Uncommon Marketing

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

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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 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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Product Marketing, Product Management: Which One is Right for Your Business?

Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with many different companies in many different capacities. One thing I find interesting and, at times, frustrating, is how various companies staff for product support, development, and delivery. I’ve worked at companies that only had a product management department, or only had a product marketing department, and some have had both product management and product marketing departments – in addition to product development.

The way I see it, Product Marketing and Product Management are simply two sides of a valuable coin; but some companies, frankly, just don’t know there’s a difference.  And, yes, there is a difference. But I think it’s either the lack of understanding that difference – or the propensity to cheap out – as the reason why many companies have one or the other, but expect both functions to be sufficiently served. Or worse, they have a product management department but expect the Marketing department (“Big M” Marketing) to handle product marketing, in addition to branding, demand generation, social, digital, advertising, PR, promotions, events, etc.

I’m quite certain there exists hundreds of articles written about the differences between these two practices. But, having worked closely with product marketing, and having worked for companies with varying degrees of these disciplines, I think I can offer an interesting perspective. I’ve encountered a variety of conflicts in these varying environments, which produces different frustrations and gaps to fill as a result of combining the two into one function.

DISCLAIMER – I’m not an expert in either of these disciplines, nor will I claim to be. A lot of overlap and grey area can occur; I’m sharing observations from first-hand, cross-functional experience and what I’ve experienced. I’ve worked with varying degrees of product management, product marketing, product development, and everything in between, and what follows is my personal conclusion and observations for setting up a product organization for success.

For any company producing a product or a service, and even more so if the company makes multiple products and services – targeting multiple markets – employing both product marketing and product management may well be the linchpin to success. Both product management and product marketing are pragmatic in nature, but if an organization relies on one person or one function to handle both disciplines simultaneously, neither program will come out top-shelf. Maybe if there’s only one product (depending on complexity), but successful execution becomes a fair stretch if there’s more than one.

Both roles require an exorbitant amount of knowledge, and both roles are full-time roles in their own right. But, there is a difference, and many companies are either unaware of the difference or they attempt to cheap-out on operating expenses. It’s why some companies have a product management person, or only a product marketing person. Whether you have one or the other, gaps abound due to the scope of each discipline. The team or individual will attempt to fill the gap and try to take up the slack of a second role; or, the slack gets tossed over to someone such as myself in marketing communications, inbound, outbound, demand generation, or marketing project management. If, and when, this occurs, the company still has someone handling two full-time jobs: underpaid, overworked, and frustrated because a lot falls through the cracks. Or worse, he or she becomes conditioned to accept mediocrity, because one person can only do so much.

So, what is the difference, and why might you need both product marketing and product management?

Product Management in a Nutshell

Product managers play a key role within the organization, and are critical to the success of a product. Sometimes more technical in nature, especially if it’s software, your product managers eat, sleep, and breathe the product. They know absolutely everything there is to know about the product: how it works, what it’s supposed to do, what it’s not supposed to do, how it’s built, what skills are required to build it, what it’s capable of, and where it’s headed. Product managers are, or should be, “power users.” They’re aware of upgrades, add-ons, and fixes; they know its quirks, its gotchas, and its a-ha’s. Product managers know what’s next, what’s next after next, and what’s next after next after next – and when.

Product managers know all of the timetables, risks, stretch goals, the not-gonna-happens, and the never-gonna-happens due to this or that. Product managers know how to use it, how not to use it, and how long and hard one has to work to be able to use it a little, use it some, or master its domain. They know why it can do certain things, and why it can’t- and what it will take to turn a Can’t into a Can – and then kick it down the roadmap. These guys are your go-to and incredibly valuable; losing one of these to anyone else is a treasure trove of tribal knowledge walking out the door. It might take their replacement months, or even years, to learn what the incumbent knew.

Product managers own the road map for their product(s), and they work with other product managers to have complete clarity on how the products work together, or how they impact one another – especially when it comes to resource allocation. Most importantly, they know for whom the product is built, and where he or she gets value from it. Speaking of value, product managers also know what it costs to build it, and probably for how much it should be built, and the margins the company needs to achieve.

