You know that you need lots of assets to support your demand generation efforts, but now you are facing the challenge of creating those assets with limited time, budget and staff.  This task can seem daunting, but a few basic principals will help you accelerate your production of new assets such as white papers, webinars, videos and case studies to support your lead generation and nurturing plans.

First, viewing the content (i.e., headline, key messages, detail) as separate from the format (e.g., white paper, webinar) will help you create two distinct workstreams that can feed each other.  Subject matter experts are needed to create the content.  But once the content is created and approved, publishing the content in a variety of formats and channels should be under the complete control of the marketing team.  Creative teams, agencies and contractors can be used to manage the formatting and publishing.

Second, one piece of content can and should be published in a variety of formats.  No need to look at one whitepaper or one webinar as its own distinct project.  One piece of content should be the scope of the project, with many assets that come out of that.  Re-purpose that whitepaper into a webinar, podcast, blog postings and newsletter article.

Finally, don’t constrain yourself to a single workstream managed by a single team.  Hire dedicated or contract writers to help create a constant stream of content.  Use your own creative team as well as agencies and contractors to create the assets.  You should have one person or small team managing the strategy for the assets, but many people can be involved in the creation to help you accelerate your results.

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One of the biggest barriers to the marketing team’s ability to effectively influence revenue is often in their lack of ability to align with the sales team.  In most organizations, sales is the key function around which all else revolves.  It makes sense.  After all, if sales can’t sell your products or services, then you don’t have a company.  But many marketers see them as the enemy they are constantly fighting to get on board so they can be more successful.

The first step, as they say, is recognizing you have a problem.  The optimal marketing and sales relationship is not an adversarial one.  However, you need to recognize that it is your problem – not the sales team’s problem.  They could probably survive just fine without you – it would just make their job harder.  But most marketing departments would not survive without sales.  So you can’t expect sales to see alignment as a high priority or take action to remedy the problem.

The next step is to recognize that you have shared goals and start treating the relationship as such.  You both are trying to make more money for your company.  Start from that common ground.  Recognize that the sales team has access to key information that you need – what is getting your target audience’s attention and which of your messages/value propositions are resonating.  In return, you can help them be more successful at their job by providing better messaging, more qualified leads and nurture campaigns to keep prospects moving along their buy cycle.

Here are some specific ways you can align better with your sales team:

  • Attend sales meetings
  • Invite them to your marketing meetings
  • Invite sales feedback on your campaigns before you launch them
  • Give your sales team a way to give you feedback from customers and prospects
  • Go out on field visits to prospects with your sales reps (note – sales reps may have a very different view of the world than sales managers – take both views into account)
  • Create a shared marketing and sales steering committee to define the joint strategy
  • Setup Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between marketing and sales that clearly define the actions that are to be taken by each team, in what time frame and escalation points
  • Create a shared marketing and sales funnel with clear definitions and metrics for each stage
  • Share metrics and analysis with the sales team to provide value
  • Provide market research and further customer/prospect insights to the sales team to make their job more efficient
  • Focus on passing over more qualified leads to sales – put pre-sales qualification into place to ensure they will not need to waste their time on prospects that aren’t ready to buy

These are just a few ways you can start to work together better with your sales team.  Start looking at them as a partner with shared goals and you will find countless other ways to move forward together.

After a successful first half of her day and a good break, Janet is ready to tackle the tasks ahead of her.  At 1 pm, Janet reviews the latest campaign metrics.  She notices that one of her campaigns is not getting good response rates.  She calls the campaign manager into her office to brainstorm getting this campaign back on track.  It is determined that the messaging and offers should be tweaked.  The campaign manager goes off to make the changes and they agree to discuss the results in a few days.

Next she takes a look at the lead scoring results.  She notices many leads in “hot” status.  A quick look in the CRM shows that many of these leads have not been followed-up on by the lead qualification team.  She heads over to talk to the lead of that team.  The conversation is easy because the teams are in close alignment on strategy and incentives.  Everyone is working towards the same goals.  She determines that the issue is around having too many leads in hot status, but when the lead qual team follows up, not many are converting.  She discusses with her Marketing Automation administrator some changes she wants to make to the lead scoring criteria.  The changes will be made by the end of the day and they can review the results in a few days again to see if it helps.

