Last night I heard a few sound bites in Obama's State of the Union Address that brought to mind what I hear from sales and marketing folks daily. So here are a few interpretations had the president been talking about Demand Gen.
"We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit."
This is about Sales and Marketing Alignment. Without constant attention to this challenge, marketers will continue to struggle. Don't just live with division of goals; create a contract with what both parties expect from one another -- a formal Service Level Agreement (SLA). Tie incentives to it. Measure it.
"For every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from"
Have your lead gen teams wake up and understand that pay-for-performance is what their jobs are about. One hundred fifty years ago in this great country, factory workers were paid for the parts they manufactured. Today, in demand gen, we need to get paid on the leads generated and appointments set. Let's go back to basics and get paid for performance.
"But remember this: I never suggested that change would be easy or that I could do it alone."
Times have changed in the world of outbound marketing. Prospects pick up their phones less. They use email more. They sometimes don't even have a desk phone. As demand gen experts, we have to change. Use the tools available to us. Use the numerous online data sources at your disposal (Jigsaw, Netprospex, Google, LinkedIn, Inbound Lists!). Dial more strategically. Specific times per day are important. Don't just bang the phone like a stamping machine. Work the prime time with tools like autodialers and ConnectAndSell.
"... after two years of recession, the economy is growing again."
I hear "woe is me" time and time again, but if it's any indicator that things are changing, our business tripled in 2009. Since our business is all about growing the top line, the future of companies' bottom lines looks promising. We hear fewer objections that "the economy has us on budget hold." If you get one, turn it around with "I understand, but it really is turning. Most of the prospects I talk with are actually in rebound mode and researching new ideas for when the budgets free up again." Frankly, this is most likely a brushoff anyway. Overcome it.
"We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are."
Don't get fat and happy in the areas you've been successful in. Keep them healthy and growing, but get creative and look for other expansion areas. A client of mine, very successful selling to software developers at the enterprise level, got a surprise order last year from a device manufacturer and realized its tools were just as applicable to an iPhone software developer and a medical device manufacturer as it was to a Salesforce.com developer. The client opened up the market with an aggressive appointment setting campaign and and an inbound lead gen effort of whitepapers, blogs and webinars. Now it is forecasting that 30% of its revenues this year will come from that sector. Listen to the market, and listen to your frontline eyes and ears ... the inside and outside sales team and your outsourced demand gen teams. They hear it all day.
Sales or Marketing, we all have the same goals -- lead gen, pipeline, and revenue. Let's get unified, both inbound and outbound, and close some business.
Hear any quotes that resonated with you?
Green Leads has recently been doing a team micro-lending project. Our employees can donate on a regular basis, we match dollar for dollar, and then we decide as a team what Kiva borrower to invest in. It's a great cause, and in the current economy, a great way to push from the bottom. One of the best parts of doing this is getting updates from our borrowers. Finding out that the boat someone purchased is now harvesting fish for the fish market. It closes the loop and makes a good thing a human thing.
Kiva has just added video to their site for borrowers to provide updates and enrich their profiles. What a fantastic addition to an already impactful concept.
Posted on Kiva's blog this week: Video on Kiva Borrower Profiles
"Kiva's engineering team has been working on an experiment for the last few weeks to see how we can bring borrowers and lenders closer. In the past, we've seen that photographs have been one of the biggest ways for our lenders to feel connected to our borrowers.
We decided to take that a step farther by experimenting with a new medium: video!"
Many of you have seen my tagline "Market with Courage!" This emerged as a saying of mine back in the 90's and has stuck ever since. The Market part started with my love of marketing. The courage part came from several life changing business events. These events set the groundwork for how I work with clients today, and how I expect them to work with me, and are what I believe keep our client relationships long lasting.
Marketing vendors (agencies, PR firms, consultants, list brokers - you name it) have for decades, and occasionally still today, been treated by some with disdain - a necessary evil. Many companies simply try to extract their pound of flesh with every contract. The best marketing service providers, however, rarely suffer this pain. That said, some folks still need a lesson in change. I was reminded of this last week when a young gun manager of demand generation turned on me with a rude, "I just got a quote from your competitor that was 30% lower than your price. I want a discount." It was an opportunity to share one of my "courage" stories.
