Suppose you had to invest your life savings in one of two companies. Both companies are in the same business and sell to the same prospect.
The first company’s philosophy is; ‘we’ll make or product so good that it will sell itself’. They focus intensely on engineering and product development but they don’t spend enough time developing their sales and marketing efforts. Their product is clearly the best and always wins industry awards. But, they struggle on the sales and marketing front.
The second company’s philosophy is; ‘people buy people’. Their primary focus is on sales, marketing and developing strong customer relationships. Their product does the job but it’s not winning any awards like the first company’s product.
Without any more information than what I’ve given you, which company would you invest in?
I know if it’s my money, it’s going to the company who focuses on sales and marketing.
As much as we’d like to think the companies with the best products always wins, it’s not often the case. Nine times out of ten, its sales and marketing that put the industry leaders ahead of their competition, NOT their products.
I’m not trying to say that a good product isn’t important. But, what I’m saying is that having the “best” product is no guarantee of success.
There are plenty of examples of failed companies who’ve had great products they couldn’t sell. And, many of these companies wound up getting acquired by their more sales savvy competitors. So, in the end, the companies with the best sales and marketing also wound up with the best products.
So, the next time you think improving your product is the key to outselling your competition, think twice. Products don’t “sell themselves”, people do. Focus on sales and marketing and you just might be able to buy your competitors to get a better product.
One of the best sales professionals I’ve met uses a day planner to manage her entire selling process. Her name is Debbie, and although her company has invested heavily in a state-of-the-art sales activity tracking system, she refuses to use it. Debbie insists she doesn’t want anyone monitoring her sales activity and that updating forecasting data slows her down and gets in the way of selling. So, she sticks to doing things her way.
As you can imagine, Debbie’s refusal to use the company’s system is a challenge for her manager. Because, not only does Debbie refuse to follow their process, she’s also a sales superstar and the company’s top rep.
Her superstar status comes from the fact that she doesn’t just make her quota; she consistently exceeds it by 150-300%. She personally accounts for 25-30% of the company’s revenue and has for years.
Debbie’s company has mandated that everyone follow their sales tracking process to help sales forecasting. But, this applies to everyone but Debbie. She can keep doing things her way.
It sounds like Debbie has a spineless manager, right? It might sound that way but, that’s defiantly not the case. If you asked, Debbie’s manager would say:
‘When a sales rep becomes a superstar, I work for them and they call the shots. Until then, they work for me and I’m going to monitor everything they do.’
If every sales professional was a superstar, we might not need systems for monitoring sales activity. We’d all be exceeding our sales quotas, all of the time and we’d all be happy. Of course, this isn’t usually the case and most sales teams aren’t made up of all superstars.
I don’t know of any technology solution that will turn a poor sales rep around. However, there are systems that can accurately monitor sales activity and with the information they provide, managers might just have a shot at a sales team of all “superstars.”
For most of us, marketing’s primary objective is to generate revenue. I doubt there are many who’d argue this point. However, we shouldn’t forget that revenue generation isn’t the only way marketing can benefit an organization.
For most organizations, REAL (yes… another acronym) marketing results can be realized in one or more of four areas. They are:
- Revenue generation
- Expense Reduction
- Asset building
- Liability minimization
Revenue generation is the most obvious way marketing can benefit an organization but some marketing can reduce expenses as well. For example, one of my clients used to fly their sales reps all over the United States to do product demos. With the marketing budget, we duplicated the rep’s demos as live Web conferences for a lead generation campaign. The Web demos cost almost 65% less then the in-person demos and were very well received by prospects. This strategy was quickly adopted by the sales team and my client realized a tremendous opportunity to reduce travel expenses.
An organizations number one asset is its customer and prospect database and their ability to turn that data into revenue. Yes, even more valuable then products, buildings and any other tangible a company might own. The simple reason is that a clean database and a reliable marketing (and sales) methodology will insure future sales. Almost nothing else will.
