Recently I attended a webinar put on by HubSpot for their value-added resellers. The intent of the event was to help resellers retain, or grow, their client engagements by using the HubSpot reporting features. In short, the lesson was to review the continually improving progress reported by HubSpot with your client. If you do this, the client will see the value the reseller provides and will continue to engage them or broaden their scope. It's excellent advice and something that most of us forget to do. Let me explain.
A customer can be someone who pays you for your services, or a customer can be an internal person or team. Whenever I was hired as CMO, or as VP of Marketing, the first thing I would do is go to the VP of Sales, and the VP of Professional Services, and the CEO, and individually say to them "You're my customer. My job is to get you what you need to be successful. What do you need?". I made sure to instruct my teams to treat the internal departments the same way. When we did that, we immediately changed the conversation from being adversarial, or competitive, to one of co-operation. That lead to establishing alignment. If the VP of Sales wanted more leads then I would ask them to define a lead. If I didn't do this, I might think my team was delivering leads but Sales might think we're delivering unqualified suspects. That's a disconnect. Hence, the customer approach lead to a defining of what the customer wants which lead to a discussion of how the deliverable is defined which ultimately leads to how it is measured. Once you have alignment on that, you're effectively left to run your own show and focus on delivering results. After all, that's all a customer wants is results. Often they only care about how you achieve them if you are not delivering them. Since I want my team to focus on executing, and not on playing customer politics, it's in my best interest to ensure alignment and successful execution of our mandate.
Why is this so critical? The 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report from MarketingSherpa asked the question "Which of the following marketing challenges are currently most pertinent to your organization?". The number one response, almost double the second highest ranked result, was "Generating high quality leads". It scored a value of 78%, which was 9% higher than the previous year. Understand, however, that this report neither defines "high quality" or "lead". Talk about a huge opportunity for a disconnect between Marketing and their customers.
So here are some questions as it relates to your lead generation activities activities:
- Do you know who your customer is?
- Do you know what they expect you to deliver?
- Do you have documented agreement and definition on that deliverable?
- Can that deliverable be measured?
- Does your customer agree with the method of measurement?
- Do you routinely report to your customer your progress against achieving that deliverable?
- Do you have regularly scheduled discussions to review, refine, and improve the progress?
- Does your customer understand your challenges and constraints? Do you understand theirs?
- Are you making an effort to over deliver, such that they see you are commited to mutual success?
Stay focused on what your customer wants and success will follow. Get alignment. Measure the results. Collaborate with your customer on how to adjust and adapt.
Every organization, at some point, outsources part of their B2B sales or marketing activities. Sometimes it's just for a specific deliverable. Other times, it's for a more sustained engagement such as lead generation,web design, inbound marketing, etc. For those of us who have been there, the selection of the vendor can rest on many variables. Are they the cheapest? Are they local? Were they referred by a peer whom I trust? Do they have the skills? Do I trust them? Can I work with them?
In my experience, it's the last two questions that are the most relevant: do I trust them, and can I work with them.
Let's be honest with one another. We're always going to want, and negotiate for, the best price and the fastest delivery. Most of us don't mind paying a small premium for good service. After all, we're all business people and we understand nothing is free. The best phrase a vendor ever shared with me was " Your options are you can have it good, fast, or cheap. Pick two!" I think that sums up nicely the tradeoffs that always come with working with vendors. That being said, most marketers are constantly having their budget, and their effectiveness, scrutinized. As a result, you want to make the right vendor selection.
With that said, let's assume you'll negotiate for a reasonable price with a reasonable delivery. If the vendor can't do that then they clearly don't want your business.
So what does that leave to influence your vendor selection? Ah yes - the peer referral or the vendor location. Let's start with peer referrals. I love referrals. Most of my friends, professional and personal, understand my idiosyncracies. They appreciate that I have high expectations and that I don't always have patience. They value my single-minded focus on lead generation and measurable results. As such, when they refer me to someone, I can usually assume they believe the vendor's approach and personality will match my own. In turn, I can assume they've done work together and my peer truly has experienced great things from this vendor. My peer's very integrity rests on the results this vendor will deliver to me. I may be somewhat overstating it, but not by much. This is why word-of-mouth remains the most powerful lead generation tactic today; because we trust our peers.
But should a referral be your number one influencer in your decision making process?
Finally, the last thing to consider is location. Is the vendor local? Are they on the same time zone? Do they speak the same language? In the age we live in, telecommuting is the norm and long-distance project teams are typical. With that said, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting between client and vendor. It's one thing for me to say something to my vendor, but it's another thing for them to see my body language. It takes the relationship to the next level. It creates alignment.
So is location a prominent influencer on your vendor selection?
Alright - let me cut to the chase. I'll tell you what I've learned to be true. I've learned price is critical. I've learned integrity is paramount. I've learned referrals are a good way to short-list vendors. And I've learned to never sacrifice success to save a few bucks on my vendor.
But most of all, I've learned that my vendor selection comes down to trust and relationships. Do I trust this vendor? Can I work with this vendor? Does my gut tell me that I'll be successful with this vendor? Do I believe this vendor is earnest and engaged? Do they understand me and my requirements? Can I be brutally honest with them? And will I be okay if they are brutally honest with me?
The truth is that every sale starts and ends with trust and relationship. Look at your own sales cycles and you'll see these issues often play the largest role in why your customers choose you or your products or services. Everything else is important, but secondary.
So. Do you agree? Go ahead. Be brutally honest with me.
