Marketing is Dead – or Not

Ya just gotta love headlines for a blog article like this one:

Marketing is Dead

From the Harvard Business Review, this blog by Bill Lee argues that “traditional” marketing is dead. Of course, I really think his headline is mostly for provocative purposes and to drive readership and stir passion. And you know what? It worked! Just look at the hundreds of comments already submitted. A very interesting read for a Marketing aficionado – although I did lose interest at about comment 50.

But, getting back to Bill’s article, I did find some of it valid – and much of it not so much. Here are my thoughts:

  • Point #1:

“Traditional marketing — including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications — is dead”

Obviously, this is just an opening statement and (hopefully) Bill really isn’t that dumb. These modes of communications are still valid and, depending on your audience (B2B or B2C) and industry (for B2B), still incredibly important. Also, in the B2B world, your audience isn’t just customers and prospects. It may also be investors, potential employees, etc. And for these audiences, these channels often work well. Not a valid statement – even a stupid one.

  • Point #2:

“…CEOs have lost all patience. In a devastating 2011 study of 600 CEOs and decision makers by the London-based Fournaise Marketing Group, 73% of them said that CMOs lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognized financial metric.”

Now this (although I haven’t checked the numbers and validity of the study) does make a little sense to me. I have seen a lack of some CMOs understanding the business and using “branding” as a catch-all for wasteful and unmeasured activities. However, I don’t think it’s nearly as widespread or dire as this so-called study reports.

  • Point #3:

“Third, in today’s increasingly social media-infused environment, traditional marketing and sales not only doesn’t work so well, it doesn’t make sense. When you try to extend traditional marketing logic into the world of social media, it simply doesn’t work.”

Wrong. And wrong in SO many ways, I’m not even sure where to begin. I guess a good first start would be to point out any of the many companies (IBM, Cisco, Eloqua, HubSpot, etc.) who leverage both “traditional” and social media well. I think I could write my PhD dissertation on this. And this is where Bill goes over the line from “scandalous” headline to get readers to downright stupidity.

  • Point #4:

“In fact, this last is a bit of a red herring, because traditional marketing isn’t really working anywhere.”

OK, well Bill, it is working very well for me. Along with all the new arrows I have in my quiver including social media. Wrong again.

From this point on, the article actually gets better. And touches on many “traditional” marketing techniques to get there. Among them are:

  • Restore community marketing – remember all those user groups many of us already do?
  • Find your customer influencers – duh, all talented sales and marketing teams look for power and influence – and always have
  • Help them build social capital – what he means by this is “customer champion.” Again, see bullet above. Been doing this for decades.
  • Get your customer advocates involved in the solution you provide – again, same as the two bullets above. And been doing it for decades.

When it comes right down to it, this whole new “social media” and “inbound” marketing thing is nothing more than a new (sometimes better) way of doing what marketing has always done.

Comments are welcome, as always!

Email Marketing – basic metrics review

The recent (October 2012) issue of Target Marketing had a nice, short article reviewing the basic metrics used in email marketing. It’s a nice, concise review of stats many of us use to measure the effectiveness of our email campaigns. Worth the quick read.

Shareholder Value

As someone who went to business school in the height of the “shareholder value” craze, I do find some validity to this article. Especially after years of dealing with CEOs. I had one CEO I had an argument with about this very topic. My side (the correct one) was that you end up “choosing” your investors by the messages you send. If you tell them you are focused on a 5 year horizon with a set goal, and then you tell them that you won’t be focusing on the 90-day cycle – you will get to your destination but not in 90-day sprints – then you will get long-term investors. And this will result in less stock price volatility if you hit some intermediate goals.

But he was stuck in the 90-day cycle. And that hurts a lot of companies. You can’t invest for the future in that environment.

Anyway, here is the article that was excerpted in The Week, where I read it:

BEST COLUMNS

It’s foolish to focus on stock prices

The relentless pursuit of higher share prices has done investors no favors.

POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 6, 2012, AT 2:25 PM

Lynn Stout
Los Angeles Times

The relentless pursuit of higher share prices has done investors no favors, said Lynn Stout. Maximizing “shareholder value” has been corporate America’s religion for over three decades now. To crank up share prices, companies sell key assets, outsource jobs, shower CEOs with stock options, and drain cash reserves by paying out dividends. These tactics often produce short-term market bumps, but they also hurt a company’s “long-term ability to grow and prosper.” Investors have borne the brunt of this trade-off, suffering “more than a decade of the worst investor returns since the Great Depression.” So why does the charade continue? Because investors continue to believe that companies are legally required to maximize returns in the short term, even though that’s a “pure myth.” In reality, corporate directors have no such obligation. Only with the rise of the “Chicago School” of free-market economics in the 1980s did share price become the default gauge of corporate performance. It’s time to step back from misguided short-term thinking so that companies can finally “do a better job for shareholders—and the rest of us too.”

Trade show leads

Everywhere I’ve ever worked struggled a little with follow up on trade show leads. For marketing, the biggest problem was getting the leads processed, the data cleansed, notes entered and then passed over to sales. Hot leads often failed to get to sales quickly and then hot turns to warm. Or worse, to a competitor.

Besides that, I hate paying those lead scanner rental fees. The bastards rake you over the coals.

Mark talking to a prospect.

Typically at a show, you get your device and use it to scan bar codes of the booth visitors. Some vendors are good enough to let you access the leads on a daily basis. Most make you wait until the end of the show to get them. Then you have to travel home and may not be back in the office for a few days. And even then, you most likely need to manually do data cleansing. If you use a marketing automation system, you then have to upload them. More time delays.

If you have a really good conversation with a prospect, you don’t want to wait that long to get them to sales.

Some companies bypass the delay by directly notifying the sales rep w/ the info. But, unless you are REALLY diligent, you lose the tracking and hence, ROI measurement for the event.

So we worked on a better way. We now use an iPad or iPhone, take a picture of the prospect’s business card, use an inexpensive app to do character recognition and send it to our marketing automation system. There are steps to do data cleansing on the spot (in case there were errors in scan) plus add notes from the conversation. The prospect often gets entered into our system before they leave the booth. And they get the “thank you” email w/ links to relevant content – often while still talking to us. Additionally, the system feeds our CRM system so our sales team gets the leads w/in hours of the booth visit – not the days plus typical of the old system.

Sales is ecstatic with quicker access to leads and more complete (and accurate) information and notes. Marketing is happy with much quicker turnaround, higher quality data and increased ROI. And we are putting ourselves in for an Eloqua Markie award. Root for us!

Divided America

Full disclosure – I work for a firm that largely is a third-tier defense contractor. And none of my opinions here reflect at all with my employer’s thoughts. In fact, I know my CEO and I don’t agree on most of this. But then again, he’s rich and British. To me, he’s doing what many in this article are doing – looking out for his own interests (keep my capital gains taxes down) and those of our company (spend more on those programs we supply), but not those of America.

Here’s the article that sparked this: CEOs in Crossfire at Sequestration Hearing

I’m not rich but I am an American. And I think we all need to give some to get us back on our feet. Just like our grandparents did during WWII. Nowadays, there is no sense of community and shared sacrifice. In fact, through manipulation and Gerrymandering, we now have a country that is way more divided in elected officials than it is in reality. Electoral districts are re-drawn to favor one party over the other. The result is extremist on both sides getting elected. And they all just cater to their constituency, not the interests of America.

A very sad state of affairs.

 

What’s in a Lead Gen team

Catching up on some reading. From the May 2012 B2B Magazine, there was an interesting article by Debbie Qaqish from Pedowitz Group.

I heard her speak last year at Marketing Sherpa’s B2B Summit in Boston and was impressed. And, in general, I like what she spells out in this article. The only problem is, if you are a small or medium sized business, there is no way you are going to have this many people in lead gen – let alone the whole marketing department! So how do you prioritize the roles? Here’s my take.

Firstly, you need to get to where you use some sort of marketing automation (MA) system. Nowadays, you can get low-end SaaS versions for very reasonable investments (notice my use of that word – investment, not a cost). This must be treated as an investment and you need to get a good return on it. I have several previous blog posts on both marketing automation and metrics if you are looking for more info.

If you have a MA solution, one of the top roles you need is, as Debbie phrased it, a “power user/marketing technologist.” If you are leveraging one of the SaaS solutions that has a more intuitive user interface, you need someone who is more on the power user side and less a technologist. This helps you not need the Marketing Ops person – yet. You can leverage your vendor for tech support when needed.

