Trailblaze & Grow Month: October 2014

Integrated Marketing

Integrated Marketing from Concept to Measurement

Integrated marketing requires that businesses align their marketing processes in a way that continuously improves the customer experience. Understanding the how your processes feed into each other as part of an overall plan is a crucial first step. Successfully integrating these processes along with establishing KPIs ties together the goals of each department into a single unified strategy to enable supporting larger goals.

Creating Order Out of Chaos

The growing complexity in marketing makes it crucial that companies document, define and automate their marketing processes. In order to be effective, processes within the following categories, which overlap to some extent, must be defined and integrated:

  • The executional process is often referred to as campaign management. This is the communication arm of marketing, and often deals with both outbound and inbound marketing as well as analyzing leads and customer value.
  • The operations of a marketing department include budgeting and resource allocation. Processes include marketing performance measurement, campaign planning, strategic planning, marketing systems and data capture.
  • Analytical processes are used to create predictive models and to analyze the data gathered to measure the results of a marketing program.

While implementing a marketing automation solution can more than double the output that a marketing team can produce, one must do her homework before implementation.  The success of marketing automation implementation does not primarily depend on the selected software, and it is not only about automation. Cross-functional coordination must be formalized by integrating the processes above and setting KPIs that focus teams on achieving corporate goals.

Process Alignment to Create True Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing aligns campaign management, marketing operations and analytical processes to create a closed-loop around the customer. Closed-loop processes should focus on improving the customer experience in ways that will increase satisfaction (thus loyalty), drive revenue for the company and reduce marketing costs. Once you align your processes to create a closed-loop around your customer, you can realize true integrated marketing by following a few simple steps:

  • Conceptualize. Set objectives and brainstorm ideas, keeping an overall focus so that everything aligns. Analytical and operational factors carry more weight at this point, while executional processes focus on understanding the target segment and the needs of the customer.
  • Create a plan. Use analytics to understand your audience and competition and to optimize your marketing campaigns. Ensure that you address all three process categories in mind as you plan.
  • Budget. Create a budget and allocate it among the various marketing programs that have been prioritized. There is no hard and fast rule for setting your marketing budget, which should be set on a based on a number of factors.  I have seen budgets in as little as 1% to as much as 35% of projected revenue.
  • Campaign creation. Define and create the marketing campaigns that you have prioritized based on improving customer satisfaction.
  • Test the waters. Test messaging, target segments and creative and make changes as needed. Always test, even if you think something is a no brainer.  Human behavior is difficult to predict.  I have been surprised many times by test results of both “horrible” and “great” ideas.
  • Launch full programs. Put your marketing strategies into full gear.
  • Analysis. Measure the success of the various parts of your campaign and analyze the results.
  • Closure. Use the information from your results to develop the next marketing strategy.

Integrated marketing is powerful and effective. Each time a customer or prospect views your message and interacts with your company, it is reinforced in their minds, building greater awareness and trust over time. It is also a better and more efficient use of your marketing resources.

Photo credit: birgerking / Foter / CC BY

5 Simple Ways to Improve the Productivity of Your Marketing Team

5 Simple Ways to Increase the Productivity of Your Marketing Team

Over the years, marketers consistently cite lack of time as the top challenge that they face.  Marketing leaders are aware of the demands that their groups face, and managing this ever-increasing workload successfully is a challenge.  Below are five tips for greater productivity and increased motivation.

#1 – Set Goals

Establishing clear and specific marketing goals and KPIs is one easy way of balancing these demands.    As a minimum, the marketing team should have quantifiable metrics for revenue generation, customer experience improvements, brand strength and return on investment. Putting these performance measures in place not only helps you determine the effectiveness of your programs, but also allows you to course correct and maybe axe ineffective programs.  The resources decked against ineffective programs can then be allocated to launch new programs or enhance existing ones.

# 2 – Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

Create a clear method for prioritizing marketing support, and include your partners in the process.  While the methodology should be based on marketing’s KPIs, it is important to account for metrics that go beyond addressing day-to-day support, but also include key KPIs that special projects and newly formed business units will influence.  Otherwise, your team could be choking the next breaking product or service by considering only day-to-day metrics.  With a transparent process for resource allocation and project support, all teams can focus on the collective goal:  COMPETING TO SUCCEED.

#3 – Establish formal marketing processes

Once a project is prioritized, utilizing a formal (read: documented) process for marketing support will minimize some of the unproductive back and forth that sometimes happens between cross functional teams. Begin by creating request templates and a formal meeting for cross-functional collaboration. The template should be brief and include the project goals (revenue generation, improvement of NPS, other KPIs) and a brief overview of the background and support needed.   While it may seem bureaucratic at first, this reduces potential miscommunication between teams as well as the number of iterations that the marketing team will have to cycle through before “getting it right.”