Recently, I stumbled across a fantastic discussion on LinkedIn, in the group “Inbound Marketers – For Marketing Professionals” that asked this very simple question “What is the number one rule of content marketing?”. The discussion was started by Rey Tamayoof www.awiserstart.com, and it has over 200 posts at the time of this blog writing. That tells you that Rey has hit a nerve with this question. That also prompts me to ask “Why?”
For context, let me summarize the most prominent answers that appeared in the posts:
- It must be compelling
- Remarkable content
- Address the needs of the reader; it's not about you
- Utilize keywords and key phrases
- Fresh content
- Use understandable language; shoot for high school readability
- Solve a problem
Perhaps this answers my earlier question of "Why". The implication is that too many people must feel that too much content in existence today is simply not relevant. Would you agree?
I fully agree the relevancy is critical, however I do not believe it is the number one rule of content creation. In fact, I think it’s merely an attribute. It’s something you strive for when you generate your content, as are the other attributes like being compelling or authentic or fresh. While all of these attributes may help your content to be consumed, they do not necessarily help you achieve your goals, which is why you’re creating content in the first place.
Think about it. What are your goals? Are they to...
- Generate awareness?
- Establish thought leadership?
- Increase your search rankings?
- Feed your social media engine?
- Contribute to your lead nurturing programs?
- Engage your target audience?
Therefore, I submit that the number one rule of content marketing is to generate content that will help you fill your pipeline and close more deals. That’s it. Easy. Simple. End of story.
How would you do that? Well – I posted about that on the discussion group and summarized it accordingly:
“Content needs to start with your Sales Funnel. Analyze your sales funnel. What is the leakage and the lag from sales stage to stage? What are the common objections you get at each separate stage? What are the frequently asked questions your sales teams get asked? Once that's done, you can map your current content inventory against how each piece supports the sales funnel stages. Do they address the sales objections? Do they address the FAQs? Will they help you reduce the leakage or the lag? Is the content serving the top of the funnel or the middle of the funnel? How can your content help your Sales team be more successful? How can your content increase your conversion rates? To answer your question directly, the number one rule of content marketing is to help Sales close more deals. Everything else - relevance, thinking like the content consumer, personality, etc. - are aspects to what content should be produced and how it should be created. If you don't know the content you need, if it doesn't help achieve your end-goal of sales (I'm assuming it's sales but you may have another end goal), then your content will not be effective. Hence, always start with your sales funnel and figure out what you need to make, how your audience wants to consume it (which channels - video, podcasts, white papers, etc.) and how it addresses the challenges of the sales cycle.”
Those who read my blog posts know I often have pretty strong opinions, but perhaps my opinion is wrong on this. What do you think? Better yet – what would your sales team think?
Let's change up today's blog post and stand back a bit. Often, in these posts, we talk about the issues and tactics involved in demand generation. Closely involved in that process is the technology. However, today, I'd like to stand back much further and ask the question "When does the sales process really begin?"
I'm going to set it up, initially, and declare it begins two-fold: once involves getting found, and the other involves getting respect.
Let's start with getting found, as this is somewhat of an obvious insight based on the hot topics and trends around inbound marketing and marketing automation. If an individual has a pain, they will inevitably turn to Google to find ways of dealing with that pain. They may also turn to forums, communities, or web sites dedicated to specific issues or industries, but that is always secondary. Google is the go-to place for most people to start their journey. So what does that mean? That means you need to be found by the search engines. How does one get found? One develops and publishes an ongoing collection of marketing content (videos, podcasts, whitepapers, case studies, blogs, etc.) about the subject, or topics, related to the issue the prospect is researching. You pick out your keywords, and your key phrases, and you ensure they are continually and liberally part of each piece of content you develop. The search engines will reward your ongoing new content, they'll recognize your continued reference to these keywords, they'll discern that you're being published and referenced across the various online mediums, and they'll rank you higher in the search results. This means you're more likely to come up higher on the search results when the individual is beginning to research how to fix their issue. Ideally, that will result on them clicking on the referenced link provided by the search engine which should directly, or indirectly, send them to you and your website. That's Part 1 of the process. You'll rarely get to Part 2 if you don't do Part 1. No excuses. You gotta do it.
Okay, so let's discuss Part 2 of the process, because I think this is the most forgotten aspect. I also consider this equal to, and sometimes more important than, Part 1. What is it? It's the first impression you make! That's when the sales cycle truly begins. If you don't make a good first impression then you're never going to hit your sales revenue targets. Let me share an analogy I use with customers.
Have you ever shopped online for something? Of course the answer is almost always yes. Great. Now lets assume you find 3 websites that provide the exact same product at the exact same price at the exact same shipping fees. Which site to you buy from? The answer is simple as you think about it. You buy from the site that appears most aesthetically pleasing, that appears to offer great supporting content such as product reviews, or video demonstrations, or user forums, etc. Do you agree? You should, because studies have proven it over and over again to be true. So why do we do that?
We are conditioned from a very early age to eliminate risk. Therefore, the site that looks the most slick, the most complete, the most travelled by other shoppers, the most insightful, and offers the most service MUST BE the best vendor. Right?! Of course, we both know that's not always the case however that's what we think. It's psychological.
It's about eliminating risk by establishing credibility and trust with the prospect.
So let me ask you this question. What level of risk would I perceive if I went to your website right now? One more thing - if you're suddenly feeling exposed, check out this recent webinar on how to make great content for your website. It's a great way to fix the credibliity problem you may not have even known you have.