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Today’s Rant: Why Marketing is Harder — and More Fun

A salesperson who is face-to-face with a prospect can vary his or her dialogue to accommodate the prospect’s needs and interests.  The salesperson knows the company size, location and industry as well as the prospect’s role and stage in the buying cycle.  She can assess the prospect’s level of knowledge and fill in gaps.  Most importantly she can use the prospect’s responses to guide the discussion.

Today the salesperson doesn’t get a face-to-face meeting until much later in the buying cycle.  It is the marketer who must keep the attention of the multiple buyers at a multiple companies through the early and middle stages of their buying cycles.  In order to keep each buyer’s attention, the marketer’s provision of information  must vary in the same way a salesperson’s approach varies.

Yet the marketer isn’t sitting across from a single prospect.  He is tracking and analyzing demographic and behavioral information about prospects, developing hypotheses about intent, gleaning insight from current customers, and mapping responses to prospect behaviors to move them to the next stage in the buying cycle.

Today’s marketers need to:

  • Sharpen core marketing skills, including:  knowing customers and prospects, understanding the processes that are affected by a product or service, mapping the buying cycle and buyer information needs, clarifying differentiation, and developing evidence-based value propositions.
  • Get comfortable experimenting, acting on partial information, and adjusting course as they find new information.
  • Put repeatable processes in place to leverage knowledge gained.
  • Select and properly use appropriate technology.
  • Collaborate fully with sales and lead the company into social business where “everyone is a marketer”
  • Draw insight from customer interviews, analyze data, demonstrate accountability…

…the list goes on. Yes, businesses hold marketers, and marketers hold themselves, to a higher standard today. Leadership matters. Strategy and management matter. Evidence tells the story.

It’s a lot more and a lot more fun.

New Research on Why CRM Fails…Also Lessons for Marketing Automation

MIT Sloan Management Review (Spring 2011) published new research on CRM in an article titled, “Why CRM Fails and How to Fix It.”  This is fantastic reading; truly an energizing piece pointing to down-to-earth advice.  The four key insights that the authors drew from their research are equally applicable to marketing automation.  They are (verbatim):

  1. “If the appropriate marketing capabilities are not developed, little or no return will be generated from investments made in CRM.”
  2. “The rate of organizational learning, rather than the size of the company’s CRM budget, determines how rapidly companies can change the way they relate to a consumer, which, in turn, is linked to the length of the consumer purchasing cycle.”
  3. “Top management can provide the money, software and authority to create a CRM program, but such investment must be informed by cycles of learning from consumer insight….an organizational culture that tolerates experimentation will be more successful at building new CRM capabilities.”
  4. “Hard work and commitment are what it takes to develop marketing capabilities…far from being a black box (marketing capabilities) can be developed through conscious, goal-directed learning by those responsible for CRM.”

While some scoff at my contention that today’s marketing is harder than ever before, these insights from the research support that view. Enough of the left brain/right brain argument.  Enough of the data/experience fuss.  Enough of the processs/technology discussion.  It takes them all…along with leadership and courage.  I’ll say that again:  leadership and courage.

Back to the article.  The authors display a matrix with four marketing activities (demand management, creating marketing knowledge, building brands, customer relationship management) on the left and three marketing relationships across the top.  The marketing relationships between companies and consumers are:  transactional (from the 1970′s), one-to-one (based on the long-term relationship focus of the 1980s ) and networked (flowing from online networks, the company supply chain and consumers).”

The latter (networked relationships) is characterized by “co-creating value with a network of consumers,” marketing knowledge coming from “key network participants and shapers,” consumers encouraged to “access a networks capabilities,” and consumer self service.  How different is this from where your marketing is today?  How does this vision apply to your marketing? How will you go about building the capabilities to succeed in this networked relationship between company and consumer?

Don’t be stuck in in the 1990s.  Please read the article and let me know whether it made you want to cheer also…

(Back to marketing automation:  Today’s ClickZ piece on Marketing Automation…Far from Automatic opened once again the discussion of why so many marketing automation implementations fail to deliver expected results.  It makes good points but doesn’t go far enough into a meaty topic that I’ve covered frequently.