I had started my career as a $7.00 per hour software support engineer at Modicon, and soon enough I was dabbling with sales and marketing, which led to me closing the largest ongoing contract the company had at the time with Mars (as in M&M Mars). When we showed up in Hackettstown, NJ to negotiate the contract, the first thing I noticed, besides the wonderful smell of chocolate, was a sign in the lobby referring to The Five Principles. These were the five guiding concepts that Mars ran their business by and expected all of their associates to follow. These were: Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency, Freedom. Being a young and brash sales guy who was admittedly a bit intimidated to sit face to face with the same guy that negotiates peanut and chocolate contracts all over the world, I immediately honed in on the word "Mutuality." Next to it was the following paragraph:
"Mutuality: We believe that the standard by which our business relationships should be measured is the degree to which mutual benefits are created. These benefits can take many different forms, and need not be strictly financial in nature. Likewise, while we must try to achieve the most competitive terms, the action of Mars should never be at the expense, economic or otherwise, of others with whom we work."
My nerves subsided in seconds. They wanted me to negotiate a win-win deal. There it was in writing. They wanted the value we could bring to the table, and they were willing to compensate us fairly to get it. This one paragraph gave me the courage, as a vendor, to structure a relationship that is still, almost 20 years later, benefiting both companies. Still to this day, I always have the courage to ask for, and maintain, a mutually valuable relationship.
By the way, I also shared my client Mars' first principle, Quality, and how it is mandatory for Green Leads' appointment setting service, added to my ability to disarm the situation and maintain my margin (my half of the mutually beneficial relationship).
Do you trust the statistics you use when you are making marketing decisions? Yahoo recently published a research study claiming that "77% of consumers identify themselves as green." They go on to state that "23% claim to be deeply committed to environmental issues," and that "71% have an interest in purchasing an environmentally sound car." And, that "72 percent saying they get (green) information in traditional media and 68 percent citing online," and tout portals as still being strong sources of information (of course).
Then there is one very important piece of data buried at the bottom, "respondents were recruited ONLINE." Could this possibly be tainted NOT to represent consumers as a whole? I think so. Online respondents could possibly be on the upper end of the economic scale, education, and already interested in green if they decided to respond to a green survey.
As a marketer, I dig through numbers all the time. Analyst reports, claims on blog articles, even conversational stats. Having taken a handful of probability and statistics courses, some market research courses, and having wanted to make a point or two with numbers myself in the past, I always look for the source. Knowing the source is like knowing the butterfly in the butterfly effect.
Stephen Dubner, one of the Freakonomics co-authors, stated in Global PR Week Blog, that, "The three things marketers can mainly learn from our book include
- realizing conventional wisdom is often wrong;
- dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle, causes; and,
- knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so.
But, keep in mind our methods in “Freakonomics” actually counter intuitive marketing thinking."
My message to marketers and analysts (especially the analysts since they publish most of the data), is when you're trying to make educated decisions and conclusions based upon numbers that figures don't lie, but liars can figure. Check your sources, and if you don't like the source, simply explain why and let others make their own conclusions.
I was with Craig Rosenberg in SFO a couple weeks ago and were having a hot discussion on the economy, marketing, and Thai food. Craig is the author of the blog The Funnelholic and is an expert on b2b lead generation so I decided it would be great to do an impromptu rapid-fire interview with him on his thoughts regarding b2b lead gen and publish it here:
Mike: How should marketers adjust to the downturn?
Craig: I wrote a post that I continue to stand by: 3 Changes You Must Make: re-message to reflect the changing buyer, retarget to find prospects who are likely to buy, and redefine their lead definition. Not adapting will mean failure.
Mike: It’s easy to talk about the doom and gloom with the economic downturn, but where is their opportunity for 2009?
In my post When the Blood Flows, I wrote that marketers should view the downturn as opportunity and try to aggressively gain market share. For instance, NetSuite deciding to get MORE aggressive now and try to take on Salesforce.com. When everyone else cuts back, play offense! Marketing must have a compelling offer. Then you need to go out, generate leads, and SELL.
Mike: Being that you are ab online marketer, what is your opinion of outbound appointment setting?
