Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Why I Love B2B Marketing

Why do I love B2B Marketing? That's the question that was recently posed by those nice people at the BMC. Here's my off the cuff response:

Our profession is maturing. It feels to me that we're starting to break through and be taken seriously. We're talking much more about revenue, customers, contribution, systems, gaps - and rather less about clicks and widgets. And we're talking to more people outside our own marketing team. That's got to be good news.

The future is unwritten. Our journey is not over - in fact it never will be. As long as customers continue to demand better service, better products, better experiences  then marketing will have to strive to match those heightened expectations in everything we do. Frankly we've only really made baby steps in anticipating customer needs so far - and what seems sophisticated best-practice today will seem hum-drum by next year. That keeps us all on our toes - and B2B marketing is a great place to be if that excites you. The next few years will be a blast!

It's accountable. Digital has empowered marketers to build measurements into the discipline more than ever before. When those measurements are aligned to what the business really cares about (e.g. revenue, profit, customers) then we can be part of conversations that shape business strategies. When we are able to operate as a peer to other functions then we get involved in areas further and further away from simply running events. That's highly  motivating.

Creative is coming back. While measurement has taken centre stage for the past few years - partly driven by the state of the economy, it's great that we're now starting to see creativity and ideas have a resurgence. Having chaired  the B2B Awards judging earlier in the year it is evident that increasing numbers of marketers are working on projects and campaigns that are really thoughtful and inspiring.

The Human Factor. Digital technologies are very seductive, but ultimately this business is about people - whether it's the clients we're trying to serve better, or the colleagues that we work with inside our companies and across our networks. B2B marketing is full of energised, inspiring and downright pleasant people - and I learn from them every day. That makes working hard so much more enjoyable, and makes this a wonderful profession to join. #ILOVEB2B

Friday, 22 November 2013

Gen Y - is Youth Wasted on the Young?

I was recently reading some research from Hays Recruitment on some research they conducted with 1000 GenY individuals on their attitudes to work, what they are looking for in their boss, technology expectations etc.

It's a good read with the main headlines being:
  • They want a career that allows them to do interesting work
  • Money is important, but so too is flexibility and bonus potential
  • When looking at a potential employer the opportunity to develop is the most crucial factor
  • They value a coaching style of leadership
  • They expect email to be the dominant style of communications for the foreseeable future
I'd recommend reading the full report because there are some interesting nuggets in here. 

However, as I was reading it I confess I kept saying to myself "yep, me too". I want interesting work that will help me grow, rewards beyond cash, and the opportunity to learn from inspirational coaches - however apparently I am 20 years too old to join this club!

While it makes good headlines I'm not a great fan of this approach of lumping any large group together based on an arbitrary segmentation (age, race, star-sign) and saying this is how they think. In fairness I don't think that was really the intention, but that is always the risk - and I would argue that if you removed the age factor from the research you would emerge with broadly similar results. I prefer to take the view that there are people of any age who are curious about the world they live and work in, and those for whom this is not a significant driver. So let's not create artificial differences between groups and generations.

Of course there are many people in senior positions in the workplace who don't think the same way - who believe the pursuit of money is the only measure of success, who only exhibit an autocratic style of leadership, who invest little in helping their staff grow, and who have no interest in considering alternative views to their own. If that describes your boss my advice is simple - find someone else to work for! 

Unfortunately, if you are one of those dinosaur bosses - you're highly unlikely to read this report let alone act upon it...

Friday, 15 November 2013

Remind me - What does marketing actually do?

I love it when you stumble across something you created a few years ago and, upon re-reading, decide that it still holds up.

A few years ago I was part of a small workshop at IBM that was challenged with the question of "What is our strategic vision for demand generation?". Grand terminology that can be translated to "What the **** do you do?". The sentence we came up with was a little dry, but I think it captures pretty well what marketing's role is around demand generation (clearly marketing has other responsibilities beyond DG, but this was the focus here).

This is what we came up with:

"Our purpose is to:

Engage in remarkable conversations...
With the right customer communities...
Through the most relevant method(s)...
Which builds relationships...
And creates value for both parties..."

