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The marketer’s irony December 15, 2012

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Operations.
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Last week I conducted a marketing workshop with a cross-functional group of a dozen marketers. Together we reviewed examples of the deliverables they’d been working on: product overview sheets, sales playbooks, website, etc. When looked at by themselves, each deliverable was actually quite good. Unfortunately, when the deliverables were reviewed side-by-side, a confusing value proposition emerged with variations of target audience priorities and contradictory messaging. This reminded me of a lesson I learned the hard way years ago. It’s called the marketer’s irony.

Once upon a time, a boss of mine introduced me to the marketer’s irony during a performance review. Whereas I thought I had done a great job articulating a marketing plan, she chastised me, delicately, that I was out of sync with the rest of the organization. It was a teachable moment. She said,

Marketers, for being able to design and execute some wonderfully creative programs, often struggle to communicate their strategies clearly and crisply to internal audiences.

In other words, marketers are hired for their communications skills. Yet, their skills for communicating internally pales in comparison to their ability to communicate with customers. And this is the primary cause of sales and marketing alignment troubles. This is what happened to me, and this was the source of  frustration being experienced by the marketers sitting around the table.

So, how can we work more effectively together to avoid the marketer’s irony?

The first step is obvious: we need to be more open to work with our peers and colleagues. We need to be better in sharing information. For example, if one person has already developed a persona, other marketers should be able to use it as well. They don’t need to create their own.

Secondly, we need to understand the difference between the exercises marketers go through to develop a strategy and the few slides they need to use to communicate it internally.  For example, these marketers shared with me mountains of information: 5 pages of persona-related content; a dozen variations of messaging; and a go-to-market slide with 3 very different audience segments. All of this information is incredibly relevant and important for helping marketers to hone the strategy. It’s part of the natural vetting process that helps marketers think through the variations and opportunities. But, sharing that tome of information to other downstream marketers and sales reps only confuses them. It’s too much information. Downstream marketers then will either ignore the materials or cherry-pick pieces they think they need. This is why the overview sheet reflected a different strategy from the sales playbook and why the team was frustrated with their copywriters who couldn’t seem to “get the messaging right”. In short, we all need to make our go-to-market strategies easy for internal audiences to digest.

Rules for success
So, to avoid the trap of the marketer’s irony, here are some best practices:

  1. Never develop a marketing strategy in isolation from the rest of the group. If someone else has developed a persona you can use, then cut-and-paste it in. Don’t recreate it.
  2. Simplify the marketing plan. Having more slides does not mean you have a better plan. Your internal colleagues and decision makers are another audience you must communicate with. Give them only the pieces they need to know.

Developing a marketing strategy is a lengthy process, and marketers will collect and create a wealth of data in preparing one.  But when it comes to sharing the plan with the people responsible for executing the datasheets, overviews, website, collateral, and webinars, the most important material you can give them include:

  • 1 slide summarizing the target persona (not 5 slides)
  • 1 slide crisply articulating the positioning statement (not a collection of many datasheets or a product manual)
  • 1 slide describing the “story” (or message box) that clearly communicates the problem the product solves and why the customer should care

After all, if you can’t clearly describe the value for a targeted audience, there is no way a copywriter will be able to figure it out.

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