Let’s be honest — if one cannot execute their marketing plan and fabulous ideas, one does not get results. The process for delivering exceptional marketing is fairly straightforward, but to complete work that drives actual outcomes, the devil is in the details. Clearly one cannot expect a plan to operate on its own — it requires an intelligent and motivated staff, and a lot of TLC.
For context, consider the process to develop a plan…
- First, an umbrella framework that defines the role of your marketing and the strategy for which levers to pull, which problems to solve and where to allocate budget.
- Then a more detailed framework that shapes the role of individual delivery channels—for example, maybe revenue is driven online and depends entirely on online marketing/infrastructure; maybe marketing adds value by supporting the sales team and driving brand awareness/thought leadership; maybe events have the most potential to drive new leads; or maybe marketing can best support by keeping leads warm and engaged through the sales process.
The work then begins to design tactics and measurements, and determine how they will tie together (this is where online marketing often adds the most value). At this stage, the devil is in the details, so consider whether there is …
- A strong staff in place, with the right skill sets
- Budget and resources that address key dependencies and critical barriers
- Sufficient time for the team to think, brainstorm and iterate
- Superb project management of the plan (and of details that take more time than one thinks)
- Internal alignment, as well as tools and training
- Someone focused on testing and analytics, to make sure progress and results are being measured real-time (or at least regularly)
- Someone assessing progress and facts to determine whether the ideas are working, and recalibrating tactics and/or messaging accordingly
The point is – developing the strategy is important, but excellence in execution is often the biggest challenge and opportunity for meeting the metric goal. You will likely be rewarded with higher and faster ROI if you devote a large part of the budget to execution (and proactively attack that pesky devil that lies in the details).
If you have done your due diligence as a marketing planner, you’ve no doubt uncovered a lot of minutiae-level work that must be done to effectively deliver. Whether it be resources to: conduct research; consolidate and chart data; actively manage a blog or other content; investigate a new idea; customize the CRM; version content across different audiences, personas or delivery channels; draft process flows or procedures; or support the sales force in getting people to an event. Bottom line — the devil is in the details and once a plan begins to take shape, you may realize you need more resources than you anticipated.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of thinking proactively about the reality of the workload and outside the box about who could actually help. For example:
- Many admins or young workers are highly skilled in Excel and other tools/programs and can lend a hand to help: aggregate, mine and organize data; create charts or slide presentations for company meetings and webinars; aggregate and organize social media or CRM data; conduct keyword and online competitive research; or help the sales team get ready for a trade show.
- Interns or temps could be brought in to: create reports and dashboards, customize the CRM; draft the company’s policies and content calendar for blog posts and social media; research and organize data for a white paper or blog post; or develop a detailed project plan to help the team stay organized.
- Maybe someone in another department wants exposure to the world of marketing and has the skills for some of the critical tasks. Maybe employees in other functional areas can offer subject matter expertise to help: develop content; manage blog comments or replies in online forums; or research relevant articles to tweet and post. And remember, what many don’t know they can learn or figure out; it’s just a matter of putting the task in front of them.
The point is—think through the work that must be done and make sure you assess and address how it will actually go down. This type of leadership can help ensure completion of critical deliverables, and possibly open up opportunities for other employees whose talents align with various tasks.
For many businesses it is necessary to bring prospects or clients through a sales cycle to get revenue in the door. Sometimes the cycle is short, sometimes it’s long; sometimes there is a fully staffed BD team to work leads; sometimes there is a call center or even a single person responsible for managing all lead activity; and sometimes there is no live interaction at all.
Regardless, if multiple touch points are required to move someone towards a revenue-producing action; it is probably a good idea to consider lead nurturing programs as part of the strategic planning process. As well as decide how Marketing and Sales departments can 1) form an integrated strategy and 2) be equally accountable for the program’s success.
Consider the potential benefits:
- Improved efficiency for the sales team by allowing them to focus on the warmest opportunities
- Potentially faster movement of the warmest leads
- Potentially higher retention or SOW among existing clients
- Improved marketing ROI
Consider what it would take:
- Alignment and shared accountability between Marketing and Sales (particularly in B2B)… for the plan and its dependencies.
- Understanding the average sales cycle and workflow of a lead, and the rules/requirements to keep leads warm and moving through the funnel; as well as a vision for the ideal lead experience.
- How many touch points does it take; what type of touch is needed (referrals/ testimonials, more product information, more face/phone time with Sales or Customer Service, drip emails, online engagement opportunities)?
- Requirements for Marketing vs. Sales’ role in delivering touch points, and the role of automation and online marketing to support interaction and engagement with the sales team/person.
- Is it better for Marketing to develop the communications and infrastructure for delivery, and allow Sales to execute?
- Is it better for Marketing to drive until a scoring trigger deems a lead worthy of hand off to Sales?
- Requirements for marketing automation, resources and costs.
- Can you support data flow of online leads to the CRM; does the CRM contain an indicator to decide when Sales vs. Marketing is owning communication with the lead; can your systems capture a record of all touch points, scoring metrics and funnel movement?
- How much will it cost to develop the necessary infrastructure? What resources are required?
- A content development and delivery strategy aligned tothe sales funnel and the changing mindset or interest of the lead.
- This is where lead scoring infrastructure can be beneficial, as well as targeted online communications and tools that directly support a sales person’s outreach; and ability to continue giving the lead a reason to care about the company’s value proposition.