Let me clarify just a little:

Marketing is about conversations rather than a monologue; those conversations need to be sufficiently interesting (remarkable) such that they make people think, engage, share; we know that the decision making units have grown and so it's essential to engage more broadly in the various communities of influence; What is the most relevant method? Actually it's not for you to say - the relevant method is the vehicle chosen by the client/prospect. Demand generation is not just about today's transaction - it's about a dialogue that builds a deepening relationship and that delivers value to both parties - you are looking for immediate and longer term revenue, and the client is looking to solve a business issue.

I keep coming back to this piece of work as a useful checklist to evaluate whether a set of Demand Generation activities is doing what it needs to do. 

Many thanks to Sarah Chatterton, Tony Whitelaw, Martyn Christian, and several others who made key contributions to this output.

Does this work for you? How would you improve upon it?

Friday, 8 November 2013

Well I guess you COULD automate your marketing....

... But would you really want to?

This was the question I tried to address in a 45 minute webinar for BrightTalk yesterday as part of their Campaign Automation online summit. The proposition was pretty straightforward: before you start to Automate your marketing, you better be pretty clear about what the purpose of your marketing actually is. There's no escape from this - no tool is going to do the thinking  for you (at least, not until IBM's Watson computer joins the marketing team), or make your content interesting and engaging.

Marketing Automation and Marketing Transformation are not the same thing - the first is a component of the second.

You can catch the full recording of the webinar below (you may need to register for BrightTalk first)

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

9 Attributes of a Successful Marketing Leader

What are the attributes of a good marketing leader today? I've been giving this a little thought recently - marketing is being asked to contribute more than ever before to the business (a great opportunity), is having to deal with an unprecedented amount of change driven by a number of factors, and strategic choices are having to be made on what to change first and what to ignore. 
So here's my initial thoughts:

  1. Commercial Connectedness. Running events and producing brochures is not enough anymore. We need to demonstrate revenue contribution to the business. That means marketing leaders need to be tightly integrated into the commercial fabric of the business so that they can shape the direction and increase the contribution that their department can make.
  2. Inspiration. Today's marketing department needs to evolve to take account of changes in buyer behaviour and the digital landscape. Leaders need to have a clear vision of where the team is heading that everyone can buy into and contribute towards. 
  3. Operational Focus. Change is exciting and stimulating (most of the time), but you get little credit for it until it's done. Meanwhile if your revenue contribution declines you'll have more "help" than you can handle. So you need to have the operational focus to ensure that you turn all the dials green so that you can get the space to drive the transformations you need.
  4. Digital Savvy. One day soon we'll stop using the term "digital marketing" and just use the word "marketing" again, as the digital element will be inherently integrated into everything we do. As a leader you don't need to have the departmental expert in all things digital, but you absolutely need to know enough to see how the various elements fit together and add value (to the prospect)
  5. Customer Strategy & Advocacy. In the rush to become "modern" I have seen many organisations invest in siloed digital skills at the expense of more tradition strategy skills - planning, targeting, value propositions, etc. The reality is you need both - one of the key roles of a leader is to ensure that the activity of the team comes together to add value from the perspective of the customer/prospect.
  6. Resilience. If you're trying to drive change you need to expect bumps along the journey. A strong vision will go a long way to help keep things in perspective, but you will also need the toughness to pick yourself up and re-engage, and to help others do the same.
  7. Collaboration. You may think you're smart - but clever people surround themselves with smart people. Fostering a culture that celebrates sharing and teaming creates a buzz and confidence that maximises the effectiveness of the whole team
  8. Decisiveness. Don't confuse collaboration with abdication! Your are paid to make choices and to do the right thing. Sometimes you just need to make a decision and stand by it, rather than conduct endless research and discussion.
  9. Perspective. Leading a team is a challenge and a privilege. It's both exhausting and energising. But you need to step away from time to time and, for want of a better word, breathe!
What are your thoughts on this?