Generally when an organization thinks of liabilities the focus is on financial obligations. Rightly so but, liabilities are really anything that holds a company back. From that prospective, consider an organization without an effective marketing program going head-to-head with a marketing savvy competitor. Get the picture?
So, when assessing the value of your marketing or determining a marketing return on investment, consider how much revenue your marketing is generating and the other REAL results you’re creating.
Truth be told, I’m not really a marketer; not in the traditional sense anyhow. Traditionally (or stereotypically) marketers are considered to be left-brain, artistic types who are full of creative ideas. That’s not me.
Sure, I have my creative moments, everyone does, but for the most part my strengths are more analytical than artistic. In fact, I might make a better accountant than marketer. Or would I?
Even though I’m often (very often) creatively challenged, I’ve been able to hold my own in the world of marketing by learning to compensate for my lack of creativity. What I’ve learned is that following a few simple rules can take even the least creative marketer (marketer want-to-be to some) a long, long way. And those rules are:
To say I’m reluctant to invest in marketing programs that can’t be measured is an understatement. I realize some marketing can’t be measured but most organizations can’t afford that type of marketing anyway.
You’ll never get as much out of your marketing budget as you could. If your vision (as it should be) is to create a fully optimized marketing program that consistently generates an increasing return on your marketing investments, you’ll always have room for improvement. So, never ever settle for the results you’re getting today.
Even though you’ll likely never develop a 100% optimized marketing program you will (or should) be able to get most of your marketing on “auto-pilot” to some degree. If you don’t, the time it takes you or your team to execute your “normal” marketing initiates will prevent you from taking your marketing to the next level.
Tangible results are all that count
At the end of the day, upper management is concerned with the bottom line. Sure, they’ll get all excited about those ultra “cool” or “entertaining” programs when you first present it to them, but the minute that program bombs, you’re on your own. So, you’d better keep the focus where it should be. I think you get the picture.
I fairly certain my rules won’t get your creative juices flowing. But, they can work wonders if your goal is to get some revenue flowing.
Think back to your 4th or 5th grade Science class and you may remember the “scientific method.” At the time, I’m sure it didn’t mean much to me, but it’s defiantly hitting home today.
If you recall, the scientific method is a controlled process for conducting scientific experiments. However, the scientific method can also be applied to help explain almost any observation or assumption, including those made about marketing.
When used correctly, the scientific method provides a framework for explaining why some marketing activities create results, while others don’t. To leverage this process and improve the effectiveness of your marketing, follow these steps.
Step 1: Observe
The first step is to make an observation about your marketing. For example, you may have observed that sales increase every time you send a certain Enthusem.com campaign.
Step 2: Make a hypothesis (an assumption)
Using the previous example, because sales seem to increase every time you execute one of your campaigns, you might hypothesize that this is effective. At this point you’ve come up with a tentative explanation for why your campaign is worth investing in. This tentative explanation or assumption in the scientific method is your hypothesis.
Step 3: Make predictions based on your hypothesis
Of course, there are dozens of reasons why sales may increase. But if you believe your campaign caused the sales increase, you can begin to make predictions about what will happen if you run your campaign in the future.
Step 4: Test your predictions and monitor the results
You’ve now predicted that your campaign will succeed in the future but you need to test your predictions by closely monitoring future results. From your monitoring data you’ll likely make further observations and modify your hypothesis based on what you learn.
Step 5: Refine your hypothesis
Finally, repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between your hypothesis and the outcome of your test campaigns.
When you get to step five, and consistency is obtained, according to the scientific method, your hypothesis becomes a theory. From here all that’s left is proving your theory is a law. If you can get to this point, you may just get a call from the Nobel committee.
The majority of the marketing programs I work on are designed to generate sales leads. For all of these programs, I use the same general strategy. The strategy is simple. Turn suspects into prospects and prospects into leads.
I define suspects, prospects, leads as follows:
Suspects - individuals in my target market that have never responded to a marketing communication.
Prospects - individuals who have expressed an interest in the products or services being sold.
Leads - prospects worthy of a salesperson’s time.