Another position Debbie mentions that I would have high on my list of “must-have’s” is the content manager. And this doesn’t have to be a marketing position. In fact, I would say this position in many SMBs is held jointly by many people – at least on the content creation side. It is nice to have someone who manages the strategy of what is needed and helps drive the creation process. Without quality content, your marketing efforts through your automation system and social media will be anemic.

The other position that Debbie mentions that I find critical at many points in a company’s growth is the “telequalifying role.” Even with MA, you can’t short-change the human touch. An actual conversation with a prospect gets you the chance to get into a conversation, open the door and possibly find the pain the customer may be experiencing.

Berkshires

Gorgeous day here in the Northeast. Drove from southern NH to western MA and had to stop several times. Winter has shed her cloak and spring has infiltrated. I completely enjoyed the ride. It is amazing to see the green filling in. I live in a part of the world that is truly lovely.

Lead Scoring

Eloqua is one of the thought leaders in marketing automation. I subscribe to their “It’s all about revenue” blog and enjoy reading it. Their latest post on lead scoring is interesting, especially since I’ve been working on lead scoring at my company over the past few months.

Lead scoring

We have implemented lead scoring pretty much like the Eloqua blog suggests. We use A through D for implicit scoring – does the lead meet our criteria for “target” customer based on company and job role? And we use 1 through 4 for explicit scoring – what activity(ies) did the prospect do? And we have full alignment with sales on this scoring. In fact, we just tweaked it to reflect regional needs. We score differently for AsiaPac and Europe than we do for North America – highlighting the flexibility you can get from a marketing automation system.

The one thing that jumped out at me from the blog post is the role of an inside sales team (or telemarketing or whatever name you may call it). Even if a lead is scored a C3 or other relatively “low” score, the human touch is a great way to not only advance the lead but also get insight into the real lead score. A simple conversation can help you better understand the lead. Should they truly be put in a lead nurturing program or are they really a good lead for sales follow-up?

This stage of the process is critical and takes talented people. It’s also an investment by the organization. For us, we have very limited resources here and, during times of big lead influxes, can become a bottleneck. But, because we have metrics in place and a nice dashboard that all of sales management sees on a weekly basis, when the problem arises, everyone sees it. And there is discussion about expanding this team. One of the biggest pluses of intelligent metrics is being able to not only identify needs but also to justify investments.

So, as the blog post says, lead scoring is not the “be all, end all” of passing leads over to sales. It is a tool and one you need to understand. It definitely has it’s benefits but also it’s limitations. And you need to understand both.

Email Marketing in 2012

So I’ve had a couple of interviews with B2B Magazine lately. The first was on the topic of social media. And the latest was on email marketing. Because of that latter article, I have been approached by a reporter at MarketingSherpa, probably the hotbed of leading-edge marketing intelligence, for a deep dive case study. And I’m pretty impressed by that.

I’ve been on the cutting edge of B2B marketing for 20 years now and I think I’m pretty much an expert. Even when I was at the MarketingSherpa B2B summit conference last fall, I listened to many of the speakers and participants and felt like “been there, done that.” To the point where I was critiquing the advice from the “expert” speakers at the B2B events.

As someone who has lived his marketing life in the trenches having to deliver results to both sales and the company (meaning revenue), I feel pretty confident in my abilities and look forward to talking to this reporter from MarketingSherpa.

Metrics – Again

It seems to be all the rave to be talking metrics and marketing. In my opinion, if you are just starting to do this, you are 8 laps behind in a 6 lap race.

Thank God I have a really good Marketing Operations person who knows our marketing automation and CRM system inside and out. I can get my marketing BI questions answered almost all the time. The only issues I run into tend to be “not being able to generate that specific report” or not being able to automate the report. Right now, the latter is more of an issue.

I can get information in intimate detail but it takes my colleague easily a day to pull it all out and format it. But I love the info. I can look at what I call micro-metrics (not stuff I necessarily report to management but use for my benefit):

  • number of leads by account manager (our term for sales rep)
  • number of new contacts we’ve added for each persona – we’re trying to grow certain high-value targets so this is important
  • organic database growth
  • what each marketing campaign delivered – MQLs, SALs, revenue opportunities, etc.

And so much more. It’s great to see, especially since I may be getting a new boss soon! I know I’d want to see that I have a team that knows what works and what doesn’t.