Who cares about marketing data?

In a recent survey conducted by Patricia Seybold Group and the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (Survey on Data-Driven Marketing, March 2011), more than 100 marketers reported what types of marketing data most interested heads of other departments.  Customer data was the hands down winner, recognized as the top choice by CEOs, COOs, Business Unit Leaders, and Service Delivery Leaders.  The findings (see below), while not statistically significant, do raise some questions worth pondering.

Type of Data Top Choice For:
Customer Data CEO, COO, BU leader, Service leader
Sales Accepted Lead Data Sales leader
Markets Data CTO (2nd choice for CEO)
Marketing Programs Data CFO
Competitor Data None (2nd choice for Sales, Service, CTO)
Contacts Nurtured by Marketing None (4th choice for Sales)

Consider first, the kinds of data needed to understand sources of future growth (markets, competitors, customers) and the kinds of data needed to understand short term opportunities (customers, competition).  Then consider what is needed to forecast short term success (sales accepted leads, contacts nurtured by marketing).  Finally, what is needed to allocate budget dollars (marketing programs data).

It occurs to me that marketing has started its measurement activities in the area of least value to the company (marketing programs data).  It is, fortunately, moving higher in the food chain to using contacts nurtured by marketing to forecast revenue.  But still that is mechanics — can’t be ignored but not the source of the real value to the company.  It is time for marketing to set its sights on growth and provide credible information to the rest of the organization on customers, markets, and competition.

Approach this like any other project — understanding what other departments are trying to accomplish and then providing information that helps them do that better, faster, more easily, more expertly.  Providing credible marketing data to the rest of the company requires organizational outreach – crossing departmental lines, understanding needs, communicating effectively, and building relationships that foster mutual achievement.

That said, it is not all about the rest of the organization using the data…it is also about marketing’s uses of data to find new opportunities and capitalize on known opportunities.  Be just as disciplined about the needs analysis for the marketing department.  Afterall, you are/should be leading the charge.

Why Marketers Invest in Technology: Survey Results

Survey results:  investment in technologyIn today’s B2B buying environment, marketing can not be effective in driving demand, building brand, or charting strategies for future growth without technology.  There are hundreds of reasons why marketers should invest in technology but I am more interested in what marketers report as their reasons. So, in a recent survey conducted by Patricia Seybold Group and ITSMA, I asked.

First a few details on the 107 survey respondents:

  • Large B2B companies (half over $1 billion in revenue)
  • Half from companies that primarily sell services; half from companies that sell products and services
  • Marketers all managed one or more marketing functions in their companies.

The top four reasons these marketers invest in technology are to:

  • Improve efficiency
  • Make marketing investments based on data
  • Hand better quality leads to sales
  • Obtain greater understanding of prospects and customers to improve offers, products, services

Those who had made much more investments in technology for longer periods of time didn’t have significantly different reasons.  In other words, the leaders haven’t moved on to focus on new horizons.  They are continuing to invest to improve efficiency, accountability, sales productivity, and customer understanding.

If you are a marketer just beginning to invest in technology, you face a tough game of catch up.  Data keep pouring in that correlate technology investment with data-driven marketing and correlate data-driven marketing with greater improvement in market share, lower cost of sales, and higher sales velocity. If you are just starting out you do have the benefit of learning from others’ mistakes…so take full advantage of the research on implementation success.  There is no time to waste.

5 Reasons for Low Adoption of Marketing Technology and How to Move Forward

Many of the technologies that comprise the marketing technology ecosystem have been around since before the shift to customer control of the buying process, a shift that has made technology essential to marketers.  Hence, low adoption rates of marketing technologies can’t be explained by lack of availability of appropriate solutions.  Progress has been slow for five major reasons:

  • An evolving marketing technology ecosystem, in which capabilities of dissimilar elements often overlap.
  • The time required to develop a culture of experimentation.
  • The gaps in process knowledge and skills needed to both chart the path and execute the tactics of this new marketing.
  • All the usual budget constraints, organizational silos, and accountability questions that have plagued marketing for years.
  • Lack of, or delayed, IT support.

