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Example of a tactical “Marketing Blueprint” for events January 20, 2015

Posted by Mike Gospe in blueprints, Integrated Marketing, Marketing Operations, programs.
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What is a “marketing blueprint”? This continues to be a good question and a source of confusion amongst marketers because blueprints are often confused with Excel spreadsheets of Microsoft Project. Here are 4 things to know about blueprints and a tactical example to shed some light. (more…)

5 Marketing Best Practices Used by Marketo August 28, 2014

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Lead Gen.
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In early 2013, Mary Gospe, KickStart Alliance’s lead generation and integrated marketing strategist, ran a blog post about 5 best practices used by Marketo to promote themselves. Because this topic continues to be relevant, I wanted to replay that blog post here.  Good stuff to consider in any marketing campaign. (more…)

It’s time for a marketing assessment — here’s what you need to know January 16, 2014

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Operations, Marketing Persona, Messaging.
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January is the perfect time to conduct a marketing assessment. Take a moment to look back at last year’s plan.  How well did your marketing campaigns work last year? What worked well? Where were your surprises? What elements of planning and execution require improvement? Whether you decide to conduct your own assessment or hire an outside expert to facilitate the process, here are a few tips to get you started.
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Say no to “marketing popcorn” June 16, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Operations.
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I have a pet peeve, and it’s marketing popcorn.  No, not the marketing of popcorn. “Marketing popcorn.” (more…)

Communications Objectives and the Buying and Sales Processes September 14, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers, Lead Gen, Marketing Operations.
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How does our marketing communications objectives fit against the customer’s buying process or our selling process?  This is a weighty question that can be tough to decipher.  Here’s a handy overview with respect the selling into the B2B technology market.

An overlay of communications objectives to the corresponding stages of the customer's buying process and a company's sales process. Although generic, this graphic provides some relevant context for marketers selling to B2B.

I titled this graphic “Mapping Customer Perception” because that is our goal, ultimately.  Marketers strive to influence how prospective customers think.  To do that, we need to understand how and when to guide them.  First, they must be aware of who we are and the solutions we offer.  Then we want to hook them and engage them as they become interested.  Next, we need to build understanding and become a credible source of information.  And, finally, we want to entice them to take action and purchase our products and services.

In an ideal world those communications objectives would map directly to the B2B Technology Customer Buying Process.  For example, the best time to hit the prospect is early in their buying process, when they are doing an operational analysis or building their budget during the investment planning phase.  Once we’ve got their attention, we want to provide relevant content throughout the purchasing cycle.  If we can guide the outline of the RFP we stand a better chance of winning the deal.

Next, let’s overlay both those processes with the ideal  B2B selling process.  It’s no coincidence that the sales process is a reciprocal of the buying process: the sales rep wants to identify and qualify opportunities as early as possible.  They want to work with the prospect as they are establishing their needs in order to determine if there is a potential fit.  Reaching the “go, no-go” decision point prior to generating a proposal is preferred so that time isn’t wasted.   Sales will negotiate with prospects as they are selecting and making a final purchase decision.  The sales process doesn’t end there.  While the solution is being implemented, the able-minded sales rep will be following-up and conducting account management duties, all the while looking for opportunities to engage the next sales cycle.

If life were simple, these three processes would overlay nicely.  But life is like a Rubik’s Cube.  Each of these processes are not static, and they don’t always start at the same point in time.  That is why marketing is an ongoing processes, constantly creating awareness and offering opportunities for the prospect to raise their hand and engage us on their terms.  When they are ready.

Have ideas on how to make this graphic better? Let me know.  I welcome your input and feedback.

Aligning Sales & Marketing With the Lead Flow Process July 19, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Lead Gen, Marketing Operations.
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Ever been in the middle of the following heated dialog between the VPs of sales and marketing?

“Marketing sends us lousy leads!”
“The leads are fine!  The problem is that Sales can’t close!”

These statements are symptomatic of one or more areas of dysfunction between sales and marketing.  The three most common alignment problems are ambiguity, finger pointing and ignoring reality.  Janet Gregory, a veteran sales leader, wrote a wonderful article on how to identify the warning signs and what can be done to foster tighter alignment.

How have you been successful in aligning marketing and sales?  I invite you to share your stories.

My favorite guerilla lead gen program aimed at CEOs July 15, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Lead Gen.
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One of my most favorite lead gen programs I worked on was about 10 years ago when I was VP of marketing for a knowledge management start-up.  This was during the early days of online search.  Using today’s terms, we offered a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product/service that allowed users to get immediate answers to their questions. What was unique at the time was that our engine was very advanced and would offer up correct and relevant answers as opposed to a laundry list of links.

Since we were a start-up, our marketing budget was non-existent.  Our objective was to seed our sales pipeline quickly with a dozen well-qualified, brand name customers that we could eventually use as public references. Our only choice was to approach this project as a guerilla (see Jay Levinson’s many books on Guerilla Marketing).  So, we got creative.

  • We built our own list of target companies. We carefully matched our product strategy with a prioritized set of target segments.  Rather than blanketing all potential audiences, we produced a list 500 target companies. We needed wins quickly, and we felt we had a good story to tell.  So, with a laser-focused ambition, we set our sites and did not waiver from them.