There is a lot more the product manager does, such as product elimination decisions, sunset plans, and technical or engineering requirements development. Some of it can cross over into product marketing, such as the launch plan, but their piece of the launch plan should pertain to the logistics of getting the product manufactured and shipped; the go-to-market plan is where product marketing enters the picture. Keep in mind that product development is also an involved process that can, and probably should, have a dedicated resource, too.

Product managers ensure the technical or engineering requirements put forth are met, but that also could fall to product development. Similarly, pricing strategy and analysis may also be determined by a separate division or person, because it requires mad analysis, data modeling, and competitive analysis ‘skillz.’ Not to mention the focus required, and the bandwidth to pour over data hours at a given time to develop algorithmic models. Another wicked-smart person you’d do well to have as part of the team, that being a pricing strategist.

Product Marketing In A Nutshell

Like product management, product marketers also know for whom the product is built, what it does, and how it’s built. But, most critically, they know the market for which it’s built, and what aspects of the product are most applicable, or useful, or relevant, to a segment within the market. These are the guys who are conducting market research, focus groups, surveys, etc., and are essentially the “UX” of the product for the segments within the markets; therefore, these astute professionals are also your “power users,” and sometimes conduct internal product training (think sales, marketing, customer support, tech support). External product training for customers should belong to a training department, and be sold as a service package beyond self-guided online training, IMHO. But I digress …

With regard to the market – let’s say your product is targeting airline manufacturers. Product marketers know the companies, the influencers, the decision makers, and the end users of the product. Product marketers also know what makes the target segments tick or get excited about the product. Therefore, they know how to position the product to speak to the pain points the product solves for these segments within the airline manufacturing vertical, for example.

Furthermore, product marketers know their assigned industry intimately. They know who to target, how to target, and what to say. Product marketers focus on market drivers, market impacts, and competitive analysis as it relates to messaging, parallel product comparison, and competitive analysis; they know what to say, how to say it, where to say it, and when to say it, understanding the seasonality of the buying process for their specific type of product juxtaposed against the segment and the industry. They inform the wordsmiths within the organization, but are sometimes wordsmiths themselves. They may also help with responding to the competitive shortcomings of the product, helping support sales with specific objections when a prospect is thinking of going with a competitor.

When it comes to product launch, the logistics of manufacturing, packaging, and shipping to distribution channels should be driven by product management, but it’s the product marketers who create and manage the go-to-market plan. This plan has everything to do with telling the target market that the product is coming, where to get it, and when it’s available. Product marketers work with the demand generation, communications, advertising, creative, and PR folks within the organization (the Big “M” Marketing) to ensure the materials required for launch are on deadline and on message; the branding team ensures brand compliance.

Product marketers inform the Marketing Department about the product, the audience, positioning, and messaging, likely through a creative briefing process. Additionally, the product marketers are the stakeholders and project owners of the go-to-market plans, which defines what “deliverables” the Marketing Department should produce: photography, press releases, ads, search engine keywords, website content, landing pages, web forms, and more. This may or may not include packaging and “what’s in the box,” but sometimes there’s also a packaging division to include in the launch plans. If there is, the product marketers are informing packaging what should be in the box, and manages the project for the production of these materials as part of the GTM plan.

Product Marketing’s Secret Weapon: Data, Data, Data. And Oh, More Data.

Once the product hits the market, product marketers become keenly aware of the product’s performance in the marketplace. Is sales moving enough units? Is demand gen driving enough leads? Are the margins where they need to be? Do they need to do a promotion to boost adoption? What does “break even” look like? What’s the highest price the market will tolerate? What’s the lowest price to ensure high volumes without losing their ass in margins? Is pricing competitive? This data would definitely come from the pricing strategists or business intelligence, if they exist, but it’s important for product marketing to know these answers before dictating a promotional offer and eliciting the help of marketing to produce a new campaign, offer, or positioning.

Product marketers are also gathering data, in the form of business intelligence, on how the product compares to other products in the company, how the sales compare to competitive products in their target market, and are conducting customer and prospect focus groups to ensure the messages and product are delivering on its promises.

Product marketers leverage data analysis, either themselves (if they have time) or a BI division, to inform the executive leaders of how well the product is doing in the market. Product marketers also develop the forecast for volume, revenue, and profits, and ensure the messages, outbound efforts, and sales are meeting forecast goals on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. If the forecast shows a miss, a great product marketer will come to the table with a plan of action to right the trajectory, with a timeline of execution, delivery, and expected outcome.

In addition to all this, product marketing, through sales and lead volume, knows whether an offer is working. If it’s not, they work with (Big ‘M’) Marketing to craft a new message to the marketplace. Product marketers are intimately aware of the features and benefits, competitively speaking, and know the product’s differentiating factors that drive choice in the market. They will partner with MarCom to conduct focus groups around the new messaging and positioning.

One Last Thing About Product Marketing . . .

Considering building a new product?  Great.  Before any bright, shiny ideas are put down on paper, product marketing should collaborate with product development and product management to ask the marketplace what it wants, needs, or sees as emerging disruptors – especially if its purpose is to penetrate a new market. Asking the market, in the form of focus groups, surveys, market research firms, etc., will inform the marketing requirement document from which the technical requirements come. Avoid drawing conclusions or guessing – instinct is good, but your product marketers should validate the need and put forth a vetted, validated, and confirmed solution dictated by the target market. Otherwise, a company could be investing millions to build a product that nobody will buy.  Or worse, is soon rendered obsolete because of other advances – remember Flip Video cameras?

I hope I did justice for product management and product marketing professionals everywhere – in my opinion, these two roles within an organization are not only crucial, but they’re essential. I have immense respect and admiration for people who choose these paths for their careers; it certainly demands remarkable talent. Staffing both areas right, and investing in the tools they need, is one the smartest strategies a business can do for its future. There are lots of places to “cut corners” in a business, but doing so in product management or product marketing will certainly hurt significantly more than it helps. Be smart. Cheaping out doesn’t pay.

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Digital Desperation – “Buying Traffic,” and Why It’s A Bad Idea

I recently abandoned an online job application after spending an hour on it, just based on my professional principles.


The question had to do with “best practices” and “metrics” around “buying traffic.”  I began to write my answer, and, the longer it became, the more I began to doubt whether I wanted to work for this company.  My own personal “best practices” kicked in, you know, those best practices that have made me successful.  I realized that, if I submit this application, I am doing so entirely against my core professional beliefs.


If, as a business, your core strategy is to “buy traffic,” you’re missing the entire point of engaging with your audience based upon the very principle of adding value.  You’re wasting dollars by casting a wide net and hoping the fish are there (affectionately known as the “Spray and Pray Method”).  Casting a wide net rarely results in an effective ROI. The more effective approach includes targeting your content while leveraging technology to capture what the responders need or want from you.


Alternatively, develop a targeted content strategy (this includes “offers”) that meets the needs of the customer and communicates the right message, at the right time, in the right channel. With so many paths to engagement today, every customer will have a preferred method of communication. That may be email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.


So, what are the key performance indicators of an effective content strategy?  Identifying your KPIs depends on your goals for your business; however, most of the time, the relevant metrics for a targeted content program are  1) Response, 2) Engagement, and 3) Conversion.  Whether that conversion is identified as purchasing an item, downloading a piece of content, or just an opt-in to your email list – how well the channel, offer, and content contributes to the business goal (usually, revenue) is the true measure of success.


If I were tasked with increasing your sales from online marketing, “buying traffic” would be the absolute last resort tactic. I personally think “buying traffic” comes from a place of desperation, and your audience can see it for what it is.


In my next blog post, I’ll cover some of the steps to take to improve and optimize current programs, targeted messaging, and examine the question, “Are you meeting the needs of your customers?”  Have a great weekend!