At 3 pm, Janet interviews a couple of candidates for her team.  She is looking for a business analyst who can help with reporting and data quality.  This will be a key role to keep her team supplied with the right information and prospect data to be effective in their campaign efforts.  She is looking for someone who can not only crunch the numbers but also analyze the results and bring suggestions to the table.  She also wants someone who is familiar with data best practices that can keep their database clean and complete.

At the end of the day, Janet looks back at her dashboard to find some campaigns that are working well.  She shoots off some meeting invitations to business leaders to discuss how she might be able to replicate these campaigns with their content.  She updates the campaign calendar based on her earlier strategy discussions and shuts down her computer for the night.  She’s now off to watch her son’s soccer game secure in the knowledge that her marketing department is an effective and efficient piece of the company’s revenue engine.

Janet gets to the office around 7 am because she likes to work early to avoid interruptions and be done with work at a reasonable time so she can spend more time with her family.  However, her CFO feels the same way, so this morning she is accosted with questions as soon as she walks in about the effectiveness of her marketing spend.  Fortunately, Janet has this information readily on hand because she has a marketing dashboard that gives her real-time information about closed-loop marketing ROI.  She can tell the CFO exactly how much she has spent and what she has in both closed won and anticipated revenue for the month, quarter and year.

At 9 am, Janet has a meeting scheduled with her CMO to talk about the marketing strategy for the next quarter.  She walks in with information about what has been working for them and what hasn’t.  She also has some ideas about what they could try because she has been quietly testing out new strategies for the past few months and has information about what might work.  The meeting concludes promptly at 9:30 with a clear vision of the strategy for the next quarter and buy-in from the CMO.

At 10 am, Janet chairs a staff meeting where the Revenue Marketing team reports out on the status of current campaign projects.  With simple workflow tools and project dashboards, Janet can clearly see where everything stands and get tasks at risk of slipping back on track.  Everyone on her team has clear roles and understands how they are evaluating campaigns against revenue.

At 11 am, Janet sits down to review the latest content pieces the team has developed.  She has clearly defined personas and buy cycles for her prospects, so she knows what content will be effective in each stage of the decision process for each type of prospect.  That makes her job in editing the content easy.

At noon, she finally gets a break before gearing up for the second half of her day…

As someone who has been on both the consulting and client side of marketing for many years, I know how quickly you can become overwhelmed with everything you should be doing.  Marketing tactics are constantly evolving, technology is moving at the speed of light, keeping up with social media is a full time job and since you know that next marketing department re-org is right around the corner, you are also constantly fighting to make yourself relevant, knowledgeable and valuable to your employer.  And that doesn’t even count doing your day job.  How do you balance all of this and still get some sleep at night?

First, I would recommend that you choose your battles.  You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what is most important.  There are two dimensions to this.  First, what is most important for your employer?  What will help you meet your company’s goals as well as your marketing department’s goals?  What is going to get you the best return, get your company or product’s brand recognized, or sell more?  What are your customers concerned about?  What will make your boss happy?  Second, you also need to think about what is important for you and your career.  Pick an area you love and nurture that.  Maybe it’s social media or technology or data.  Dig into that a bit and you will quickly find new skills that will help you advance your own career as well as give you personal satisfaction.

Second, I would recommend you prioritize your efforts.  It’s kind of the same as choosing your battles, but really it’s more about figuring out how to do one thing well then moving onto the next.  When you know how to do something well, it takes a lot less time and effort than those things you don’t know how to do.  So prioritizing your efforts will help you tackle that list in no time, whereas fragmenting your efforts across too many things at the same time can just lead to frustration and failure for the whole list.