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - Agency & Client Alignment

Clients and Agencies are different animals (excuse the pun)!. In a sense it's a little like Sales and Marketing - they are not used to walking in each others shoes. This general misunderstanding of what clients expect (or hope for) when they meet an agency results in significant opportunities to create additional revenue being left on the table
I am in the unusual position of having spent most of my career client side, but now find myself selling consultancy services to clients. But I've also had the opportunity to work with several marketing agencies and more recently provide them with more of a client-side perspective.

I use the term "Agency" loosely. These days everybody wants to sell to the Marketing department. As well as media agencies, marketing agencies we now find ourselves increasingly in conversations with various shades of technology supplier, all hoping to relieve us of our marketing budgets with promises of astonishing ROIs (always amusing, since most agencies don't even have the visibility of the sales pipeline in order to even measure the ROI!)

Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with some great agencies and some great people within those agencies. Just to be clear - I do mean YOU. However I've also worked with a number of distinctly average people from both great and average agencies. For clarity - yes, I mean THEM! I also used get approached on a very regular basis by agencies wanting to get 30 minutes in my diary to explore how they might be able to help me.

So let me give you a few personal observations on my experiences in dealing with agencies of various shades over the years. If you are client side and can add some further observations, I'd love to hear from you. If you are in an agency, I'd be delighted if you want to get in touch - perhaps I can help...

(BTW - as I write this I am currently updating my iTunes library. That explains some of the headings and pictures)

That's Entertainment

I used to despair when I looked at my calendar for the forthcoming week. I would protect a few hours to get some of my work done, but otherwise my day would be a succession of meetings and reviews with various stakeholders (mostly outside of the marketing function), conference calls, reviews and managing the odd crisis. All very internally focused. I had a 90 minute train commute into the office and that was my only way of keeping on top of my email. Gosh how I miss it all :)

One of the only things that kept me sane and fresh was interactions outside of the company - with clients, at conferences, or with agencies. But time was very limited so the default response to any approach had to be - "sorry I can't make a meeting, but if you want to send me something I'll probably ignore it". 

Entertainment? Perhaps that's not how you want to be seen - but in that case you had better demonstrate that you're merely an interval between meetings.

That Don't Impress Me Much

Most initial agency meetings went down a familiar path: Initial chit-chat, followed by presentation of the agency's credentials deck, followed by a loose "so how could we help you" conversation.

I rarely felt this was a great use of my time. I wanted more than credentials. I'm not silly. I know that you will put, for instance, the Coca-Cola logo in your credentials even all that you did was design an internal email header 10 years ago. I get that - would probably do the same. That's why I'm not impressed. Oh and  by the way - my business is nothing like Coke's, so only focus on relevant client stories.


My recommendation would be to move past all that stuff really quickly. More positive meetings occurred when someone did something that made me realise that this was not just another agency, and made me want to explore further. Think about the following:

  • What make you any different from every other agency I've seen this month? I'm looking to make a quick decision on whether we will ever have another meeting. No matter how affable I may seem - I've not invited you in for a chat.
  • Can you clearly articulate the breadth of your agency's capabilities? I want to have relationships with as few partners as possible. That means I want to see understand what you can do beyond some nice creative. What value can you and your colleageues add to help ease my business pains. Otherwise I think you are just another creative agency, and that you are the only talent there.
  • Have you come to the meeting with a provocative point of view on something I really care about? Do you know what the key challenges are for a business marketing leader today? Have you researched to get a sense of my particular challenges and focus areas? Do you have specific capabilities that could help me address my key challenges? Do you share the passions I do?
  • Will you disagree with me? I don't want an agency full of yes men. That simply means you will do what I want rather than what is right for the customer/market. If all I wanted was resource, I could have secured it much cheaper than talking to you. I want someone who has opinions and real insight - not just telling me what they learned in a 5 minute Google search.
  • Will you educate me? I like to learn about new approaches that I haven't previously considered. Give me a fact or two that I might be able to use into one of  my next meetings. 
  • Can I talk to your clients? I was always keen to engage with other people in a similar position to myself on a peer to peer basis. If you can make some connections for me I have an immediate reason to start building a relationship.
  • What are the next steps? I used to be constantly surprised at how many initial meetings ended with a limp "I'll call you again in a few weeks". What are you going to do next? What do you want me to do next?  

