Uncommon Marketing

Bringing sarcasm, humor, and common sense to this mess of marketing and business.

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From News Journalist to Digital Marketer – A Mini Autobiography

I think I was born a writer because it seems as if it’s always been easy for me, like a fish to water. Well, actually, it’s more likely I was born a reader. Ironically, I struggled significantly learning to read in school. Back then, elementary schools introduced learning to read in the 1st grade; today, they practically have a spelling test ready the minute the child can sit upright without help. I’ll never forget that spelling the word “something” correctly was my mental block. But I got’er done. Eventually. Therefore, the old adage that “readers make better writers” truly does apply to me.

I began reading books for pleasure fairly early, around 7 or 8 years old. The reason I didn’t start earlier was because I associated reading with school and thought it would be boring. But one summer night, I stayed up all night and read Paul Bunyan from cover to cover. You know, the one about Babe the big blue ox. I picked it up to read because I wasn’t sleepy yet, but didn’t want Mom to know I was still awake so late. I didn’t intend to stay up all night, but I couldn’t put it down (lightbulb moment). When I finished the book, I rolled over onto my tummy, looked out my window, and watched my first sunrise break over the wheat field behind our rented house. I was hooked – on reading. . . and sunrises.

My next reading conquest was tackling the 3.5” thick, “The World’s Best Fairy Tales,” comprised of all the original stories by Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Perrault, the Grimm Brothers, and more, such as The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, The Frog Prince, The Princess & The Pea, and other dark tales. It’s a collection of 70 fairy tales that still sits on my office bookshelf. Of course, I opted to not read it all at once. These tales definitely were never really meant for children, but I devoured it, nonetheless.

My book is just like this, but it’s well-read because it is as old as I am.

As far as my career, other than a couple years as a reporter and in public relations, it’s true that I’ve never had a role focused solely on content. However, without the skills and knowledge that come from a formal education in journalism, I wouldn’t have as much success as a marketer. Since more content projects is one of my goals for new clientele, I decided to document my journey from journalist to digital marketer to illustrate not just my skills, but also my experience, resourcefulness, and how I arrived at digital marketing. There’s no other place to start but the beginning.

Early Unexpected Success

The first time I received a compliment on my writing was all the way (way) back in the 5th grade. Our assignment was to write an essay on a topic – a topic I can’t recall. But like an obedient average 5th grader, I completed the hand-written assignment and turned it in without much thought.

Each classroom at my elementary school, called Marvin Elementary, had a kiva where an entire class could gather to sit together. ‘Kiva’ is a Hopi word used to refer to specialized round or rectangular rooms found in modern Pueblos that are an important Southwestern architectural form. Modern kivas are used by ceremonial associations, and archeologists assume that ancient kivas served similar functions. Ours had three or four step-down “levels,” and could hold at least 30 – 40 kids. I always liked to sit at the very bottom, right in the middle.

We gathered in the kiva one afternoon to talk about the writing assignments we turned in a few days earlier. The teacher began by gently breaking the news that the quality of work was less than expected, but one essay stood out. As an average student never called out nor called upon, I would not have imagined, not even in a million years, that it would be my paper that stood out. Not only did she compliment sentence structure, punctuation, and composition, she also used it as an example of how to format essays, from penmanship to formatting (I skipped lines).

“This is how I want you to complete essay assignments,” she said. (Me: [blank stare] [does not compute] [gasp!] [what do I do?] [GASP!!] [NO!TheyWillAllThinkI’mATeacher’sPet!]) Accusations of being the teacher’s pet was a fate worse than the dentist. But when she smiled at me, I smiled back in that “aw shucks,” 5th-grader kind of way. Then she read my essay to the whole class. I wore my Teacher’s Pet label proudly.

Unanticipated Success yields a Defining Moment

It wasn’t until the end of my high school Freshman year that success caught me off guard again. This time, it was a UIL essay writing contest. The irony is, I didn’t sign up to participate – my teacher chose me to participate in this event, then told me I was going. Um, ok. [shrug]

Since the contest involved receiving the topic during the test itself, there was really no way to prepare. It was probably the first and only “test” in my entire life that I went into not worried or sweating, because I didn’t really care. Well, it wasn’t that I didn’t care, I would do my best regardless – but I wasn’t worked up about it as if my whole future was at stake.

The contest was held on a Saturday in Dallas. For me, it was mostly a sit-and-social fest because I only had the one event. Other students had multiple events – but, not me. I had one. Just one. I remember the room, I remember the desk, I remember the chalk board, and I remember the building in which the UIL event was held. But I don’t remember anything about the essay itself, other than the requirement being a persuasive argument for or against something.

UIL contests are always held in the Spring, and I recall that results came in just a few days before the end-of-school awards ceremony date – something else with which I never concerned myself, frankly. I just wanted to do my work and get good grades so I could be accepted at a university. And that’s what I did. I had no desire to “compete” with anyone, and wasn’t bothered by someone getting a better grade on an assignment. I just always did the best I could, really only competing with myself.

Sitting in class one afternoon the final week my Freshman year, my English teacher announced she had received the UIL contest results. It still didn’t register, not really; in fact, I had forgotten all about it. She stood in the front of the class and enlisted everyone’s attention to share the results. I looked up, and she was looking right at me. Then she said, “I have some exciting news: we have a UIL division winner in our class. Congratulations to Leslie Conder for securing first place in her essay writing division!”

Wait. . . what? Seriously? I’ll be darned. Unbeknownst to me, it was kind of a big deal and I had no clue. I seem to recall (at that time, I don’t know about now) it came with a small grant to apply toward college tuition. Then she said, “You’ll be recognized and receive your certificate at the Awards Ceremony on [whatever day it was].” The awards ceremony. On [whatever day it was]. In front of the whole school. [!!!] I had not had attention shined on me like that since the 5th grade.

As for the rest of my high school career, I have no memory of how well I did on other school papers specifically. However, I did graduate with Honors my senior year with an A in my advanced, borderline “gifted & talented” English class most seniors were terrified to attempt. It was the “most challenging class on campus,” with the exception of calculus, trigonometry, and physics. And if you ask me, I would throw chemistry in there, although in hind sight we just had a seriously crappy teacher.

The unexpected win my Freshman year brought awareness to the fact that I have a talent. A genuine talent. Therefore, the UIL experience represented one of the most defining moments in my life, a moment that provided me with a purpose – something to strive for, and something to develop in myself.

My Freshman year epiphany.

The Journey to My Bachelor’s Degree

When it was time to decide on a major/minor for my degree, I immediately knew it would be journalism. I added the Public Relations emphasis because I knew it would provide more options than just being a nosy reporter. I wanted to get to my major courses sooner rather than later at Stephen F. Austin State University, so I took two basic courses at a junior college the summer before my high school senior year and the summer after. Therefore, I was able to graduate cum laud with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from SFA in 3 ½ years, in addition to serving as associate editor, then editor, of the University’s newspaper.

Working at the paper gave me the love of page layout and design, as I had to self-teach programs such as QuarkXPress on an Apple computer. This was back when you had to create the pre-print mockup from which they would create the negative to print the paper. Old school. The days of photo-sizing wheels, cut and paste, and “blueline” print proofs. I still have the negative of my very first front page as the editor.

As graduation neared, I applied like mad to different newspapers all over Texas. This was old school application style – the “innerwebs” wasn’t anywhere near what it is today.

This antiquated procedure begins with combing classified ads, then:

  • Write and print cover letter
  • Print resume
  • Make portfolio copies
  • Place in a letter-sized doo-doo yellow 8 ½ x 11 envelope with a piece of cardboard
  • Address it
  • Put a stamp on it
  • Drive it to the post office

Wait three days, then:

  • Make sure your answering machine tape isn’t full
  • Place follow-up phone calls to make sure [contact] received the packet
  • Call and leave a message for [contact]
  • Wait for return calls
  • Check the answering machine again, even if you haven’t left
  • Try to contemplate the possibility of moving back home

I did receive callbacks and went on several interviews in various cities across Texas. Every newsroom was the same: awash in messy gray metal desks with black multi-line phones, gargantuan monotone screen monitors, and dot-matrix printers under a low-hanging haze of cigarette smoke. Don’t forget the black ashtray where a burned-down-to-the-filter cigarette is still smoking behind an inch or two of ash.

My First Job – Reporter at the Waco Tribune Herald

I had a job waiting for me when I graduated, and I would start “real adulting” as a nosy reporter at none other than the Waco Tribune Herald. At the time, only a couple of years had passed since the infamous Branch Dividian siege. In fact, a couple of reporters who broke the story – and took shelter from gunfire in the ditch – were still there. These reporters behaved as if they were local “heroes,” and therefore treated me like a plebe. But the minor details on how they were crying for their Moms in that ditch weren’t released, but were shared with me on the down-low by another senior reporter. Knowing that much, at least, made them not as scary, but it didn’t make either one less of an arrogant douche-bag.

As the plebe beat reporter, I was assigned stories having to do with community/human interest, religion, and military. In a vast sea of useless information sent to news rooms, every day I was determined to uncover an actual story in the chaff. For instance, I was the one who broke the story about prisons banning smoking inside the cells or buildings. I also uncovered a gem in the military press releases, where nuclear ice breakers from Russia (!) and the U.S. wound up in the same vicinity at the same time in the North Pole. I found a source, a female sailor who was actually on the ship who shared the details. As it turns out, they had a friendly meeting; several of the sailors from both ships disembarked onto the ice for a meet & greet, where the Russian sailors shared Russian vodka (not kidding) with the Americans.

Shortly thereafter, the city editor tried to stump me by assigning me a weather story. Apparently that’s a sure-fire way to announce to the entire circulation that you’re “the new reporter” – who always get assigned the lame weather story when the layout is short on copy. Well, I wasn’t about to write a lame story, determined to write a real weather news story with sustenance. One thing I knew that February in Central Texas was the weather was in the 80s – in fact, it was so warm that people were swimming in the lake. What’s up with that? I set out to learn why.

Who do you call when you have a question about the weather? Well, you call a meteorologist, of course. I obtained the contact information for a handful of local television station meteorologists, and interviewed the first one to return my call. What I uncovered was one of the first stories explaining the phenomena of El Nino and La Nina weather patterns. It was years before I heard these weather patterns mentioned frequently on the news.

A few months later, I was offered a design and content job at the small public and government relations firm at which I had been an intern. I primarily did design and layout for print, as well as wrote a lot of content and print-ready layout for at least 10 monthly newsletters for businesses throughout East Texas. I still have some of my old portfolio pieces, and in fact tried to land a “desktop design” job when we moved to Dallas – but Dallas was more advanced in terms of the Internet, and most design roles had already moved to digital by then.

Enter the Internet

I did, however, land a job as an account executive at a start-up digital agency called iMC2 (Internet Marketing & Creative Concepts), managing website design/development, display ads, and SEO projects. It was here that I “cut my teeth” on Internet and digital marketing, which ultimately led to joining Travelocity.com in late 1998 as a “traffic-building manager.” I essentially owned everything at the top of the funnel, the digital ad campaigns (pre-PPC – I remember meeting with Google in their infancy), SEO, the consumer email newsletter, and partner promotions.

Since those early beginnings, I have held a variety of roles that have afforded me to continue expanding my skills and experience in digital marketing. I deliberately pursued roles that presented opportunities to learn a new skill, usually the latest marketing trend to gain momentum – whether it was online or offline. Eventually I obtained hands-on experience in almost every tenet of both digital and traditional marketing and advertising. But one component of my skillset has remained constant throughout my 20+ year career, one skill I use that spans across the entire spectrum of marketing: the ability to conceptualize, write, and edit content, almost any type of content. And I love it.

Isn’t loving what you do for a living half the battle? I would be honored to help you with your content. You may review some pieces in my Portfolio on my Website, as well as before and after editing examples (I think I’m a great editor). Contact me to discuss your next writing project.


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Part II: The Marketing Struggle for Small Business: Where do you start?

Hint: It’s still not hiring or buying a marketing platform.

In part I, I wrote about some of the challenges and questions a business owner should ask prior to getting serious about marketing. Ultimately, as you’re getting started, I recommend getting some help from a consultant (yes, like me 😊) to do a little marketing forensics to identify where and how you should invest.

What I mean by marketing forensics is a process that starts with the assessment of business readiness for marketing (in terms of resources, messaging, product quality, positioning, etc.), what the company has done in the past pursuant to marketing (and results), and what the business needs to do to reach its goals – inclusive of what that arbitrary Marketing List may actually deliver, if there is a list.

We Pause This Program for Real Talk

Now for some Real Talk, the type that may be difficult for some business owners to hear or consider. Theoretically, a strategic approach should work for any type of business and business owner, but there are a few special cases where it won’t – if I’m being completely transparent.

This problem has nothing to do with the business, the approach, nor the consultant; rather, it mostly has to do with the inability of the decision-maker to relinquish “ownership” of marketing temporarily, or to even listen – even if it means saving time, money, and effort in the near term. Consultants and other business owners get it. Your business is YOUR baby, the one you’ve worked countless, thankless hours to build and grow, and for which you’ve made many sacrifices – some good, some not so good. Therefore, it’s a scary thing to take a leap of faith and listen to someone else when you know your business so well. The last thing you want is to listen to someone and that someone gets it all wrong. That’s why a very close partnership, communication, mutual exchange of ideas, honesty, and open-mindedness is critical – on the parts of both the owner and the consultant.

Business owners who are accustomed to making all the decisions and who are auditory challenged will more than likely just hire a marketer they like or get along with who knows how to do The Things on The List. The drive to “get things done,” therefore, becomes the entire mission; any suggestion that distracts or implies a different approach (that may impact what’s on The List) will be met with dismissal and frustration on the part of the owner. (A client actually said to me once, “I don’t need a plan, I need to get shit done; planning is all anyone ever does around here.”)

In the Absence of Sugar to Coat . . .

A business owner with an attitude such as the previous quote will listen to no one and simply find and hire a marketer with the skills to complete whatever tasks are on his or her Marketing List. The marketer hired to plow through The Marketing List, therefore, is set up for failure from the get-go because of the endless barrage of the owner’s reactive additions to The List – which is simply a symptom of a lack of planning. (Because the business owner didn’t want a plan, that’s all anyone ever does.)

This Marketing List will grow hourly, daily, weekly, with more and more deliverables added sporting ever increasingly urgent requirements and near-term deadlines that cannibalize items on the Original List for which the marketer was hired to complete. But the reactive pattern will continue, and the original List or original expectations are never met. Since perception is 90% of reality, the owner declares either marketing doesn’t work, or the marketer is not “meeting his needs,” and after a time will find himself seeking another marketer.

This pattern will continue, until the business owner slows down and wises up to the need for a strategy that, yes, births a plan – a plan to which the marketer then can stick. Otherwise, he’ll never see the kind of marketing success he’s so anxious to achieve.

Even noticeable progress to completion of The List, in the face of constant fire drills, lacks any luster because the business won’t advance much more than it did when the list was incomplete. Therefore, instead of feeling good about progress, the decision maker becomes disenchanted with marketing altogether – he hasn’t made the connection that a Completed List doesn’t necessarily a difference make. He’ll look for another marketer in this scenario, too. It’s because success is 100% dependent upon how well The List meets real business goals. Wouldn’t you like to know whether the list will matter to your business, customers, or prospects before you invest in an employee?

If this describes your experience with marketing as a business owner, I have one recommendation: listen to the marketer you hired. Listen to each other; exchange ideas, share concerns, work together, and learn from each others’ experiences. And resist the urge to claim immediately that something doesn’t or won’t work.

“People are in such a hurry to launch their product or business that they seldom look at marketing from a bird’s eye view and they don’t create a systematic plan.”

– Dave Ramsey, American businessman, author, and radio host

If You Have A “Marketing To-Do List,” At Least Do This

Instead of wasting more time or money on hit and miss resources, enlist a marketing consultant to assess where you are against where you want to go, and deliver recommendations with a strategic plan to grow your revenue through execution. An experienced marketing leader can provide professional insight into how the business should approach marketing both strategically and tactically. This is much more than just getting someone to mow through a List of Marketing To-Do’s, despite how important The List may seem. At the very least, identify the specific business goals your List should serve (beyond “getting the monthly newsletter going again,” unless it’s a known fact that it drives revenue – such as with e-commerce). If goals haven’t been defined, then The List is benign at best. What will all those things get you when you’ve done them? That’s the answer you should seek during assessment.

A marketing consultant will approach your business by considering different strategies, messaging, and best practices that could drive revenue based upon defined goals such as increased reach, awareness, leads, opportunities, qualified leads, closed deals, sales, or revenue – The List of Marketing To-Do’s notwithstanding. If a business owner hires a marketing consultant and hasn’t yet determined any concrete goals for marketing, the marketing consultant will start there, working with the owner to define specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (S.M.A.R.T.) goals that will inform the direction and requirements to meet the goals. Assuming, of course, that the owner can forget The List for the time-being and aim for understanding what the business should do, in terms of marketing, that will either drive business or prepare for “Real Marketing.”

If You Can Set Aside The “Marketing To-Do List” Temporarily . . .

Regardless of what the goals are (the real ones that drive revenue), the goals are the foundation. While they will certainly dictate the type of strategy to employ, the goals will also inform what tactics, investment, and, ultimately, what type of marketer to hire to successfully reach those goals. Not all marketing is created equal, and neither are all marketers. Marketing has increased exponentially in complexity, flexibility, and opportunity in just the past 5 years alone. Options for reaching a target market have rapidly exceeded any one individual’s ability to keep up with, have experience in, and be an expert at every single discipline. But a Jack of All Trades may be what you need to get started on whatever will make the most impact to the business.

A Winning Start

To design a winning marketing strategy that’s right for your business – and your audience – a marketing consultant can assess your business readiness, resources, messaging, assets, etc., and advise on an approach that’ll give you a leg up in the right direction, while offering a much less-costly investment in budget and time than seeking, finding, and hiring the wrong type of marketer. Chances are, the consultant will have some of the skills you’ll need, and will most certainly know others who can fill any gaps.

But whether it’s the expense of stops and starts, or when The Perfect Marketer finishes a List that doesn’t add one extra dime to your bottom line, a waste of dollars is inevitable if you haven’t defined your goals, created a plan to achieve them, and met the minimum requirements for readiness. At the very least, examine that Marketing To-Do List and decide whether it’s going to actually bring you revenue, or if it’s just a list of pet projects waiting for someone to care.

Therefore, if you’re serious about getting serious about marketing, seek out a marketing consultant who can objectively work with you to identify, define, and put into motion a plan for success. Eventually, your Marketing To-Do List will get done – but it’ll get done as part of a more strategic, goal-driven plan that may actually improve your bottom line.

Think you’re ready to start some demand generation? Read the Back to Basics Series – Demand Generation Readiness.

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Back to Basics Series – Marketing Insights for Small Business

Driving Leads vs. Generating Demand for Small B2B Businesses

Do you know that there is a difference between lead generation and demand generation? These two tactics are definitely on the same coin, but there is definitely a difference. Case in point – you can’t do “demand generation” without first having the leads from which to create the demand.

Whereas lead generation is the practice of attracting an audience to your business via inbound and outbound marketing efforts – with the ultimate goal of inquiry and/or to capture information – demand generation is the stuff that happens after the customer has raised his or her hand in exchange for information they want, need, or request. Therefore, you will want to capture first name, last name, and email address at the very least. One caveat is that this should be entirely different from your “Newsletter.” Just because someone wants to hear from you via your newsletter doesn’t mean they are a viable lead or candidate for your product – yet. Therefore, don’t consider your “newsletter” subscription list as your lead list. This leaves you free to have fun with the content of your newsletter, making it less “salesly” and more about your personality as a business and a brand. Your lead list should be generated out of something of value, content that moves them toward serious consideration and potential purchase of your product or service.

Lead Generation for B2B Business

For now, I will focus on B2B lead generation; however, lead generation itself can also be leveraged in a B2C or e-commerce environment, with just a few tweaks. I will touch on this in a separate blog post. Again, it’s just a matter of two sides to the same coin with different goals, outcomes, and incentives that are more consumer or retail in nature.

When it comes to B2B products and services, a deliberate approach to drive viable B2B qualified leads is the result of investing marketing dollars in an integrated inbound and outbound marketing strategy. I will touch on the difference between inbound and outbound marketing shortly. But, in order to entice someone to engage with you, you’ll want to offer something of value. Your offer may be a free trial, a free consultation, a report, an e-book, a white paper, or even access to a “Freemium” version of your product or service. Or, perhaps you have a whole library of content to offer, or even a community message board for like-minded customers to share learnings and help each other solve challenges.

Lead Generation – Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing is the practice of turning first-time website visitors into customers and, ideally, promoters or ambassadors of your product, service, or brand. Leveraging several tactics at once, as opposed to one or two here and there, exponentially increase your chances of success, as they build upon each other to achieve your goals.

Lead generation can be achieved with inbound marketing by starting with a search-engine-optimized and growth-driven approach to your website, in addition to specialized content mentioned above (e-books, white papers, etc.), retargeting advertising, and use of social media. A growth-driven approach to your website means taking a user-centric, data-driven approach to your website improvement. Tools such as heat maps and Google Analytics can help inform you of user behavior so you can make changes that improve conversion throughout the site.

For smaller budgets, the “freest” way to leverage inbound is to have a website that’s easy to find, optimized to outwit competition, and easy to use, coupled with word-of-mouth through a smart and engaging social media community. Additionally, on site and off-site SEO, such as link building (albeit labor intensive), significantly aids in the success of your SEO. Social media is inexpensive and effective, because the more people you can get to engage and share your content on social media, the better, whether it’s via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or other fringe platforms showing up on the Internet such as Parler, BitChute, and D-Live. Depending on your industry, there may even be a social media platform or two that caters to your specific target audience. For instance, if you’re in the gun or sport shooting industry, there is a social media platform called Gun District that might be of interest.

Other methods of inbound marketing include blogging, email marketing to existing house list, marketing automation and nurturing, and video content both on your site and on video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. Keep in mind that platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo are simply search engines for visual content, and need an SEO strategy of their own.

And don’t forget about other content platforms where you can post additional content. Platforms such as Quora, Reddit, Medium, etc. are other platforms with large numbers of eyeballs seeking information.

Lead Generation – Outbound Marketing

All the rage right now is inbound marketing, mainly because it’s more cost effective and slightly easier to turn a new visitor to your website into a customer than it is to be discovered or found by your target audience. You at least have the advantage of being “heard of” with inbound marketing.

On the other hand, outbound marketing takes a little more effort, more trial and error, and, in many cases, more investment. Think of outbound marketing as the more traditional methods with which you may be familiar: direct mail, social media advertising (as opposed to free engagement on your own page), tradeshows, radio/TV, press releases, and cold outreach, whether calls or emails.

I want to touch on email list purchase just briefly, as it is typically hit or miss and you really have to conduct due diligence into the quality of the data. More reputable vendors give you an honest report and assessment on quality. But if it sounds too good to be true (we have a 98% accuracy rate!), it probably is. According to ZD Net, 31% of email addresses change each year due to things such as a job change or a simple strategy to avoid spam. Therefore, if the list you purchase is at least a year old, you can almost guarantee at least 30% will bounce, which harms your deliverability and reputation rating with your email service provider. Scraping yourself off the net’s blacklists is not something you want to deal with, ever, because it’s time consuming and frustrating. Then, to stay off the blacklists, you’ll have to be on your best email behavior. Here’s a great article about the top email blacklists you want to ensure your IP address avoids.

Demand Generation for B2B Business

Once you have the lead, or subscriber, how you engage with the individual to move them through the sales funnel is what’s known as demand generation. This is when the magic happens, through communication and relationship building. In the simplest terms, you’re nurturing them to the point where they are all but ready to buy or, at the very least, want to speak with someone. A critical success factor to move a lead from being just an inquiry, or white paper downloader, to an engaged lead, is to begin communicating with them right away, typically via email. Be sure to capture their name and email address, and if you do regional offers, zip code becomes important. If you travel across the country and participate in events such as tradeshows, capturing zip code will enable you to send out targeted emails when you’re going to a particular area.

When they first show up in your system, whether they’ve signed up for your newsletter or downloaded a white paper, you’ll want to send an initial welcome email (this can be triggered using email service providers such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact, and even Salesforce.com if you’ve investing in that platform), and, depending upon the complexity of your product or service, you may want to consider a welcome series to educate them on your product, service, or company. This opens the door for value-added content that helps the customer understand what you’re about, and what problems you solve.

You’ll want to be prepared with a series of content, either value-added or learning in nature, that illustrates you understand their business, what’s important to them, and how your product or service makes their lives and their businesses easier to manage and more profitable. Really important is cadence – don’t bombard them every day with something new, but rather put 5 to 7 days in between each message to give them time to read it and take action. If you’re using a marketing automation platform, you can design the nurture flow to send content based upon the action taken on the previous email. Through test and learn, trial and error, you’ll eventually know precisely what messages lead a particular lead type or target right down the path to conversion. And that, my friends, is the holy grail!

Thanks for reading! If you need help getting started with your demand generation practice, or need some assistance optimizing your conversion, I would love to hear from you. Contact Me or Schedule some Time to discuss your demand generation program, and let’s see if I can help you accelerate your success.

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Part I: Demand Generation Readiness

Cover all your bases before spending on tools and people

Getting started with a lead generation strategy requires a certain level of readiness, especially if you are a business marketing to businesses (B2B). But, being “ready” for lead and demand generation goes far beyond getting a Salesforce.com license and a MailChimp account or Constant Contact account. Certainly, those are two of the most necessary tools – salesforce automation and email service provider – that can help manage leads and communicate, but there is so much more to consider, think about, decide upon, and put into place to ensure success.

This blog series is about simply assessing whether you’re ready to do some marketing lead and demand generation. This is important, because I’ve been in many roles and freelance projects where the company lacked resources or the product itself just wasn’t ready to attract and keep customers. My goal is to outline the important items to have ready before jumping head first into spending money on platforms or people. Or, you may choose to just hire a marketer to tackle all these things for you, in which case you’ll want to have a budget prepared to support it. Personally, I love building it from the ground up, because I know it’ll be built right. Either way, this will give you an idea of what a program may look like.

Before hiring a marketer, a team, or even signing on the dotted line for any technology services, I believe it’s a smart move to first assess your readiness to begin driving leads with which to do demand generation. Note I referenced both, there is a distinct difference between lead generation and demand generation. You may learn more about the difference on the recent blog post, “Driving Leads vs. Generating Demand for Small B2B Businesses.”

The following can be used as a checklist or a guide to hold a planning session with your leaders to dive into every major component, so you come out on the other side with a launch plan upon which everyone agrees.

Regardless, taking a look at each of these areas may surface gaps that, if not addressed, could cause a lot of stops, starts, delays, and mediocre attempts that derail your effort down the road – not to mention strain or waste your budget. As ready as you feel you are, doing this may uncover a few ducks left to get in a row before spending any hard cash.

Whether you decide to hire a marketer or not, what follows is a helpful list of the 13 most important things you should have in place if you want to start generating leads and implement a demand generation strategy (and culture!) for your organization. At a minimum, this will help uncover where your marketer, if you decide to hire, may need to start when it comes to basic preparation.

For this first entry, I will list the top 13 that I, from experience, feel need to be in place before spending any money to run a lead generation campaign, or even hiring a bunch of people to run campaigns. Due to the length already, I’ll stop with the list and continue in Part 2 with Section 1: Product, Customer, & Message. As each part is launched, I’ll link the section header to the entry.

A Solid Marketing Demand Generation Practice – 7 Areas to Prepare

Section 1: Product, Customer, & Message

  1. Minimum Viable Product
  2. Know Your Target Market and the Profile of your Best Customers
  3. Offer A Reason to Believe – For Your Target Market
  4. A Message to Support Your Claims

Section 2: Baseline Marketing Assets

  1. A Decent, Easy to Use Website – Make it Easy to do Business with You
  2. Can You be Found by those Seeking?
  3. Good Optimized Content

Section 3: Resources – Who Will You Need to Help?

  1. Sales Resources
  2. Technical Resource(s)
  3. Creative Resource or Agency

Section 4: Budget, Goals, & KPIs

  1. Budget
  2. Goals – What Does Success Look Like?
  3. Define KPI’s – Key Performance Indicators

Section 5: Tools of the Trade

  1. Customer Relationship Management Tool (CRM)
  2. Email Service Provider (ESP)
  3. Marketing Automation, if You Must (not necessary in early stages, IMHO)

To dig into each of these areas, start with the next entry, “Section 1: Product, Customer, & Message.”

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Part II: Demand Generation Readiness

Section 1: Product, Customer, & Message

In case you missed the Introduction and list of what I will cover, you may read Part I here.

There are four sub categories associated with Product, Customer, & Message you’ll want to ensure is shored up and ready before proceeding to Section 2 items. Those first four are:

  1. Minimum Viable Product
  2. Know Your Target Market
  3. A Reason to Believe – For Your Target Market
  4. A Strong Message to Support Your Positioning

1. Minimum Viable Donut Product.

Nothing’s worse than having a product that is hard to understand, hard to use, complicated to implement, is difficult to sell the value of, or is plagued with user or customer attrition. Is your product useful? Does it serve a need? Is it easy to understand, easy to buy, and add value to your customer from the start? If it doesn’t, you have some work to do because spending money to drive leads that won’t buy or won’t renew can get expensive. I went to work for an early stage startup many years ago (which is a risk in and of itself), and they had an incredibly sexy product in the MarTech industry. But, during my due diligence, I had no way of knowing that there were significant challenges with the product. Of course, I figured this out later, about 4 months in. For starters, the biggest clients with the potential to drive the most and significant revenue had gigantic log files to load and analyze. Unfortunately, the technology team, despite the most valiant efforts, kept running up against limitations in equipment. At one point, I believe one very large customer had been waiting a year for their logs to be loaded and analyzed. Secondly, the product was challenged with showing ongoing value. The program at first would surprise and delight the customer, but subsequent results were not as significant (because the product was doing what it was designed to do). It being a new concept had something to do with it, so helping customers get their heads around what it meant, and why, and the ongoing value of continuing the service was challenging. Therefore, most renewals were cancelled because the customer could not see the true ongoing value of the service. The company needed to do a much better job at educating the market.

2. Know Your Target Market and the Profile of your Best Customers

Understanding your target market is one of the most critical success factors. Who needs your product or service? Who will buy it? Why will they buy it? What do they get out of it? What problem does it solve? What are the benefits (not just features), what’s in it for them? What pain points does your product address? What is the competitive landscape? What differentiates your product from your competitors, as it relates to the solution for your market? Do you know their demographics? Psychographics? What are their social habits? Where, and how, are they looking for solutions, and where do they spend recreational Internet time? Is there seasonality to how the market buys your particular type of product? How long is the decision-making process? Is it a complex decision or sale from the customer perspective? What are the expectations of onboarding – is perception that it’s complex or simple? How will that impact the sales process? The goal is for your message to get in front of them where they are, when the need arises, and where they’re looking with the right message at the right time. You want your target market to find you when they need you and where they are looking for the solutions that your product delivers.

3. Give Your Target Market a Reason to Believe

Part of brand building is giving your target audience “a reason to believe.” What does that mean? “A reason to believe,” in a nutshell, is simply delivering on your brand or product promise, which develops The best way to give customers “a reason to believe” is to consistently deliver. Period. As the brand message, brand proposition, and brand value evolves, the greater the “reason to believe” through delivering on your promises, the more brand affinity you’ll drive with customers and prospects. As a result, you’ll have the reviews, testimonials, case studies, references, growing brand recognition, and growing revenues to prove it. When you deliver on your promises, your customers will continue to purchase and very likely tell or refer others. Your happy customers are your greatest asset and your greatest advocates, and delivering on your promises is the best social proof you can offer. Therefore, be prepared to deliver on your promises and give existing and new customers “a reason to believe,” consistently.

4. A Message that Resonates

Do you have a strong message that speaks to your audience and positions you as the answer to their prayers? Your message and positioning starts with developing a positioning statement. For small business owners without a lot of exposure to marketing terminology and/or brand building best practices, a positioning statement is very different from a tagline or slogan, and very commonly confound the two.

Not typically intended for public consumption, the positioning statement is sometimes succinct enough that it can pull double duty. However, the true intent of a positioning statement is to align the entire organization behind who the products are for, what they do, and how they do it. It is a guiding force for the organization to check against to ensure all messaging and the marketing plan is true to who the company, or product, is and why you do what you do.

From a strong positioning statement, the psychology behind the statement can sometimes be used to craft a badass tagline, in addition to marketing messaging that can be used across websites, brochures, in content, ads, etc. Don’t confuse tagline with positioning – they are not the same thing; and, be careful not to confuse the value proposition with positioning or slogan. Do a little research to understand what they are, and how they work together. Developing a brand is not a simple exercise, but it’s important to the very success of your business.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or would like to enlist my assistance in conducting a Demand Generation Readiness Assessment, Contact Me or Book an Appointment.


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Part III: Demand Generation Readiness

Section 2: Baseline Marketing Assets

This is part II of the Demand Generation Readiness series. In the first part, I set the context and gave a list of 16 things to make sure you have in place before jumping headlong into a lead and demand generation practice.

In Part II I covered the first four requirements on the list, called “Section 1: Product, Customer, & Message”:

  1. A Minimum Viable Product
  2. Know Your Target Market and the Profile of your Best Customers
  3. A Reason to Believe – For Your Target Market
  4. A Message to Support Your Claims

In Part III, I cover the topics for Section 2: Baseline Marketing Assets. The following entry will cover:

  1. A Decent, Easy to Use Website – Make it Easy to do Business with You
  2. Good Optimized Content
  3. Can You be Found by those Seeking? Search Engine Optimization

A Decent, Easy to Use Website Optimized for Search Engines

Is your web site pretty? Here’s an article about how your website impacts your credibility from the Nielsen Norman Group. You don’t want your website to leave the impression that you’re some fly-by-night that’ll be gone tomorrow. Is it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for? Are you prompting them to take action in the appropriate places? Is it easy for them to do business with you, call you, contact you or complete a purchase? Does it clearly spell out the value a visitor will get from your product or service? Does it clearly state W.I.I.F.T. (What’s In It for Them)? And does the website clearly state who the products, services, and content is for?

Most importantly, does your website enable you to iterate, change, and update quickly? Or does it require you to add a task to your web developer’s list of backlog work, or require a phone call to a web development agency just to change a word? Websites that are difficult to manage are a hindrance to any good demand generation program. There are a plethora of free and practically free services to host and manage websites that enable you to make updates on your own. Check out WordPress.com, Wix, GoDaddy, SquareSpace, SpaceCraft – and so many more. Simply Google “small business website builder” and peruse listings in the hundreds, in addition to rankings, reviews, and top lists. Capterra also has a giant list of website building software.

6. Compelling & Engaging Content

Do you give visitors a reason to find you and visit your site? Do you give them a reason to want to hear from you in the future? What you’re talking about, the insight you’re offering, products you’re selling, competitive pricing, etc., should generate interest and compel them to learn more, sign up, register, buy, etc. Even if you’re just selling products online, you’ll still need compelling content to encourage purchase. Just look at Amazon.com: You’ll find customer reviews, Q&A, and detailed product information. Show proof or a compelling reason why someone should buy from you and not a competitor – or Amazon.

Do you have a blog with useful content people can come back to read regularly or subscribe to for updates? Do you have a newsletter that has helpful or useful content, tips, tools, sales, promos, early bird sales, etc., that someone may want or need? Do you have content visitors want – guides, reports, e-books, white papers, webinars, videos, templates, etc., that are useful or helpful in some way? You can’t get something for nothing; give them a reason to register, purchase, sign-up, or otherwise give you their name and email address so you can begin a relationship and/or conversation. If you don’t have content, or don’t have resources to produce content, you need to figure out a content strategy that includes the who, what, and when of creating marketing content. Keep in mind PPC ads fall under the “content” category, as well as website pages. If you don’t have marketable content, avoid hiring a demand generation marketer and expecting them to work on nothing but content. Hire a writer instead. Content is also the key to being found, especially when it comes to search engine results.

7. If I Knock, Will You Be There to Open the Door?

Critical to success is whether you can be found by people looking for what you sell or offer. And there’s always someone looking for something. Does your website show up in a Google search for what you’re peddling? This means search engine optimization (SEO) of relevant content that draws your site to the top of the results in Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc. If you can’t be found for what you offer, and you aren’t yet known by name, and you don’t have a budget to speak of for PPC, invest in someone to optimize your website for SEO, stat. The emphasis on good, optimized content can’t be stressed enough. And, by the way, don’t poo-poo social. Some businesses feel social isn’t their “bag,” or their target market’s not on social; however, don’t discount the fringe benefits of having social profiles, a healthy list of followers, and a pool of shared links back to your website – Google and Bing algorithms use social profiles, links, etc., to determine relevance when returning search results. Read this great blog from Kissmetrics on “5 Things You Need to Know about Social Media & SEO.” My takeaway is that social helps businesses be found in search engines when people are looking for you, your products, or your content, so it’s better have a presence in social than not.

Thanks again for reading this and the other entries in the series! If you have any questions or need help with your website, content, etc., feel free to Contact Me or Schedule some time to discuss your content and website needs!

Continue reading the next entry in the series: Part IV: DEMAND GENERATION READINESS, SECTION 3: RESOURCES

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Part IV: Demand Generation Readiness

Section 3: Resources

In Part III, I covered some of the basic assets you’ll need to ensure you have in place for lead and demand generation to be successful. Those assets are:

Section 2: Baseline Marketing Assets

  1. A Decent, Easy to Use Website – Make it Easy to do Business with You
  2. Can You be Found by those Seeking?
  3. Good Optimized Content

Next I will explore, at a minimum, what resources you’ll need to truly pull off a successful program. Those resources include:

Section 3: Resources – Who Will You Need to Help?

  1. Outbound Sales Resource (Market Development Rep (MDR))
  2. Inbound Sales Resource (Market Development Rep (MDR))
  3. Technical Resource and Creative Resource(s)

8. A Resource to Outbound or Prospect

While your inbound programs are getting started and ramped to a manageable volume, you’ll need to do some outbounding to keep the wheels on the sales machine. Ideally, such a resource not only should like “cold calling,” but should also know how to hunt for prospects using social tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. You may also develop a list of target companies and individuals to market to directly to recruit as clients (known as Account Based Marketing, or ABM), or perhaps consider buying a prospect list made up of your target audience. This of course requires you to know intimately about your target market, which is the second item of importance after minimum viable product.

9. Resource to Handle Inbound Leads

Aside from having enough product to ship on hand if you’re an e-commerce merchant, B2B consultative products or services need a warm body to respond to inbound inquiries. For the long game, plan for hiring enough business development reps (BDRs), market development reps (MDRs), or sales reps to take or intercept inbound calls or webform leads. Starting out, this may only require one person, and it can be the same outbound resource. It could also be someone already in the company who knows the product, has a knack for sales, and the bandwidth to offer. If not, you’ll need to hire someone to take those calls and respond to web inquiries.

10. Creative & Tech Resource

Do you have a creative resource to create content assets, email templates, landing pages, update the website, create social posts, or write & design ads? If not, you’ll need to learn how, hire, or identify someone already in your company who can support the creative needs of the website and campaign assets. Depending on your website, you may also need to enlist the help of a front-end developer, someone who can turn your designs into HTML, HTML5, Flash, etc. And, because of the ease of use of website tools such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, some visual designers have expanded their skills to include development capabilities for these platforms. The cost will vary depending upon the type of website you have, and how much coding or design work is required.

Thank you for your time! If you need help with your website, I may be able to help. Contact Me or Schedule some time to discuss what you need for your website.


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Part V: Demand Generation Readiness

Section 4: Goals, Budget, & Key Performance Indicators

In part IV, section 3 covered the resources you will need to help you launch and execute an ongoing lead and demand generation practice. I covered the following topics:

Section 3: Resources

  1. Sales Resources
  2. Technical Resource
  3. Creative Resource or Agency

In Part V, I will cover the very important component of Budget, Goals, & KPIs:

  1. Budget
  2. Goals – What Does Success Look Like?
  3. Define KPI’s – Key Performance Indicators

11. Budget

I touched on budget above in goals, but it does require a certain level of investment to “do demand generation,” and do it right. First, there are the hard costs. You’ll need to finance the individuals on your team handling these duties and you’ll need to invest in the tools necessary to execute and maintain momentum. In addition, to get the most out of demand generation, you’ll need a budget to invest in programs such as PPC, re-targeting, content syndication, sponsorships, display, mobile, social, etc. – you’ll want to be ready to be present anywhere your target market may be. Without a budget, it’s really hard to drive the kind of volume necessary to make your initial investment in tools and resource profitable. There are plenty of ways to drive demand with minimum investment, such as with social, SEO, and content. But those tactics will only reach so far into your market. To make real traction, you’ll need to examine your goals and determine what level of investment is required to meet them, then spend very, very wisely.

12. Goals

Goals could arguably be the first item on the list, but if you have a minimum viable product, an awesome search-engine optimized website, content, and creative resources to produce your assets, before jumping into execution you need to identify the goals and decide whether they are realistic. If you hire a marketer, and you’ve not established the goals, this will be the first place to start with your new hire.

What are the goals for your business, revenue, sales, and demand generation that you’ll need to achieve? Based upon your average selling prices (ASP), do you know how many sales you need to meet revenue goals every month, quarter, or year? If you know your sales goals, do you know the sales team’s current close rate? The rate at which your sales team currently closes deals will tell you whether you can meet the revenue, deals, or contract goals you set. The close rate and revenue goals will also dictate the requirements for the opportunity pipeline, and the conversion rate of qualified lead to opportunity will tell you how many qualified leads you need to drive. Lastly, your conversion rate from inquiry (webform submissions or phone calls) to qualified lead will provide the number of inquiries to drive.

All these conversions and goals together will dictate a certain level of investment – your budget – required to drive those numbers; to be really smart about it, understanding what you’ll get in terms of visits and inquiries from tactics in which you invest will indicate whether the investment is enough. Configure these rates at worst-case scenario level (the minimum of what you can expect) with awareness that a demand generation marketer will cook up a strategy that drives higher inquiries, higher conversions, and higher quality leads that close at a higher rate. To explain more about the process, here is a mind-numbing blog post from Full Circle Insights that explains the gory details.

13. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)

Key performance indicators (KPI’s) for your lead and demand generation marketing plans are specific metrics to track, measure, and report upon that give you insight into how well you’re progressing toward your defined goals. Watching your KPI’s weekly provides you with data-driven insight to help you make decisions on the changes you should make to ensure incremental improvement toward your goal(s). You’ll want to start with a goal for each metric that ultimately ensures you’re driving the volume of leads you need, and sales is closing deals at a level to ensure meeting revenue goals.

Some of the metrics you’ll want to track are the obvious ones: number of leads, sales revenue, number of deals closed, cost per lead, and cost per acquisition. To execute a more successful demand generation marketing program, there are a few KPI’s you’ll want to add to your report. If you’re tracking the right KPI’s for your business, you’ll be able to make informed decisions and adjustments for everything from programs to budget to how sales “works” a particular type of lead. If you’re not tracking the right KPIs for your business, or your industry, you could be making decisions on poor information that actually harms your efforts rather than helps.

In order to keep this shorter, I will do a brief explanation of each and in a separate entry expand upon the details. In addition to sales revenue and number of leads, here are a few other metrics you’ll want to add to your reporting.

Website conversion rate. Some may call this traffic-to-lead ratio. Regardless what you call it, if you spend a lot of money on driving traffic to your website, but only 1% become leads, then you need to make some significant changes. Increasing the conversion on your website results in more leads for sales, and ultimately more conversion to revenue. It’s kind of like email – I like to measure the conversion rate of an email based upon the open rate. After all, if you can’t get them to open it, you can’t sell them anything to begin with.

Cost per lead. Do you know how much it costs to obtain a new lead? You have to consider all your expenses to drive that person to your website, as well as anything you invested in to entice them to become a lead. For instance, if your incentive is a white paper, did you pay someone to write that white paper? There are different costs to account for depending on the method, whether from inbound marketing or outbound marketing, but starting with a benchmark of your real expense will help you begin to optimize the programs that are working, and to cancel the ones that are not.

Lifetime Customer Value, or Customer Lifetime Value. It costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep a good customer. Don’t take a customer for granted, communicate and continue to nurture them regularly to ensure they return again and again. And by all means, keep them happy! Depending on your product, your customer’s lifetime value could mean thousands, making that cost to acquire not be so bad after all.

Lead to Sale Conversion Rate. Measuring how well the leads your driving are converting to a sale can provide you with insight into the quality of the leads your programs are driving. There are two metrics associated with this – sales qualified leads (they basically meet all the ideal criteria, or BANT), and sales accepted leads, the ones they convert/change to your “opportunities.” These metrics will answer the question, “Am I driving the right kind of leads?” If these conversion rates aren’t meeting your goals, you’ll need to make a change in your inbound programs or potentially investigate whether the criteria you’re using to define your quality leads needs changing or improvement.

There are many more metrics you can use to identify if you’re lead and demand generation programs are performing where you need them to be. But these are some of the basics to get you started with looking and thinking about your numbers.

Continue reading the final section, Tools of the Trade.

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Part VI: Demand Generation Readiness

Section 5: Tools of the Trade

In the previous entry, Part V, I covered the following Section 4 topics:

  1. Budget
  2. Goals – What Does Success Look Like?
  3. Define KPI’s – Key Performance Indicators

Now that you have a budget, your goals, and identified your key performance indicators, these pieces of information can guide you to the right platform for your business and objectives.  Therefore, in Section 5, I will cover some of the tools of the trade that will make your life easier in the long run.

Section 5: Tools of the Trade

  1. Customer Relationship Management Tool (CRM)
  2. Email Service Provider (ESP)
  3. Marketing Automation, if You Must (not necessary in early stages, IMHO)

Putting the Tools into Place

To run a successful lead generation program, aligning your sales and marketing folks to the goals and giving them decent tools to use will ensure success. You’ll need, at a minimum, a salesforce automation tool (also known as Customer Relationship Management, or CRM) to manage leads, opportunities, and deals; a website content management tool, and, also at a minimum, an email service provider (ESP). The ESP doesn’t have to be marketing automation from the get-go, and some easy-to-use ESPs offer basic marketing automation capability. You will also need Google Analytics to track website performance (it’s free), and if you’re planning to use any tracking pixels from third parties or marketing automation, you’ll need Google Tag Manager (also free).

14. Customer Relationship Management Tool

First and foremost, you need a sales automation tool. Salesforce.com is the gold standard, but can get expensive if your business model is such that you’ll need an administrator who knows how to crack into the back end and manipulate to support your business model. Rooted in best practices, it’s recommended that you never change your business model to fit a tool – the tool should fit your business. There are simpler, less expensive alternatives to Salesforce.com, of course, and a thorough investigation into how well they support your business model is highly recommended. This takes time and effort, for sure, but I never recommend buying a tool just because it’s needed urgently.

Some of the less expensive alternatives are Zoho (which also offers marketing automation and email capability); HubSpot (trying to be a one-stop shop), which started as a website hosting and CMS, but has since integrated marketing automation, email, and a CRM. There may be initial sticker shock with Hubspot, but look at the costs of each tool you need individually and compare to the cost of a comprehensive package with something like a HubSpot. There is also a new-ish player in the market, called SharpSpring, and it’s made specifically for Small Business B2B. It offers a CRM component and a marketing automation tool in one, and is significantly less than a HubSpot. For a great buyer’s guide to CRM systems, check out TrustRadius’ free Buyers Guide to CRM Software.

15. Email Service Provider

There are a couple inexpensive, go-to email tools that are favorites of small businesses just starting out with email marketing and demand generation. The one seen the most is MailChimp, and it has basic capability for tracking visitors are your site to trigger event-based messages. It’s also very easy to use, and integrates with almost every other tool you’ll need to use. A few others prevalent among small businesses are ConstantContact, VerticalResponse, AWeber, and CampaignMonitor. This article covers the top 7 small business marketing email providers.

16. Marketing Automation Tools, if You Must (Optional)

If you decide to go the route with a marketing automation tool, you probably don’t need an email service provider. It really depends upon your business model and the communication strategy for customers vs. prospects. Some businesses choose only to handle inbound inquiries and prospecting using marketing automation, and leverage a separate ESP to handle customer messaging. The decision you make should first and foremost serve your business objectives, but most marketing automation platforms (MAPs) offer email sends as a feature within the tool.

Insofar as marketing automation goes, the market is a vast ocean of choices that can be overwhelming. Some tools are massive beasts that are expensive, and you’ll never use the tool’s full scope of capability unless you plan to go big or go home. You can also start small and add modules as you grow and are needed, because it is difficult to rip one out and replace with another. The goal is to choose one that starts small and affordable, but can scale with you to your liking. Some of the market leaders are Marketo and Eloqua, which in my opinion are overkill for small business. SharpSpring, which I mentioned earlier, is pretty robust for what it costs, and is even more competitive than HubSpot pricing. GetResponse is another, and there are several that have a $0 or <$100 per month entry point, such as Leadsius and Azuqua. VentureBeat offers this list of free or super-cheap marketing automation tools, which is useful. If you want a more comprehensive buyer’s guide for marketing automation, check out this free one from our friends at TrustRadius.


So, there you have it. If you have a minimum viable product, a great SEO-optimized website with compelling content, resources to create content and creative assets, you’ve set your goals, you have a sales resource or two, and you have your tools in place – you’re ready to drive leads and execute a demand generation strategy, save for a few best practices processes, procedures, and service level agreements between sales and marketing. Once you have all these things in place, and your demand generation is running like a well-oiled machine, your sales team will soon be screaming for more leads while your marketers will scream “Close the ones you have.” It’ll be like music to your ears!

Thanks for reading! If you need assistance with any part of your demand generation practice, or feel a Demand Readiness Assessment would be useful, please Contact Me or Schedule some time to chat!

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Part 1: The Marketing Struggle for Small Business: Where do you Start?

Hint: It’s not hiring. And it’s not a marketing platform subscription.

At some point in the journey to maturity, established small businesses – whether through a natural progression to maintain steady growth, the presence of increased demands from investors/advisors, or due to the arrival of competition in the area or online who poach customers – make a decision to get serious about marketing.

I’ve seen a variety of situations, but one scenario in particular seems more prevalent among the small, established businesses that are considered the “backbone” of the country’s economy. These organizations are painstakingly built and stabilized over time, brick by precious brick, by one or two owners who’ve known no other business, career, or industry in their lives (or very little). The company, regardless of its size, age, industry, or level of success, has made a few passes at marketing throughout its history – dabbling a little here, a little there . . . eeeking out an email, a webinar, a newsletter, or blog post every now and then, as available bandwidth or employee know-how allows. Marketing tactics and execution tend to be spread across multiple individuals, designating anyone who knows anything about any marketing responsible by way of the “Your-Idea-You-Own-It” policy.

Eventually though, as demand on the business increases, the resources helping with marketing have less and less bandwidth to tend to it. Thus, marketing falls by the wayside, leaving a healthy “List of Marketing To-Do’s” in its wake. What happens next is that the decision maker, who’s achieved growth by careful product development and strategic hiring, makes the decision (perhaps reluctantly) to hire a marketing person OR buy a fancy marketing tool – because All These Things need to be done. Be careful of the marketing tools – these guys are great at what they do when they walk in your doors. What they don’t always make clear is the setup process, time involved, and potential complexity of use. There may even be hidden costs associated with the tool (see Salesforce Marketing Cloud) that are not at first obvious.

On its face, having a large Marketing Tasks Wish List to tackle is an easy problem to solve; however, it’s made complicated if the primary decision maker becomes so focused on getting The Marketing List done that he or she loses sight of why it needs doing. If you’re a business owner with a long marketing task wish list, before tackling that list, ask yourself, “Will the Completed Marketing List drive revenue?” It might, depending on what the tasks are, but it probably won’t; it all depends on what’s on The List, the strategy to address it, the goals you need to reach, and the level of preparedness to do so.

What Should a Business Owner Do When Considering a Marketing Investment?

How do you start spending slow and investing wisely in marketing? Should you hire someone to help? If so, what type of person should you hire? What do you want them to do? What do you need them to do? (Because it’s two different things, I assure you, the wants and needs of the business owner.) How much should you pay them? Do you hire a full-time resource or a part-time resource? These are all questions to answer before you even begin to write a job description.

I recommend business owners hire a marketing consultant first to examine the goals and resources, among other things, and bring to light what type of strategy will be most effective to reach the goals – not to mention assess the readiness to pull it off. Oftentimes these small businesses find themselves poorly positioned to do the kind of marketing they need to reach their goals, or to even see significant enough growth or ROI. This is where a little marketing forensics is necessary before dedicating the time and expense to hire a full-time marketing employee.

In part II, I’ll explain a little about marketing forensics in addition to making some other recommendations for what you can do now, and in the future, to get your marketing off the ground.

READ Part II: The Marketing Struggle for Small Business