For the most part, my marketing objective is two-fold; generate prospects and generate leads.
Prospect generation is about turning suspects into prospects. Ultimately, salespeople want leads, but generating a prospect usually comes first.
Since a prospect is a person who has expressed an interest in what I’m selling, when I’m trying to generate prospects I want to get suspects to respond to an offer.
The offer doesn’t necessarily need to be a sales offer but the offer should qualify the suspect as a prospect. For example, if I invite suspects to attend an online seminar about an issue related to what I’m selling, the respondents would be classified as prospects.
Now, just because someone expresses interest in an offer, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a lead. A lead is a prospect that’s worthy of a salesperson’s time. So, some sort of qualification process must be in place to identify prospects who are leads. For example, if you invite suspects to attend an online seminar, perhaps you have them answer a few qualifying questions during the seminar registration process.
Now, if you don’t have many leads, all of your prospect might be considered leads. But, that’s not usually the case.
With an effective marketing program in place, your salespeople will likely have too many leads to follow-up on. So, marketing and sales must work together to constantly refine what qualifies a prospect as a lead. As marketing creates more leads, the criteria that define leads should get stricter. Ideally, we get to the point where we’re just marketing to a target prospect list.
A target prospect list includes selected individuals, or specific persons within selected organizations that we want to engage. When our marketing evolves to this point, every prospect is a lead and every salesperson is extremely busy.
Question: What are you trying to accomplish with your marketing?
Simple question right? Not always. I ask it at every first meeting with a potential client and I’m often surprised at their answers. In many cases, I don’t get an answer. Instead, I get an ambiguous response like: ‘We’re trying to create awareness’ or ‘We want to build our brand’. I suppose, technically, both of those responses are answers. But, neither is clear enough to provide any real direction.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with some brilliant marketers. No two uses the same approach to getting things done, but all have two things in common. They know precisely what they want to achieve. And, when asked what they’re trying to accomplish with their marketing, their response is crystal clear.
To help ensure my marketing objectives are clear and easily understood by others, I create a simple one-page project outline for each campaign I work on. Then, I use the acronym S.M.A.R.T coined by Paul J. Mayer to evaluate the outline.
S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Tangible, and it’s a great tool for refining and clarifying your goals and objectives.
For example, I recently worked with a client to outline a lead acquisition program. My one-page project outline began as follows:
Goal: With a fixed budget of $9,000, determine the viability of creating 300 new sales leads in 90 days by driving registrations for online seminars.
It continued with a brief strategy and tactical overview followed by cost highlights and some additional assumptions. When I finished, I went back to the goal to consider if it was specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible before getting feedback from others and finally delivering it to my client.
Creating S.M.A.R.T. marketing objectives and being able to clearly communicate your plans is the first step to creating marketing programs that can prove a return on investment. It’s that simple. Know exactly what you’re trying to achieve and be able to articulate it clearly to anyone who asks. With this you’ll have taken the first step towards measuring a marketing return on investment.
The best advice I could ever give a marketing person is to build a great relationship with their sales team.
Many of my clients sell expensive and/or complex products and services to businesses. They rely heavily on an outside sales team and one of marketing’s primary functions is lead generation. When I’m working in an environment like this, my first priority is to get a handle on the sales team’s expectations. My second priority is to get them on my side.
I’ll admit it; this isn’t always an easy thing to do. Believe me; I’ve had to deal with my share of salespeople whose idea of a qualified lead is one that comes with a signed contract and a check. Even still, when I’m responsible for lead generation, the sales reps are my customers and if they’re not happy, I know I’ll never be successful.
So, what tricks do I use to manage the sales team’s expectations? I don’t use any tricks because I don’t try to manage their expectations, I try to understand and engage them. For example, I want to know how each salesperson defines a qualified lead. I want to know what they’d do if they had control of the marketing budget. Most importantly, I want sales to get involved with marketing as often as possible. Admittedly, I initially did this because I thought sales would be more supportive of marketing programs they’d helped develop, but I quickly learned that listening to them proved more valuable than I had ever imagined.