Moving forward in this mostly uncharted territory requires important business skills: the leadership to work effectively across functions in the organization, the knowledge to plan a technology strategy, the judgment to reengineer processes and train/recruit the right team, the focus to engineer activities to support business objectives, and the analytical skill to keep finding ways to improve outcomes.

Marketing has, in many companies, fallen into an almost Rodney Dangerfield position in the executive suite: they don’t get respect—and perhaps they haven’t been earning it. Start today to make marketing a legitimate business function in your company.

How do you involve your experts in social media?

Marketers need to “know their customers so well that the product or service sells itself,”  as Peter Drucker said. But marketers aren’t subject matter experts on issues their customers face.  From whom does the customer want to hear? Not the marketer.  The customer wants to hear from the experts.   

A company’s key subject matter experts are short on time and may not have an inclination to blog or engage online with customers.  How does a company productively involve their experts in online discussions?

A company called ConnectedN has an answer.  ConnectedN is a Software-as-a-Service curation platform focused on making social media engagement feasible for busy professionals, particularly those in enterprises that adhere to strict guidelines for pre-publishing approval. Pricing is $350 per month per user. This includes a brand-compliant microsite that sits on the customer’s Web site for publishing curated content, the aggregation and routing software that finds relevant social media mentions and routes them via email to appropriate experts and reviewers, as well as newsletter distribution and social media publishing capabilities. 

Combining content curation with workflow management and an email-based user interface addresses two factors that limit many companies’ engagement with social media: the time required of experts and the volume of content needed to maintain a consistent presence. Third-party content provides the impetus for expert commentary, draws search engine traffic, and enables regular publishing to social media platforms and newsletter subscribers. Pretty nifty.

ConnectedN’s singular focus on getting busy subject matter experts directly participating in social media reminds me of the revolution that took place in print publishing when editors first sat in front of electronic workstations. Editorial control was the prize that motivated editors to sit at a keyboard, perceived then as a stigma. Having a voice in far-reaching conversations, without becoming a slave to the Web, is today’s prize.

Read more about ConnectedN in this new report from Patricia Seybold Group:  ConnectedN’s Content Curation for Social Media Engagement.

Evidence: the heart of your business (and marketing) plan

Cover of "Getting to Plan B: Breaking Thr...

Cover via Amazon

If you haven’t read John Mullins’ and Randy Komisar’s book, Getting to Plan B, I urge you to do so.  Their research shows that businesses that try to execute their business plans flawlessly usually fail.  Most successful businesses did not start out intending to be in the business that succeeded for them. ( Read the book for some great examples.)

Instead of doing a business plan, they pose a five-step recipe for launching a business that will succeed (i.e., finding the successful business that you didn’t plan to go into). 

Step 1:  Look for analogs, or evidence that your business idea has legs.  For instance, the incredible success of the Sony Walkman was an analog for the iPod. 

Step 2:  Look for antilogs, or evidence that your business idea may not work.  For instance, why would people pay for music when they were used to downloading for free on Napster?  Conclusion:  Apple would have to make its money on the device.

Step 3:  Identify leaps of faith, or those assumptions you are making that are critical to success but for which no evidence exists.

Step 4:  Develop hypotheses to test each leap of faith and go into the market and start testing.  This is a key part…don’t wait to get into the marketplace.  Get in there and learn and then adapt based on what the evidence tells you.

Step 5:  Use feedback from testing your hypotheses as your dashboard for managing the business.  This is brilliant:  success is about adapting to evidence that your leaps of faith are wrong (if the are) and doing it quickly enough to be able to test alternatives (i.e., getting to plan B).  No sense watching traditional business metrics if the business’ success depends on those leaps of faith.

Marketers need to start operating in this same way.  What are your leaps of faith and how can you test them?

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