Thursday, October 09, 2014

The two best things you can do to improve your marketing results

I admit it. It's true. I've spent as much time as any marketer justifying my role. And often I've thought less than kindly of sales... those people who just wants tactical marketing guff and don't "get" the bigger picture about brand, reputation and marketing. 

This was probably particularly true when when I worked inside a certain company (we'll call them Big Consumer Finance Brand A), and in my time early on as a consultant advising another firm (we'll call them Asset Management Brand B).

Of course these days that just doesn't wash. I was converted from a "marketing is good, sales is bad" view shortly after the commercial realities of running my own business hit me, hard. I found myself doing both sales and marketing. And I developed a new, healthier respect for salespeople. They, of course, are where the money that pays us all comes from. And as a marketing consultant I now understand that people who actually talk to customers or clients (sales and service roles) usually know a lot more than the marketers do about customers, and potential customers. 

But my respect for their marketing nous probably hasn't shifted quite as far. 

Turns out that's actually my fault.

My experience is this: marketers often do see the big picture a bit better - how marketing might connect to strategy and help sales by delivering quality leads, more enthusiastic prospects or better informed customers. But not always do they (and I mean "me") invest the time to make sure they really understand the depth of customer and prospect knowledge that sits inside many salespeople's heads. Nor do they (we!) always then engage sales in a truly collaborative marketing (or content marketing) process that brings the best of both capabilities to the table to solve the problem we're both paid to solve: attract more customers, at a lower cost and keep them. 

What's the first thing you can do to improve your marketing results?

The first thing many financial services marketers can do to improve their results is to help their colleagues in sales see the value of content, and content marketing. 

What sales person doesn't want it to be easier to convert prospects? What sales person doesn't want a buyer who is more ready to buy? What sales person doesn't want a better success rate?

Back when I was inside Big Consumer Finance Brand A, and advising Asset Management Brand B, I worked with marketing to build stuff and throw it over the metaphorical fence to sales.

Did it work? Did the sales teams use it? Not sure. Probably not.

Why? Because I didn't go about creating content or marketing communication the right way.

The right way would have been to help sales see how honest, transparent and high quality content, served the right way, can make their life easier.

The right way would have been to take them on a journey: ask for their engagement upfront, understand their challenges and then use their very own content (outbound emails, calls and meeting content) to create marketing that worked far better.

That's marketing that educates prospects before they get a call or sales visit, marketing that answers the logical questions potential customers want answered, and marketing that's so good our customers would pay for it.

What's the second thing you can do to improve your marketing results?

The second thing we can do to improve our marketing results is take the time to explain to the leadership, sales and marketing teams why we need content marketing or integrated marketing.

The path to digital and marketing greatness is steep and sometimes far too tricky. It can't be navigated without leadership and employee buy-in. 

A good place to start is by having one-on-one conversations with what I call "the conversion pack". I have one of those now, and it takes most decision-makers from "skeptical" to "ready to go" in about 12 slides. 

Another starting point is a company workshop -  explaining WHY we need content marketing but starting by asking about the challenges sales and marketing folk face right now in their jobs. 

Many of those problems can be addressed through better collaboration, which in turn delivers high quality marketing because it's real - informed by what the people closest to customers see.

Yes, it all sounds too easy. And in practice these two things to improve our marketing results are not that easy to actually do. 

But they're worth it. 

Because soon, as digital marketing and the dominance of search is accepted by leadership teams, we'll be forced to collaborate better because our wealth management, insurance, fund manager or banking colleagues will be doing it better and beating us in the market.

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