  • We researched each company to confirm the name of their CEO and to obtain his/her email address and an issue they were facing that was relevant to our product. How did we do this?  We were blessed to have one of the most savvy executive admins around.  She called into each company and navigated to her counterpart – the CEO’s executive admin.  Calling on behalf of our CEO, she explained that we wanted to share some information that her CEO would find interesting, based on an issue his/her company was wresting with, as noted in the news, their website, etc.  She asked for his direct email address so she could send our information on behalf of our CEO.  (This approached worked exceptionally well for several reasons: this was not a telemarketing call — it was exec admin to exec admin; we were not selling anything; we were honest, forthright, and polite.  To our delight, we captured and verified 80% of the CEO email addresses this way.)
  • We created a standard email for this program, then tailored it for each CEO. Our email (ghost written for our CEO) was one paragraph in length and included a mocked-up screen shot of how our product would look on the target’s website, under their brand.  So, while the data in the screen shot was bogus, their company logo, homepage design was obvious.  Several energetic souls in our support team built these screen shots for us.
  • The call to action was personalized by our CEO. It may seem ironic, but our goal was not to sell our product.  At least not at first.  Instead, the text of the email illustrated our idea/value proposition.  We showed the mocked-up screenshot to show how our product/service might look on their home page.  Using regular language (not jargon or energized marketing-speak), we asked them if they thought this was a crazy idea.  In closing, we asked them to contact our CEO to provide us with some feedback.  The telephone number we provided was to a new line that that marketing team would answer as if we were the CEO’s office.
  • We created a separate email mailbox for our CEO and distributed these emails from that account. Twenty emails were developed and dropped each week.  (Remember, we had no budget to outsource any of this work.)  It took time to tailor each email, but we didn’t want to wait for all 500 to be ready.  Also, by staggering the drop, we could learn how effective we were being by watching our response rates.

We successfully ran the program for 6 weeks before we claimed victory.  We received a 12% response rate and won audiences with a number of brand-name customers.  My personal favorite was an email response we received from Michael Eisner (then the head of Disney) who directed us to follow-up with his VPs of marketing and support.  Everyone was copied on his response; the skids had been greased; we were in business!

Have a creative lead gen story to share?  I’d love to hear it!

Do you have a voice-of-the-market program? How marketers can own the “High Ground” March 10, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers.
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Has this ever happened to you? 

You’re working on a lead gen strategy with peers when an exec does a “drive by”, telling you that he has a new priority.  He argues passionately, and even though your instincts tell you it’s a crazy idea, you end up abandoning your plan to accommodate this unanticipated (random?) request.  If this were a one-time thing, it wouldn’t be so bad.  Unfortunately, this happens almost every day.

If this seems familiar, you’re not alone.  But how can marketers uplevel the debate in favor of staying consistently on strategy?  This can be especially tough if the company culture favors a “he/she who yells the loudest”  approach to decision making.

The answer is to change the dynamics of the internal conversation/debate.  The answer is for marketing to own the “high ground” via a voice-of-the-market program.  Some people may confuse this idea with the term, “marketing driven.”  But, it’s not about ego.  It’s about ensuring the company is being  “market driven” — driven by a keen understanding of the customer and what’s make them tick.

What is the “high ground”?

The “high ground” refers to the area of knowledge about the customer that is acknowledged to be the truest, most comprehensive understanding of the customer environment, their pain points, their priorities, and how/when/why they make purchase decisions. 

Most companies have small armies of folks who understand the product, the technology, the application.  This is absolutely required for success.  However, many companies lose site of the customer, the use cases, and the pain points.  Without a firm understanding of what the customer cares about and how they make purchase decisions, marketers don’t have a leg to stand on when debating peers and execs who passionately propose new (seemingly random) creative ideas for lead gen.

Marketing teams need to step up and own the “high ground.”  If marketing teams invest in this knowledge, over time, their opinions are more likely to be sought out, rather than ignored.  So, how does one get to the “high ground”?

Getting to the “high ground”

Most marketing teams don’t have the luxury of a deep budget for conducting ongoing market research.  Luckily, there are some guerilla tactics that can be employed.

  • Review any primary and secondary research you may already have.  (You may have more than you think you have because market research is often conducted in a silo fashion.  Check around with your PR and product marketing colleagues; you may find some gems.)
  • If you have a subscription with any analysts, take advantage of researching their library.  Also, conduct Internet searches to find out what other analysts and editors are writing about.
  • Review relevant blogs, Wikis, and other Internet sources for everything from related trends to customer feedback.
  • Talk to your own sales reps, sales engineers, customer support specialists.  Find out what customers and prospects are saying to them.  Instead of gathering internal data one rep at a time, go one step further to design a short internal survey/questionnaire.  Collect and quantify this data.
  • Analyze competitor websites and message boards.  Find out what they’re talking about and how prospects are interacting with them.

3 Steps to get started

Owning the “high ground” doesn’t happen over night.  It takes time. 