The point is – the evolution in online “engagement marketing” and the plethora of marketing automation solutions now available in the marketplace, make it easier than ever for Marketing and Sales to build integrated plans that drive revenue goals. So if your business has a complicated or long sales cycle, strongly consider the opportunity for integrated lead nurturing programs and the required infrastructure to support them. Additional reading resources below (updated Mar 2012).
While this post isn’t directly tied to marketing effectiveness and best practices, I thought it was an interesting philosophy and approach worth sharing.
Recently a colleague and I were having a philosophical conversation about the current state of the job market, and he told me about a friend who was in search of a job after relocating to a new city due to his wife’s career move. His friend’s an older guy and was hesitant to start a new search in a world where wisdom and expansive experience are undervalued. So he decided to use a different tack, thinking, “what could it hurt?”
He’s an accomplished artist and designer, super creative and one of the smartest people my friend has ever met. But he didn’t have the energy to approach the job market in a traditional way — so when he thought about what he really wanted, it boiled down to, “I want a great boss, who gets it and gets me, and leaves me alone to do my job, that’s all I really ask”.
His concept was then to campaign for A Great Boss instead of A Great Job. And his story and positioning went something like this…
Great Boss Wanted
I am an experienced web designer, videographer and communications professional…blah blah blah.
If you are a great boss with these philosophies, skills and competencies, I am interested in talking to you…
- You’re the type of manager that knows your job is to get clear on your vision, strategy and objectives; effectively articulate them to your staff; and then leave them alone to deliver on the objectives.
- You are emotionally mature and trust that you’ve hired competent and talented people who can run with it.
- You are on point to discuss progress, barriers or ideas at any time your staff needs you. Until then you stay out of their way, unless you witness egregious acts or evidence that they are completely missing the mark.
- Rather than micro-managing out of fear, and anticipation of failure, mistakes or people not doing things exactly as you would — you assess whether things are moving along at a high level as they should. You do not see the need to involve yourself with the details (unless truly necessary), as that’s not your job.
- You protect your staff – while you yourself may have to manage up, deal with politics and attend meeting after meeting; you protect your staff so they don’t have to, and you have their backs at all times. In a nutshell, you focus on removing barriers for your team’s needs, and assume the best in your staff’s abilities and approach (unless you have hard evidence of failure or misalignment, at which point you step in to help get them on the right track).
- You listen to and know your team well, and organize according to strengths, weaknesses and/or personal goals so that everyone feels set up for success and inspired to do their best.
- You pay attention to what’s going on with the work and how it’s progressing to meet business goals – and communicate regularly to share and discuss your assessment with the team. You also foster collaborative thinking and innovative techniques to solve major problems, solidify new ideas, get critical tasks completed in a team-oriented way, etc.
- You’re the type of boss everyone wants to work for. In fact, there’s a waitlist because of your fabulous reputation.
Are you qualified to apply for this job? Food for thought.
In business, collaboration can be critical for effectiveness in most functions — regardless of a company’s size.
The emphasis for this post is working collaboratively with marketing agencies and vendors. In marketing, as with many business functions, there is often reliance on third-party resources to help come up with ideas and/or to deliver the solution or result. In my mind there are some best practices worth considering as one outsources for the first time and/or evolves existing relationships. This of course is not an exhaustive list — as outsource needs can vary dramatically across businesses; and some assignments are more complicated and expensive than others. So consider this a set of baseline considerations.
Best practices for effective collaboration with agency and vendor partners:
- Have a well thought-out vision about what you want to achieve and/or problems you want to solve. And where it makes sense, include your outsourcing partners in the process to develop the strategic plan in support of that vision…
- Leverage those that are experts, don’t feel like you have to do all the “thinking work” yourself – make them part of the working team in the early stages (as makes sense).
- Be crystal clear about the assignment you are actually giving them after context is set and/or some initial brainstorming and discussion has occurred.
- This can help them stay focused on a set of specific objectives, and help you stay on track with what you’re accountable for (i.e. the end game).
- Once the work begins — create a positive working relationship that allows for open communication, including the ability to challenge and ask tough questions. Also be mindful of their workload and competing priorities — don’t treat them like order takers or put them in constant reactive mode just because you are paying them…
- Remember they have other clients and schedules to stick to…it’s not all about you (a great agency will make you believe it is in fact all about you… but that doesn’t mean you should take advantage — be courteous and considerate of what’s happening on their side).
- Be a good listener when they raise issues or questions that are challenging; respect their knowledge and insights during the process.
- Trust that they know what they’re doing — don’t micro manage. But at the same time….
- Be a leader and a manager — address issues or gaps real-time and be direct. Just as with paid staff, you want to discuss barriers as they come up (not let them fester).
- Proactively keep them up-to-date on the big picture, as well as other tactics that connect to and/or have implications for what they are doing.
- For example — shifts in broader strategies, new insights from the sales team, budget changes, related projects, etc.
- Schedule visits at their offices and yours.
- To deepen the relationship and develop greater insight into each other’s “working worlds”.
- Once the work is finished, consider a post-mortem discussion as you would with in-house teams.
- You could also give them a formal review and have them give one on you.
The point is — outsourcing for marketing support, brand strategy, campaigns, creative, research, technology, automation, etc., is becoming increasingly common and/or imperative, and a plethora of resources are out there to help almost any type of business. So as you engage in these opportunities, get your ducks in a row and think through what it will take for everyone to deliver their best work and drive meaningful outcomes.
Posted in B2B Marketing, Collaboration, Marketing Planning, Outsourcing
Tagged Agency management, Collaboration, Marketing agencies, Marketing excellence, Marketing vendors, Outsourcing, Vendor management, Working with agencies