Salespeople are on the front line every day and they usually have a pulse on the market way before anyone else. Good salespeople know exactly what prospective customers want, and how to get their attention. The best advice I could ever give a marketing person is to build a great relationship with their sales team.
Ask them to provide feedback on marketing plans before they’re executed and carefully review their responses. If necessary, use on-line surveys to get feedback from larger or remote sales teams. Get your salespeople more involved in your marketing and what you’ll get back are more effective marketing programs, a more supportive sales team and a break from worrying about expectations.
Too often, potentially great marketing programs never get a chance to show a return on investment because they lack support from upper management and/or sales. Even the best laid marketing plans can be derailed in a microsecond if they don’t have the necessary support from stakeholders outside the marketing group. So, if you want even a shot at executing a successful marketing program, forget about trying to manage expectations and focus on improving communications. Do this when you’re trying to work effectively with salespeople, upper management and everyone else and enjoy the results.
The quest for a Lead-O-Matic
Every sales organization’s dream is to have some sort of ‘marketing silver bullet.’ A secret gizmo or formula that costs little or nothing and effortlessly generates tons of qualified sales leads.
Imagine it: the brilliant marketing director, the company hero, walks up to her faithful Acme Lead-O-Matic 2100. She twists a small mechanical dial to set precisely the number of leads she’d like for the month. Then she turns a knob to set the lead quality. Finally, she flips a switch – the machine surges and rumbles. Then like magic the Lead-O-Matic starts spitting out qualified sales leads. The sales team lets out a roar as they snap up the leads and begin eagerly pounding the telephones.
A few weeks later, the month closes and sure enough, the brilliant marketing director has done it again. The sales quota was blown away without a single salesperson making a cold call. Despite the tough economy, company moral is soaring just like last month and every month before. And, once again, the CEO calls to personally congratulate the brilliant marketing director who responds ‘It’s not me sir, it’s my trusty Lead-O-Matic.’
Keep dreaming right? Well, for some, this dream is a reality. I can assure you, there are companies out there who have developed a near equivalent to the Lead-O-Matic. And, there are many more companies beginning to.
The real Lead-O-Matic isn’t a machine however; it’s a well-planned-and-executed prospect relationship management strategy. What’s prospect relationship management? Like customer relationship management (CRM), prospect relationship management is the process of developing and managing relationships. However, with prospect relationship management, the focus is on developing prospects who may not yet be customers.
Second to your existing customers, your pool of qualified prospects is your most likely source of new business. So, if you want the “Lead-O-Matic dream” to be a reality, begin by considering your prospect relationship management strategy. When you’re executing a strategy for building prospect relationships, you’ll be on your way to having your Lead-O-Matic.
James Randi (“The Amazing” Randi) is a magician who’s dedicated his life to debunking claims that magic actually exists. “The Amazing” Randi openly admits there’s no such thing as magic and actively exposes how magic tricks are done.
As you might guess, most magicians out there aren’t big fans of “The Amazing” Randi. That’s understandable. After all, magicians make their living by entertaining people with distractions and illusions. So, someone like Mr. Randi isn’t very good for business.
Marketers on the other hand are not magicians; or, at least we’re not supposed to be. Marketers aren’t in the entertainment business; we’re in the business of increasing sales. But unfortunately, some of us marketers lose site of that at times and generating results takes a back seat to aesthetics and entertainment.
Unlike magic, marketing can work, but only when it’s designed to measurably support the sales process. When it isn’t, marketing becomes just an illusion (from a selling prospective); even if it is entertaining.
Some effective marketing might not be entertaining at all. But how important is that if they’re working?
Come to think of it, how important would be for a magician to entertain if they could really perform magic. If magicians could truly make objects disappear and reappear somewhere else, I’m thinking the entertainment business wouldn’t be their only career option. But because magic is just an illusion, it’s all “smoke and mirrors”. But, marketing doesn’t have to be if we leave the entertaining to the magicians and keep our marketing focused on selling.