relevant social media platforms and then, send out the same exact news releases, at the same time, on all of the networks.  Since many in your audience will sign up for multiple social media networks, based on their favorites, you’ll be sending out redundant messages.  A more forward thinking strategy would be to give each network a different voice.  Concentrate on different things in different streams.  Grow different types of audiences.
  4. Mixing business with pleasure.  This tends to happen with small entrepreneurial companies where the owner uses the company’s Twitter account to tweet out personal opinions, comments on service at restaurants and the like.  Telling us you have a hangover is not a way to enhance your brand.  Keep this type of chatter on a personal account and not on anything associated with your brand.
  5. Losing interest over time.  Many companies start sending out all sorts of content through social media and after a few months have run out of ideas or the person who was doing all the activity left the company, etc.   Social media is no longer something you “try and see if it works.”  It works and your competitors are making it work.  If you begin a social media outreach the goal is to make it an asset to your business and a major boost in your branding.  “There is no try; there is only do.”

Social media is with us to stay.  It’s become a complex and interesting world where marketers have a chance to differentiate our brands and showcase innovative content.  Embrace it, understand it and make it happen.  You hopefully won’t make these mistakes!

Has your social media implementation had issues?  Did you make any of these mistakes?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

5 Things You Must Know About Marketing Plans

Marketing plans.  It seems some marketing professionals love them and well, some don’t.  But we’ve all had to deal with them.  Everyone wants to see the document and we must submit budget numbers, so we create marketing plans.

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I just completed a marketing plan project for one of my clients.  It’s a process I’ve done a hundred times, but this time I made a point to think about the big picture as I went through the process.  The observations I made may help you as you develop your next plan.

  1. You are never done.  As you think through all of the issues and choices in your plan, you realize that you could continue adding detail, thinking new angles, etc. almost literally forever.  We all feel that way.  But we must recognize the difference between planning and executing and draw a line and say “done!”
  2. The more time you spend planning, the better your marketing effort will be.  It probably goes without saying that the better you prepare, the better you execute.  The marketing plan is both the result and the process of that preparation.  When you have completed a marketing planning process properly, you’re ready to take on the world.
  3. No matter how hard you work, the plan is out of date before you know it.  It’s unfortunate, but your plan will be out of date almost before you use it.  It’s unlikely it will last a year, unless you are in a very stable corner of the business world.  In my career I have made a habit of redoing my marketing plans every 6 months.
  4. It’s only partially about the document.  Yes, a marketing plan is a document and an important one.  However, it’s more than a document; it’s really about the process of thinking it through, discussing it among the team, getting everyone on the same page.  If everyone on the team has their input and embraces the plan, execution will be so much easier.
  5. It must match the budget dollars.  I know, it seems obvious but the expenditures in a marketing plan must match the expenditures in the company budget.  Ideally, you create the plan in advance of submitting budget numbers, but often it doesn’t really work that way.  If you’re a 6-month planner like me, you know it’s a process of moving the dollars around, but keeping the total the same.

So for my client’s marketing plan, I’ve decided to call the plan done.  For now, anyway.  There will be discussions, there will be additional needs added by the sales or executive teams and we’ll recast the  plan again and add new information.  Then we’ll execute the plan and start the process all over again next year.

I’m reminded of an old cliché about plans in business: The only thing we know about our plan with certainty is that it will be wrong and it will not go as we planned it.  There’s some truth to that.  But it doesn’t diminish the importance of the marketing planning process.  Make sure you embrace it and give it proper respect.  You’ll be rewarded when you’re executing.

Do you create an annual marketing plan?  Does your company have a formal process?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

The 5 Most Important Trends in Business use of Social Media

Businesses have been flocking to social media now for several years and some important trends are emerging.  The research shows that not all social media is created equal.  Some tools are better suited than others and now that social media is beginning to mature, it’s fairly clear where the market is moving.

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In this year’s often-quoted survey of social media tools used by the Inc 500, shown in the graphic above, we see clearly that Facebook use by this group has fallen while LinkedIn use grew year over year.  Blogging is up and YouTube is down. These are not mirages; they are really happening.  Here are few reasons why these trends are happening and will continue to happen:

Trend #1: Use of Facebook is down 7%.  Facebook is a sometimes uncomfortable mix of business and pleasure and its use by the Inc 500 group is down.  Many Facebook users look upon the site as a place to interact with family and friends.  The folks in your network are indeed called “friends.”  Facebook is very sticky as we see what our friends are having for lunch or what exotic local they are visiting today.  It’s not a place, however, where we go for knowledge and enlightenment about the products we purchase.

Trend #2: LinkedIn use is up 8%.  LinkedIn was designed from day one as a business tool and it shows, as it has become the most popular tool with 81% of the Inc 500 using it.  As the online resume site, designed initially to replace your Rolodex and keep up with your contacts, LinkedIn is all about content and professional interests.  If you follow the latest trend toward “content marketing” especially in the business to business world, LinkedIn is uniquely situated to segment and deliver content to groups that are interested in that content.

Trend #3: YouTube use is down 15%.  Not all content translates well to video presentation, and YouTube experienced quite a drop in use.  We are all users of video, but the built-in time it takes to download and watch a video often exceeds the time we want to spend on the topic. We can easily scan an article or blog and quickly get the information we want.  We can’t do that with a video.  While there is always that potential viral upside to a a well-done video on YouTube,  more companies are bypassing it.

Trend #4: Blogging is up.  Quite a few more companies in the study are now publishing a blog, adding 7% in this survey to 44%.  It has been said that all companies need to be publishers; blogs are an easy and effective way to do that.  Blogs are usually a shorter form format that can be easily digested by the audience.  They are often written directly by subject matter experts and not product marketing committees.

Trend #5: Twitter remains steady.  Twitter is popular with the Inc 500 businesses and gained a little momentum year over year, rising 4%.  While celebrities remain the most followed group on Twitter, companies can also gain huge followings there and use this very powerful tool to communicate with that audience, take advantage of viral opportunities and receive feedback with their audience.   It has become standard to Tweet out links to other forms of content making this a well used tool.

Social media will for sure continue to evolve and change.  Some of today’s tools may be replaced by new tools, others will stand the test of time.  Our focus as marketers however, should be to use the most effective tools available and be aware of the changes taking place.

What trends have you had using social media in your business?  Which tool works best for you?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm