You won’t forgive me if I said I didn’t have a marketing strategy. And your grudge would be fair. After all, I’m a marketing consultant. My 2018 marketing strategy exists and it makes a lot of sense i.e. I’ll do more of what worked and less of what didn’t. That’s all, right? Well, no. This year, I’ve taken a brutal approach to my traditional planning. Everything I do has to link back to clear KPIs, in particular, MONEY. Yes, the dirty word that few people can discuss.
As a business owner, you probably know how much you want to make this year. It’ll be a percentage increase from last year. Or you might want to generate similar revenues but improve your profit margins. If your marketing strategy doesn’t help you make the money and margins, don’t bother. I mean it. What you have is another to-do list that you will soon forget.
Ask these questions as you develop your marketing strategy
- Is your mission for this year the same as last? Why?
- Are you planning to serve a different kind of customer? If you are targeting larger companies, do you have the credibility, resources and competencies? If not, how will you get it?
- Do you have a different value proposition for each customer group? Have you understood what each care about so that your product resonates?
- What is your overall business promise to your customers? To be the best or the cheapest or the most reliable?
- How much of your revenue will come from marketing efforts?
- How much will you spend on marketing to get this revenue?
- What proportion of your revenue will come from repeat customers?
- Can you get referrals to new customers from existing or previous customers? How will you ask for these referrals?
- How much of your business will come from referrals e.g. 40%?
- Which marketing activities will help you achieve these goals e.g. ads, events, SEO, networking etc?
- How much will you spend on each activity?
- How will you know that it is working?
- What kind of content do you need to create to attract and engage new and existing customers?
- Will you create these materials internally or will you engage an external company?
- What changes do you need to make to your processes and systems to allow you effectively track and maintain a healthy sales pipeline e.g. CRM, email marketing?
- What are your non-financial goals e.g. award to win, public speaking engagements, adopting a charity?
These questions will really focus your strategy. If you don’t ever look at your strategy again then it’s unlikely that you are meeting your goals.
To help you keep focused, consider hiring a marketing consultant who understands your industry, not just marketing. An hour or two a month with the consultant can be invaluable in reviewing your marketing efforts against business goals, and making changes if necessary. You are running your business on limited time, resources and budget. Can you afford to spend time on strategies that don’t take you forward?
For a recent Forrester report on the B2B digital transformation, the team interviewed senior execs from global corporation giants GE, IBM and Cisco Systems. The report highlights key themes arising from the move to align sales teams with the new reality of the digital world.
Why B2B Digital Transformation?
B2B digital transformation is driven from the buyer’s side as companies seek to attract digital buyers. Previous articles suggest that the root cause of sales and marketing misalignment is a lack of understanding of the buyer. Some practitioners explain that closer alignment between sales and marketing could even shorten sales cycles.
Therefore, global leaders like GE, Cisco and IBM have taken steps to reevaluate sales and marketing strategies and to enable new ways of empowering direct sales teams. Part of the reevaluation is a digital transformation. According to the Forrester report, key areas of best practices are experimentation, collaboration and innovation. Similar practices apply to any change management programme including social media and technology adoption.
In this blog post, I will summarise the three case studies: GE, Cisco and IBM to draw out key insights.
Cisco: B2B Digital Transformation through Collaborative Innovation
Cisco aims to tie innovation to business outcomes and to de-fragment pockets of innovation throughout the business. The goals are:
- Meet customers where they are
- Reach new markets more efficiently
- Give sales teams more time for actual selling activities
Focusing on innovation and collaboration, Cisco executed its B2B digital transformation as follows:
- They built and piloted new tools, managing the innovation from incubation to scale. The new tools were based on increased efficiency and higher quality interactions with potential and existing buyers.
- They established collaboration and shared goals between sales and marketing. For instance, they paired marketing’s sentiment data with sales data. These create insights that tie to opportunities for the organisation.
