Sunday, February 05, 2006

Blow Up Your Own Marketing Plans!

Marketing exists to identify, speak to, connect with and prepare prospects to buy. Everything a marketing department does -- from creating the logo and the brand promise to the ads, e-mails, collateral and t-shirts is designed to achieve this goal. Yet too often marketers fall in love with the marketing programs and under deliver qualified sales leads .

Why ? Two good reasons.

First many marketers don’t have the data to see what is going on. They are devoted to their newsletters, their webcasts, their roadshows or their white papers which they fought tooth and nail to create, fund and coordinate internally. They don’t have access to the sales pipeline or don’t carefully mine the CRM system to see what is working and what is not.

In some cases they measure satisfaction with the tools but don’t measure how these tools drive prospects through the pipeline. They know which webcast was liked the best, but they don’t know how many of the webcast viewers turned into closed deals or when.

Consider the example of a marketing team that built an information portal aimed at their target prospects. They assumed that there was a hunger for information about their sector and they figured that if their brand provided this information, prospects would be more open to buying from them.

Over 2 years they invested time, people and cash heavily in collecting, editing and displaying every bit of content they could find. They built a huge content archive and a database of 200,000 names and invited them by e-mail to visit the portal every month. In a year they delivered 2.4 million targeted impressions beckoning prospects to drink from their font of information.

Recently someone crunched the numbers. In 2005 less than 2000 of the 200,000 came to portal and read something. Fewer than 200 came back 3 times or more. And nobody knows if any of the 2000 were customers, were promising prospects or had anything to do with the organization’s salespeople. Now there’s anxiety in marketingland and the team is reluctant to change or abandon the portal they fought so hard to create and maintain.

Second, it is so hard to get anything done in a large corporation and the emotional investment is so great that marketers become prisoners of their programs. Getting an idea through a matrixed bureaucracy requires enormous effort, time, adrenaline, patience and political finesse. Nobody whose been through the process is about to blow up their end product and head back into the fray willingly.

A different team of marketers developed a sophisticated scoring system to filter, rank and interact with web visitors. They developed a credible marketing program and drove 60,000 leads into their pipeline based on the scoring model. They presented these results to the board and everyone got a bonus.

Then someone began to go through the numbers. Half of all the leads that were identified by the scoring model turned to dust in the tele-qualification process. Another 15 percent turned to dust early in the first real interaction with salespeople. The program was onto something but it was far less effective than advertised upward. Nobody was willing to spill the beans or jeopardize their new-found status and few were willing to re-jigger the model which they'd touted so heavily.

Yet if marketers are going to successfully fight for more resources and fight for greater visibility in the corporate decision -making process, continuous process improvement has to be their mantra. Marketers have to become more mercenary in assessing and editing the programs and ideas they bring forward.

It’s about the end result. It’s not about how cleaver, elegant or unusual the marketing tactic is. And with the growing use of CRM and automated marketing services, it is becoming easier and easier to understand and measure throughput.

A relevant metaphor is Ariel Sharon, the comatose Israeli prime minister, known for quickly abandoning tactics in service to a larger strategy. Sharon never fell in love with the trees but he consistently focused on the forest.

He built and then dismantled settlements, invaded and then withdrew from Lebanon, swung far right then zigzagged back to the center each time dumping programs he himself constructed and advocated. And while the jury of history is still out, most Israelis believe he has advanced their cause and protected their security better than anyone.

In a measured universe, marketers have to keep their eye on the ultimate measurement – closed deals. They must track their contributions against that metric. The most successful marketers will be the ones who keep their eyes firmly on the sales prize and regularly blow up their own tactics.


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