Craig: Truthfully, you should do both: Push and Pull. You should have a presence online to generate “hand-raisers,” but you should leverage a target market and get your sales team face to face regardless of whether they raise their hand or not. The lure of outbound appointment setting is you can move quickly -- no hiring, pay for performance. You can point them at the target and fire.
Mike: Thanks, Craig...green, red or yellow curry?
Craig: Green, of course.
Having already experimented with outsourcing some database work to India, we thought we should give a try to Amazon's Mechanical Turk. From the FAQ page:
"Amazon Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence. The Mechanical Turk service gives businesses access to a diverse, on-demand, scalable workforce and gives workers a selection of thousands of tasks to complete whenever it's convenient.
Amazon Mechanical Turk is based on the idea that there are still many things that human beings can do much more effectively than computers, such as identifying objects in a photo or video, performing data de-duplication, transcribing audio recordings, or researching data details. Traditionally, tasks like this have been accomplished by hiring a large temporary workforce (which is time consuming, expensive, and difficult to scale) or have gone undone."
So I decided to to load up a database project. The project is comprised of thousands of repetitive tasks and some research that anyone with basic business background can accomplish. We get these projects every week and have interns on staff to tackle them. I figured if an intern can do it, I'm sure some stranger a world apart can do it.
I proceeded to loaded the project which consisted of: look at the data, research a piece of the data, post the results. It probably takes 1-2 minutes per piece of data. Getting the project ready was fairly easy using the site's WYSIWYG form builder and data mapping. I posted a price of $0.15 per piece of data researched (in mturk terminology, each task is a Human Intelligence Task, or HIT). For this project there were 1,000 HITs so $150 was available. You hit "Publish" and it is live. 48 hours later, the project was complete. Interestingly, most of the work was completed by the same three people, yet an additional 5 participated in a smaller way. Also, most of the work was done in the middle of the night. The workers were most likely from the other side of the world. Total cost: $150 even and the workers invested 25 hours. That's $6 per hour. Comparitively, this would have taken one of my interns six or seven half days and cost me possibly more than twice as much. It's off-shoring for the masses. It works and it is cheaper, and the networking of multiple people get the tasks done much faster. Still checking on quality, but thus far the random spot check looked good.
That was the Wonder, now for the Ethics. Is what I paid for the work a fair price? If the person is working in India, for instance, the average white collar wage is $2 per hour. In the US, a white collar, non-managerial worker, earns $11 per hour. So I think my $7 per hour is fair, considering cost of living differences and the fact that the workers earned more than they could have working full time for a company. mTurk also gives them the ability to work their own schedule, be entreprenuerial, and in this case make more than they would have otherwise.
A friend asked me what my interns would do now that I off-shored their work. Well, I have some proactive marketing projects that might not have been funded had it not been for this project, so I'll assign it to them. The mturk workers win, my interns get more challenging work, and my company gets additional marketing. I think this is good for everyone.
I'm still not sold on the fair trade aspect of this, although the economics look fair. So as a feel good, I made another kiva.org micro-loan to a woman in Equador starting an egg business. I'm sure she will learn how to market with courage! Kiva is so addictive.
Other than general vicinity and locale to your running out of gas, how much marketing does a gas station really need to do. I can see some of the top company branding (Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Sunoco, and Citgo), does anyone really care who they buy gas from? In many cases the only competition that exists is the station across the street. The direction you're traveling on the road may play more to your decision than the brand. Then there is the price sign. Probably the simplest form of marketing in the world. Logo on top for branding, price on the bottom for value, features in the middle (food, car wash). Food as the product feature? Yes. In fact, Pollan says that the typical gas station today makes half their money selling refined oil for your car and half their money selling refined corn as food products to you. Do you stop for a drink? Dunkin Donuts? Or Shell V-Power premium gas?
btw...The photo to the left was taken today. Yes $1.799 (down $2.30 from 5 months ago). Last week when I was in the Netherlands, I did the liter to gallon conversion and calculated $6.20 per gallon. So no complaining! Most of the disparity globally is due to the difference in taxes between countries. Oil prices, however, are now so intertwined with economics and cost of living, don't expect prices to balance out globally.