GE: B2B Digital Transformation through Centralised Innovation
GE is a complex, matrix organisation with several products being sold across different divisions. Therefore, the emphasis for the industrial giant are:
- Centralise new technologies
- Form new collaboration partnerships across the divisions
- Reduce sales cycles by 50%
Some of the positive benefits of executing the initiative were that:
- Centralising enables scaling of technology. For instance, it allows the reuse and recycling of successful tools and processes. It also provides a 360 degree view of interactions at all levels across the organisation, hence increasing collaboration on opportunities.
- Collaboration enables sales to respond to customers 50% faster. For instance, GE built an app to reduce time that sales teams spend addressing forecast questions. Salespeople can input information on the fly through voice text solutions. Overall, GE’s sales teams are spending more time on customer-facing selling activities.
IBM: B2B Digital Transformation through Data-Driven Sales Innovation
IBM saw significant incremental sales revenue from putting data scientists in sales teams rather than at corporate level. The success from leveraging data science can be attributed to:
- Making data scientists part of the sales team. The organisation developed deeper understanding of buyers due to a more scientific approach. For instance, salespeople could differentiate between a motivated buyer and a latent buyer. Also, the teams could more accurately assign sales cycles and measure the impact of new tools and tactics.
- Identify pockets of innovation in the sales team then empower salespeople who already have digital affinity to test new approaches. This drives a culture of innovation starting with early adopters.
- Seek out tools that increase efficiency in the sales team, enable more personalised engagement and provide rich buyer/seller/relationship analytics.
- Have at least one data scientist that aligns with sales.
To read the full report, contact Mary Shea, PhD or visit Forrester.com
Feature Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
Here are some of my favourite articles of 2016 about the likely future of marketing.
Written on the THINK Marketing IBM blog, this article discusses how analytics could give marketers deeper understanding of their customer’s path to purchase. Here’s a summary of the three steps:
- Have a clear vision of the path you are tracking
- Identify trends and key metrics, online and in-store
- Create key customer groups based on trends and data
Read the article here
This article is for CEOs but it is also for marketers who want to gain the confidence of their CEO by clarifying the role of marketing within the organisation. It is not enough for the CEO to understand the product and services. The issue of brand story is crucial too. [pb_blockquote]Is the brand story being perceived positively and accurately by customers?[/pb_blockquote] The article bursts these four myths that CEOs believe about marketing:
- Marketing is responsible for a company’s brand
- It’s not necessary for execs to be involved with social media
- Good marketing means sales leads will close by themselves
- Marketing alone can fix a damaged brand
Read the article here
One of the best pieces I read this year, this article discusses the conflict that many marketing face – the balance between being a good citizen and being a good marketer. Marketing helped create a number of societal ills ranging from debt, body image issues and even smoking. It is no wonder that consumers don’t trust advertising. Marketing lies at the bottom of the trust spectrum with politicians and civil servants. [pb_blockquote]A 2012 Adobe survey showed that 68% of people found advertising to be “annoying and distracting,” with 53% reporting “most marketing is a bunch of bullshit[/pb_blockquote] We struggle with the balance to maintain good citizenship and still be amazing at our jobs. But the future of marketing might depend on us finding this balance. The article describes a movie, Deep Impact, where the earth will be hit by an asteroid. Doctors, scientists and engineers are amongst the saved, sheltered inside a mountain but no marketers… How do we work as marketers to be one of the saved? Thought-provoking indeed. Read the article here
Inspired by the annual Stackies awards, Andrew Nguyen discusses the most common types of marketing technology stacks that companies use as part of their go-to market strategies and revenue generation. Here are four martech stacks which he outlines:
- one direction martech stack – Strictly adheres to the sales and marketing funnel e.g. awareness/discovery, lead generation, opportunities and success/advocacy
- core thinker martech stack – Revolves around a single entity e.g. the customer, content or revenue
- data flow martech stack – Focuses on the flow of data for creating analytical processes that support decision making
- tetris style stack – Resembles the one direction stack but considers that a single marketing technology spans into multiple parts of the funnel
Read the article here
Interviews with experts provide great insight. This interview with John Lilly, a partner at Greylock Partners is no exception. When asked about the lessons he learned early on in leadership, he cites simplicity and messaging. I believe this is every marketer’s goal. Make the message clear and simple. John also emphasises the need to repeat the message, “say it the same way over and over.” He gives more career advice:
- Find your tribe, identify those teams you want to be part of and build a relationship with them
- Stay close to professions that create and make things, as they are becoming increasingly powerful in our society
Read the article here
Digital technology caused a reduction in the cost of search and communication. This led to more search, more communication and more of its associated activities. This article describes a similar revolution with machine intelligence, an area that is bound to influence the future of marketing. Simply put, machine learning is prediction technology and it is likely to cause an economic shift in the cost of prediction as well as the cost of goods and services. The article makes the following predictions about the future of machine intelligence:
- Lots of tasks will be reframed as prediction problems
- Judgement will become more valuable
Read the article here
Account-based marketing has been around for a while and appears to be in the future of marketing, particularly for B2B. Those that use it swear by it, and those that don’t really should consider it. Lena Robinson of Kiwi Gray, an agency for agencies writes about the disconnect between marketing strategy and business strategy in marketing agencies.