  1. Start by taking 15 minutes every other day to learn something new about your customers and how/why you won their business. 
  2. Establish a repository of this information that the marketing team can share with sales.
  3. In every lead gen program and blueprint you build, reference any of these sources sited above to reinforce your recommendation and assumptions.

If you follow this approach consistently, you will build more credibility for your programs.  And, the next time an exec does a fly by, you can engage in a more constructive debate with more detailed, documented information to support and defend your plans.

A blueprint for a “quick win” March 8, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Operations.
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There is an art to crafting marketing blueprints.  Although the concept is simple and intuitive, it takes practice and patience to work the model.  More than that, it takes time to show colleagues in marketing and sales that the model really does work.  Proof will be found in producing better results (i.e. more, better quality leads) while reducing internal frustration and the need to rewrite copy over and over and over again.

What’s needed is a quick win! 

A blueprint quick win is an opportunity to apply the blueprint best-practice model to an event, with focus on a limited span of time.  Here’s an example:

Not long ago I worked with a company who had scheduled a webinar that would take place in 3 weeks; yet because the marketing staff (5 people) was so stretched, no pre-marketing for the event had been considered.  Their answer was to outsource the entire production to Ziff Davis — a webinar turn-key solution with a guarantee of 250 registrants.  After interviewing the team, I sketched their initial blueprint, shown below.

Two other facts are important to this story:

  1. The sales and marketing teams each had a slightly different definition regarding “raw inquiries”, “qualified inquiries”, and “leads.”
  2. Because of trust issues, sales requested that all 250 registrants be immediately turned over to sales.

I suggested that if this plan were executed as outlined above, the only thing I could guarantee would be that each team would be unhappy with the results.

The first thing we did was to sit down with the marketing and sales leadership and hammer out a confirmed understanding of inquiry and lead definitions.  Then, we conducted a 30 minute blueprint exercise designed to answer the following 6 questions:

  1. Who is the target audience (persona)?  (Here’s an example.)
  2. How do they want to be communicated with?
  3. What offers do they want/expect from us?
  4. After they respond to the first activity and offer, what happens next? And what happens after that?
  5. What happens if they don’t respond?
  6. How will these activities and offers help qualify these prospects?

As a result we crafted the final blueprint.

The upshot: A focused blueprint with a purpose

  • Instead of relying solely on Ziff Davis to promote the event, we discovered 5 additional pre-event marketing tactics that could be easily coordinated.
  • This was a thought-leadership webinar.  The next logical step in our dialog with prospects was to direct them to a product that best addressed the issues raised during the webinar.  We wondered if any attendees were interested in taking the next step with us immediately.  So, we included an immediate call-to-action to stay on the line to see a product demo. Most folks dropped off the line, but more than a few stayed on!
  • In the days that followed, two separate conversations would unfold: one for prospects who registered and attended; the other for prospects who registered but did not attend.
  • Our blueprinted program was designed to last 4 weeks.  At which time we would regroup with sales to review the number and status of the inquiries and leads.

The results

  • Instead of 250 registrants, we generated 1,050.
  • 497 touched our company at least twice during the 4 weeks that followed the webinar.  These were the leads that were passed immediately to sales.  The others remained in an ongoing marketing nurturing program. 

How much did it cost to rework the blueprint?  Absolutely nothing except 30 minutes of time to plan.  Literally.

Qualitatively, the marketing and inside sales teams were doing high-fives down the hall.  A whiteboard kept a running tally of our leads for all to see.  The marketing had secured it’s first quick win.  With a renewed sense of partnership, the team moved on to tackle more comprehensive blueprints.

More details of this story are shared in this article.

A Word about Messaging January 5, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Messaging.
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In straightening up my office, I ran across a gem buried in my filing cabinet.  It was an early “aha!” moment for me in my marketing career.

Marketers need to guide the target audiences up the messaging pyramid. To jump to the close before establishing awareness and relevance will only lead to heartburn.

Years ago while working on a product launch, my team ran into some messaging trouble.  Our task: to introduce a new product to a new market segment and steal marketshare.  Clear enough.  Yet we struggled to understand why our marketing efforts weren’t getting enough traction.  After a dismal quarter, we stepped back to do a complete post mortem on our launch activities.  The problem we found was with our messaging.  Specifically:

1)  While our product was well received in market segment A, segment B had no idea who we were (even though we thought they did), and

2) When we did an impromptu segment B focus group, we found they were confused and disbelieving of our messages.  Thus, they ignored them.

The team was incredulous.  After all, we were one of the biggest companies around.  To solve our problem, we had to check our egos at the door and focus (again) on the business problem the prospects were trying to solve.  After much gnashing of teeth, we realized that we couldn’t just go for the quick sale.  We needed to invest time with the new segments in order to earn the right to sell to them.

We needed to establish awareness (and relivance!) for our company in segment B.  Only then would we have a firm foundation on which to compare our new product with the various incumbents.  And only then could we showcase our differentiators with confidence.   

To keep us on track, we produced a message hierarchy chart similar to the one shown here.  This helped keep us humble and helped us to define a winning marketing blueprint that worked.  And it worked very, very well!