Don't You Forget About Me

Of course the meeting is just the first step. Just as important is the follow up and progress against the key actions - don't let all the hard work to secure that meeting simply fizzle out. 

That's my take on it based on my years in client side marketing leadership roles. If you can demonstrate that you understand my world, have a confident perspective upon it, and can offer me something tangible to progress the discussion - then you are already ahead of the pack.

What's your views on the gap between agencies and clients in those critical first meetings? I would love to hear from you.

Friday, 5 April 2013

ROI - Not Fit to be King!

The marketing profession has become increasingly obsessed with measurement. Nowhere is this more obvious than in many of the discussions we have around Return on Investment (ROI) calculations, which are as frequently used to support poor and lazy decision making as they are for good. 

Don't get me wrong - as a Marketing Scientist I am a great fan of using measurements to improve our marketing performance. And certainly measurement will be a key topic at "Engage Me!" - the forthcoming IDM B2B Marketing Annual Conference. But we need to put an appropriate context around our ROI measures if they are to be useful.

Here are three traps that we frequently fall into around the ROI discussion. By understanding the risks and implications of getting it wrong, perhaps we can use these measurements to help guide us to better decisions.

The ROI of What?

Measuring the ROI of a marketing department over the course of a year seems perfectly logical to me. There  is a set of resources (budget and people) who perform a number of different tasks that collectively should make a difference to the business they are serving. And we can smooth out any discrepancies caused by business that gets closed in the current measurement period that was initiated in the previous period.

But the more "micro" the measurement becomes, the greater the risk of misinterpretation. A campaign may consist of multiple tactics over an extended period of time. My belief is that a campaign really is a series of activities that establish and build relationships that are be nurtured until a some business is generated (and even beyond). In that context, ROI at a campaign level makes sense - because we can take account of all the necessary market conditioning activity as well as the more obvious demand generation work.

But if your definition of a campaign is really only a handful of discrete tactics over a short time period we are getting into dangerous territory. To be meaningful the campaign really needs to be at least as long as the buying cycle. Otherwise you measure the Investment you made in the email campaign, the event and the tele-follow up, but don't get to see the business arising from it. Or else you only measure the return in terms of  lead revenue created - which doesn't really count for much unless those leads progress. I used to get so bored when external telemarketing companies would use this approach to claim that my investments with them had created a 2000% ROI. Sorry guys - it didn't; and bandying numbers like this around my business leaders wouldn't gain me any credibility.

Worst of all is when we try to measure the ROI of a discrete tactic. We all know that buyers never purchase as a result of a single tactic so, (despite the fact the many of our measurement tools oversimplify revenue attribution and lump it all against the last touch), so if we make decisions by looking at the calculations alone without considering the context of the related activities, we risk overinvesting in late-touch activities and undervaluing the importance of the activities earlier in the buying cycle.

There's More than One Return

Of course revenue (and lifetime value) are the ultimate measures of business success from our marketing. But   measuring of the impact of every tactic in revenue terms is fraught with danger - particularly for non-DG activity. If you believe that Marketing is about preparing a marketplace and establishing a favourable selling environment as well as capturing demand, then you'll need to develop a different set of tactic measurements to give you indicators on the effectiveness of your social media, content marketing, advertising, and though leadership activities. Sadly many organisations fail to recognise the value of any marketing tactics that do not have a direct linkage to revenue - and then wonder why their DG is not as effective as they had hoped.

There's More than One Investment

While most of the focus on the Investment side of the equations focuses on financial investment, we should not overlook the impact of the choices we make about where our people invest their time. Creating some content inhouse, or leverage our internal experts in our social media activities, all has costs associated - including the opportunity cost of what they could be doing otherwise. Nothing is free.

So as we all get draw into ROI discussions in our different organisations, let's try to be clear on the following

  1. What is the real scope and purpose of marketing?
  2. What is the story beyond the raw numbers?
  3. What would the client/prospect expect?

Let's not let spreadsheet management overtake our desire to serve our clients better. If you disagree, a happy career awaits you in Finance:)

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Note: This Post first appeared in the IDM Marketing Blog on April 2nd 2013