This disconnect appears in many industries, not just in agencies. Therefore, this article is useful for any marketer or business developer that seeks to create stronger ties between business growth aspirations and marketing. This often leads to more effective, focused sales efforts.
Enter Account-based marketing (ABM). This approach to marketing requires companies to be more selective about the accounts they go after, and more deliberate. Collaboration is key, and a stronger brand reputation. This article has an extensive list of steps to make ABM work in the B2B space. A great read to begin the new year’s account planning.
Read the article here
Agile in marketing refers to using data analytics to continuously find opportunities or solutions to problems in real time. Marketing teams do this by experimenting and testing ideas, evaluating the results and pivoting as necessary. This article explains agile marketing clearly, providing a detailed step-by-step guide for marketing teams. In summary, the article outlines these steps for how an agile marketing team works:
- Aligns with leadership
- Sets team expectations
- Analyses the data
- Identifies opportunities
- Designs tests
- Prioritises tests
- Runs tests
- Iterates the idea based on test results
- Scale across the organisation
Read the article here
Nearly six in 10 CEOs think that within the next five years, companies will need to compete in the artificial intelligence (AI) space to succeed. Yet, people’s understanding of AI is that it is something to worry about. Think robots and self-aware computers. In this article, Leslie Hancock, Founder & CEO of CreativeCafeHQ.com explains the role of AI in marketing. AI are cognitive computing systems that learn at scale and reason for a purpose. They make predictive and anticipatory modelling possible using large amounts of customer information and other inputs. These inputs help intelligent systems to make educated guesses about what customers are likely to do, and want next based on their past behaviours and the decisions of other buyers similar to them. In B2B marketing, these systems take massive amounts of customer data:
- To identify and target companies entering different product and business life cycle stages
- Predict buying behaviours
- Monitor and react to social media chatter
- Look for patterns
Yet, the article explains that the role of human marketers is still important – but requires a different mindset. As to whether AI is friend or foe to the future of marketing, you can make up your own mind. Read the article here
Another article discussing likely customer behaviours, but with an interesting twist. This article predicts the end of function-based targeting, and suggests that mobiliser targeting is the future of marketing.
Mobilisers are customers or stakeholders who are especially good at driving change and building consensus within their organisations. Until now, B2B marketers target certain functions e.g. IT or Procurement or job titles e.g. “Director” or “VP”. These efforts often come to nothing in closing the deal.
This article describes a new marketing technology where marketers can use psychographic “signatures” of potential customers who are likely to mobilise and not just talk. This exciting idea involves examining social profiles, language, phrases etc to identify prospects who are likely to be mobilisers based on subtleties in their online/social media activities. Such technology combined with content created to help these mobilisers drive change, could really transform B2B demand generation – and the future of marketing. Read this article here
YO! Marketing is a progressive strategic marketing consultancy. We work mainly with technology companies to align marketing activities with business growth aspirations. Contact us here to learn more about how we might be able to add value to your organisation.