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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…)

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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Marketing Blueprints in Action — put them on display March 5, 2012

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers.
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Displaying their marketing blueprints in the corporate hallways have created a tighter bond between marketing and sales. “This is real enterprise marketing,” says the company’s president. (more…)

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…)

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.

Searching for Product Comparisons January 14, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Persona, Messaging, Social Media.
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Want to get some quick market research on how your product stacks up to a competitor?  Ask the Internet.

I teach a course at San Francisco State University entitled, “Essentials of Integrated Marketing.” In that course, I have a case study that has proven to be a lot of fun as well as very insightful when it comes to gathering “product comparison” data.  The case study is called Video Game Wars and follows the exploits of the Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii.

In developing the case study, I needed to somehow find a way to educate the class on these products quickly.  So, I turned to the Internet.  My first course of action was to do a Google search on each of the products.  This yielded the expected corporate-esk press releases, data sheets, and website info.  All of this was helpful in building “awareness.”   But I wanted more practical information when it came to comparisons.

So I tried a search variation.

I went to Google and Youtube looking  for specific product comparisons.   As an example,  I typed in “Xbox versus PS3” and “Why buy a Playstation?”  This produced an “Aha!” moment.

The search results provided a perfect example on how the dynamics of search have changed the way people gather and process information.  Here’s what I mean:

  • Much of the “product comparison” data I gathered was produced by users, not corporate executives.
  • I couldn’t help but feel that the more “unpolished” the presentation, the more genuine the information.
  • Many of these search results also included some sort of social media commentary, meaning that the material was actually being used and discussed.

Lest we think this is only useful for consumer products, I started testing this “product comparison” research tactic on a few projects I’m working on with B2B clients.  I’d do the same thing: go to Google and YouTube and search on “product A vs product B”.   In every case, I found very interesting information.  Now, while I don’t take everything I find to the bank, I do find that the results have added to my cumultative knowledge.  It’s helps to further my skills as an investigative marketer in order to discover which product differentiators are true and meaningful, and which are bogus.

Lesson for marketers

Based on this insight, it is important for marketers to consider a couple things as they are architecting their integrated marketing campaigns:

  1. Producing only the traditional marketing datasheets and collateral is no longer sufficient.
  2. There is a mountain of “awareness” information available; but customers are also keenly interested in product comparison data (see Content & the Buying Process blog post).
  3. Consider adding your own product comparison articles and videos.  Some companies do this already, and I applaud them for it.  Prospects are looking for this information.  Why not provide them with short snippets of useful information?  Otherwise, someone else might do it for them.
  4. As you develop your own marketing materials, do a comparison search to see what people are talking about.   Do your expectations match up to the user community’s reality?  Might be worth checking out.

Content & the Buying Process November 5, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing.
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Last week I attended the  TechTarget Online ROI Summit ’09 West.  For me, the highlights included a wonderful panel of CIOs providing insight and perspectives on a) how they search for information, and b) how their purchase decisions are made.  Also of interest was a Google/TechTarget Behavioral Research Project that mapped search terms to content types at each stage of the buying process.  I’ve paraphrased here three of the key take-aways, but you can find more detailed information on the TechTarget presentations here.

Mapping Content to the Buying Cycle

This graphic shows what content types are most valued at each phase in the buying process.

 
1) Marketers should review their campaigns and leverage title/topic, media type, and search by buying cycle results

 In other words, success with marketing campaigns is all about matching the right content to the right stage of the buying process.  The graphic illustrates the point.  The Google/TechTarget Research study confirmed that certain types of content are more valuable in certain stages of the buying cycle.   Makes sense.  However, I was a bit surprised to learn that CIOs and other decision makers are keenly interested in “Comparison Review” data — data provided by vendors or other sources that provide side-by-side solution comparisons.  I’ve always been a bit leery of this — after all, why should a vendor promote a competitor’s product?  However, the CIOs told us that they would like to see some honest comparisons by key vendors.  As was described to me by a CIO, “the IT team will ultimately discover the good/bad/ugly, so vendors can do themselves a favor by being straightforward and honest.”  Another CIO told me that if a vendor slams the competition or their assessment appears too heavily one-sided, they will discount the value/honesty of that assessment as well as the sponsoring vendor.  On the flip side, vendors who show integrity by showing a few blemishes gain credibility in his book.

 
2) “Top” placement doesn’t equal clicks — but page 1 of SERPS is key for campaigns

 

Bottom line here is that the #1 organic search link (and even the #1 paid search link) do not necessarily yield the highest traffic.  It appears that most searchers will peruse a few pages of search results.  However, the determination of what they click on is directly tied to the title/description of the searched item.  As an example, CIOs told us that they were more likely to click on a whitepaper with a solutions orientation (e.g. “CIO Strategies: How a Hosted Platform for Unified Communciations Could Save you Millions”) versus a branded whitepaper with a vague description (e.g. “Vendor X Strategies”).

 
3) Content targeted to the Consideration Phase gets most use across all buying cycle phases

 

Simply put, if your marketing resources are in short supply and you can only produce a few pieces of relevant content, aim for the considersation phase — as opposed to general awareness or final decision.  Assets targeting the consideration phase seem to get passed around the most during the buying process.

Want more info?  Check out these additional resources on content marketing:

Adding video to the marcom mix September 22, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Social Media.
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Amanda Ferrante of the Demand Gen Report has a great article today entitled: Marketers Tapping Personalized Videos to Generate, Engage Leads. 

YouTube has been the video bulletin board for all kinds of random content.  Now, however, savvy marketers are figuring out how to add video into their marcom mix.  This fits perfectly into the marketing blueprint I shared in an earlier blog post.

Quoting directly from Amanda’s article:

“With the use of video, a solid connection can be made between the presenter and end-user and personalizes the communication while creating interaction,” says Ben Chodor, President of media software provider Stream57. “With video exposure, you are giving clients the opportunity to associate a name and a face with your company and creating a personal relationship.”

Video by itself is not “the magic bullet” that will ensure a successful marketing campaign.  However, this is another example of a piece of the integrated marketing mix.