#4 – Allocate tasks and accountability

Once a project is ready for execution, proper and clear delegation is one of the easiest ways to increase productivity while allowing each team member to exercise his or her distinctive skill set will strength overall team success.  Assigning tasks and accountability achieves multiple positive ends, such as:

  • Giving team members personal ownership over the successful completion of their responsibilities, avoiding the “follow the ball” syndrome often seen at toddlers’ soccer games
  • Allowing convenient tracking against soft and hard deadlines, so you can reallocate resources accordingly
  • Encouraging collaboration by specifically identifying the people working on particular tasks
  • Keeping team members focused and engaged

#5 – Try New Things

There are many exciting trends to explore within the world of marketing. Exploring trends keeps marketing teams informed about industry developments, task automation opportunities and provides opportunities for skill development. (For instance, implementing marketing automation software can open up new avenues of productivity by streamlining and automating various labor-intensive processes.)  All of this can increase the human capital of your team and make it increasingly successful.

Photo credit: orcmid / Foter / CC BY

Sales & Marketing

Seven Tips to Get Sales and Marketing Working Together

While there will probably always be some good-natured joking about whether the marketing division or the sales team is more important, ultimately both have to be in synch. After all, all teams within the same company are on the same side. Facilitating an effective marketing and sales alignment can be one of the greatest communication difficulties managers and team leaders are likely to face. These tips will help keep everyone working together and focused on sales enablement.

Tip 1 – Funnel stages should be defined by the entire team

Since sales and marketing are looking at the sales pipeline from somewhat different perspectives, each is likely to develop their own take on the various funnel stages. This can lead to a radically different distribution of resources, emphasis, and overall team focus. To prevent this, get the entire group together to define these important stages.

Tip 2 – Work out a service level agreement

This tip has a lot in common with the first. Being very clear about the KPIs for each team as well as remediation activities if these goals are not met will help prevent some of the misunderstandings that can hamper team effectiveness. Even if this agreement appears to have little to do with, for instance, content marketing or other campaign particulars, providing both teams with the same information is important.

Tip 3 – Communicate campaigns

The particulars of a campaign can be lost through poor communication. Members of the marketing team need to provide their sales counterparts with all the details of new, current, and on-going campaigns. This will help sales members effectively communicate with customers and other target audience members.  Internal newsletters can be used to communicate campaign activity as well as share wins, solutions and new ideas. These short bursts of information encourage engagement, too.

Tip 4 – Provide talking points for follow-up

Providing email templates and talking points drastically improves the effectiveness and efficiency of your sales force as they follow up with their prospects. Also, these simple steps ensure that everyone is communicating the same differentiated points and messages. In the end, everyone wins.

Tip 5 – Share performance indicators across teams

Marketing and sales are going to have slightly different key performance indicators and will therefore see a somewhat different set of results. Keeping both teams informed of what their partners’ KPIs are and about the various goals reached will help strengthen the communication between groups. Less catch-up will have to be done during meetings since this important topic is already somewhat familiar to all members.

Tip 6 – Score leads

The goal of alignment is to ensure that the sales team receives warm leads that are in the buying process. Make sure that lead activity is tracked and scored appropriately. This will help keep everyone motivated to nurture weaker leads into strong ones.  There is not a perfect scoring process so continuously adjust your lead scoring program to improve MQL to SQL conversion metrics.

Tip 7 – Be open to feedback

Effective communication flows more than one direction. Marketing leaders need to tap into the sales force’s intimate knowledge of the customer.  Incorporating the feedback into sales collateral and marketing programs improves the performance for everyone. Most importantly, adapting demonstrates responsive leadership skills and the ability to respond dynamically to changing circumstances.

These seven tips might be some of the first tools in your kit for marketing-sales collaboration but they certainly will not be the last. As these two important teams become aligned, leaders will discover many other ways of promoting collective synergy.

Photo credit: indissoluble.com / Foter / CC BY-SA

MQL for Marketing Performance

Getting to the Heart of Marketing Performance Measurement

Most executives are familiar with the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) metric that rose to prominence a few years ago. This simple and straightforward form of measurement was applied to the marketing activities of all kinds of companies to quantify the results of marketing activities.

As useful as this metric has been to the broad conversation about marketing, its practical application over the long-term requires a more critical examination. While MQL has certainly helped further the dialogue surrounding marketing operations overall, one more instance of the age-old breakdown between marketing and sales has taken place.  Can this current schism be addressed? Can a different measure of marketing performance benefit both sides?