Finally, don’t be afraid to enlist some help.  No one can do all of this alone.  Maybe you need to work together with your marketing team to share the load better.  Maybe you need to hire a person or agency with the skills you are looking for to learn from.  Maybe you need to join a group or go to a conference to learn more.  In any case, take the time to do it and ask for help.  Going it alone will not lead to more fame or fortune for you or your marketing department.  The world is changing quickly and you just can’t keep up with everything on your own.  No matter how much experience or education you think you have, there is always something else to learn.

If you’ve been following the News Corp media ethics inquiry, you may feel just as frustrated as I do about Rupert Murdoch’s continued stance that he is not really responsible for the actions of his company.  Nobody wants to hear excuses.  If you are at the top of the chain of command, you are expected to take responsibility for the whole chain.  We don’t really care whose fault it is – that’s your problem.  There are some good examples that I can think of in B2C products where the company took responsibility even though it wasn’t their fault – the 1982 Tylenol incident and the more recent Enfamil issues come to my mind.  I’m sure there are a thousand examples.  The ones who take responsibility see the issues go away quickly and those who don’t (like Mr. Murdoch) just see it grow into a bigger and bigger issue.  It’s Public Relations 101.

There is a lesson for marketers in there, too.   If you use a marketing automation tool of any kind, you probably know how easy it is to screw up your marketing campaign.  If you don’t, I’m sure you’ll soon learn.  You might mix up names on personalized emails, send the wrong emails to the wrong list or at the wrong time, or have a link pointing to a wrong or dead location.  It happens to the best of us.  When I did my very first marketing automation campaign, I had set up the automated workflow wrong.  My list (thankfully it was a small one) got the first email requesting them to download something.  They immediately got a second email saying “We noticed you didn’t download that yet – you really should do that.”  I didn’t setup the timing right so it waited a week and then checked the responses before sending out the reminder.  Doh!

So how do you respond when you screw up?  In my case above, we decided not to do anything because it was a small list and chances are no one would notice.  They would take more notice if we drew attention to it.  In other cases, it’s best to just take the blame (no matter whose fault it is) and send out a correction.  If you don’t, you may leave your prospects with the impression that you can’t even get a simple email right.  But if you do correct it, they are usually very forgiving and you haven’t done any harm to the campaign.  Make sure your correction is simple and straightforward.  No one cares what happened or why.  Just simply state that there was an error and give them the corrected version.  Or if you sent the wrong campaign or to the wrong list, just simply state an apology for the error and ask them to ignore the previous email.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly the issue will go away!

I read a blog post the other day talking about how Cloud Computing is no longer the next big thing – because it is now a reality and part of our daily life.  It is an accepted and understood way of doing business.  IT managers no longer need an explanation of what cloud computing is.  Now the conversations are around what should be run in the cloud, how to standardize, and how to ensure security of applications run in the cloud.

Marketing automation, on the other hand, has been much slower in getting into the mainstream.  I think one of the reasons is because it requires such a change in the way we do business.  It requires new processes, new skillsets, and a new way of doing marketing.  If you treated implementing a marketing automation tool like implementing any other software, you are likely still using your MA system like a fancy email broadcast tool and not seeing the real value in it.  Companies that have really implemented marketing automation well have gone through a long journey that required a lot of change and a lot of reality checks along the way.

Additionally, the MA industry itself is struggling to figure out the right feature set and the right way to talk about itself (excellent blog post on MASG about that here).  No one has clearly defined the space and the competition is still pretty fierce.  So to some extent it feels like companies are sitting back trying to figure out whether VHS or Beta is going to shake out as the standard before they buy.  And many are still trying to figure out if they need  a VCR anyway since they’ve been getting along just fine for so long without one.

All of that doesn’t change the fact that marketing automation is still, in fact, the next big thing.  It isn’t going away anytime soon and it will become the standard way of doing business, just like cloud computing.  You do need to take the time to figure it out and figure out how it fits with your business.  Just don’t expect that to be an easy plug-and-play process.  Be prepared for a lot of change and be ready to re-tool the entire way you market when you jump into this journey.  But don’t let that stop you from jumping in with both feet!