Identifying Specific Shortcomings

Though qualified leads have certainly helped marketers adopt a scientific, numbers-based approach, this method has proven to be less useful for the sales pipeline. Two specific shortcomings have become evident:

  • Tracking the number of qualified leads does not necessarily reflect or meaningfully predict incoming revenue.
  • The rate of closed deals can fall despite application of the metric.

These two apparent shortcomings are closely connected. The emergence of these complaints actually points to a disconnection between sales and marketing.

What Can We Learn?

Because few companies are selling products within a rapidly expanding market, each team must acknowledge the parameters of the market where your products or services compete. Specifically, your team should quickly react the competition’s actions. The MQL metric as it is commonly applied cannot accomplish this in a direct manner; thus it fails to draw attention to this all-important aspect of revenue generation.

In most circumstances, there are a finite number of customers interested in purchasing your product. It can be reasonably concluded that a company’s industry peers are using lead generation methods of similar sophistication; competition for greater win rates between companies is the natural result. Additionally, there is likely to be an upper limit to the number of units sold within a period of time. Since MQLs cannot grow faster than the current market, the closing rates projected by the metric have logical limits.

Sales professionals will also point out that market influence should take into account customer behavior, another aspect that the qualified lead approach does not account for. In the past, the traditional B2B marketing model did not always recognize the way that customer activity influenced marketing programs. Once a customer buying cycle is applied to current marketing efforts, additional shortcomings of the qualified lead metric become evident.

Improving Metrics, Improving Performance

Though MQLs have been shown to have certain shortcomings, they can still be useful if they are applied correctly. Specifically, it is helpful to tie marketing performance to the conversion rate of closed deals. This is arguably the most important metric since it most clearly demonstrates the success or failure of all related metrics and strategies. If a large number of MQLs nonetheless have a low conversion rate, latter stages of the sales pipeline must be examined.

The emergence of competitive win rates is going to be the real evidence of an improved application of MQLs. Revenue growth never fails to be a strong measure of marketing performance, though customer retention rates should also be considered. Though we will no doubt see the emergence of increasingly nuanced marketing metrics, these two measurements remain valid.

Plan A or Plan B

Why Marketing Plans Fail and How to Avoid it

Even with a solid strategy and careful planning, marketing plans can sometimes fail. A plan may fail to achieve business goals or it may stall out at one stage or another. Either way a marketing team will face some hard questions. These four tips can help your team avoid (or adapt to) an under-performing program.

1. Avoid Over-Reaching

The development of a truly competitive strategy requires an understanding of your customer and competition. Identifying your target market is be a challenge of every marketing strategy. Specifically identifying this group not just by demographics but also considering behavioral and psychographic segmentation provides a highly defined starting point for effective strategizing.
Learn from your competition to avoid costly and time-consuming missteps. Understand how they are positioned and if they have recently pivoted to a new market. Try their offering and identify how your company can effectively compete for you target market’s affections and loyalty. Use this information to keep your team laser focused on what is important.

2. Prioritize and Document

Use your target market and competitive intelligence to help prioritize tactics based on the resources at your disposal. Only then can a targeted plan with appropriate KPIs and an accurate goal-oriented timeline be developed. You will be pivoting and adjusting the plan as you start measuring your performance. To maintain your focus, don’t forget to document everything outlined. Update your strategy documents as you learn more about your customer, the competition and your company’s distinctive talent capital. These documents will keep you grounded and remind you of why certain strategic decisions, as the team changes or the competition heats up.

3. Don’t Forget to Operationalize

Your team should spend as much time planning for the implementation of your strategy as they have developing it. Experience really makes a difference to ensure that the strategies your company develops are being executed in the most effective way. Ensure that each team addresses the following before implementation:

  • Pairs strategies with appropriate tactics
  • Clarify accountability, responsibilities and communication between marketing, sales and operations
  • Recontextualize metrics into useful, relevant information sets. (Think dashboards and reporting.)

Since it is difficult to identify each and every way that marketing plans may fail, you should also develop ways to respond to setbacks before they occur.

4. Measure and Communicate

Begin by clearly defining accountability and responsibilities as well as the reporting cadence for your team. Create a forum for accountable parties to review performance and share information with leadership and other teams. Sharing wins (and challenges) will help solicit ideas, motivate the company and operationalize accountability and flexibility.
Even though we all aim for success, knowing how to learn from failure can make your company stronger. The way that marketers choose to address setbacks, failures, and other fizzles can make the difference between a learning experience and a wasted opportunity.