Just like Sales, Marketing is responsible for managing a predictable, reliable demand generation pipeline with a plan that ultimately produces higher value opportunities and maximizes revenue.
We believe that the traditional approach to the pipeline — Awareness, Interest, Demand, Action —or the more modified version of this pipeline — Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Purchase —is outdated. Why? Because customers are no longer passive recipients or a sidelined spectator.
In today’s environment, customers are actively engaged in the buying process, leveraging a mix of vehicles from search engines to customer generated blogs and reviews, from online communities to social networks, and from broadcast to personalization designed to create engagement and enhance experience. Therefore, how we approach, define and leverage the pipeline must also change.
Marketing and Sales teams have tried to tackle the change by jointly defining what a qualified lead is. This is working for some companies but not all. Why? We have to change how we think about the customer engagement process, not just our terms.
One of the best ways to change our thinking is to alter the language we use to define and describe the customer buying pipeline. However just addressing our thinking is not enough in the complex, multi-touch, digital marketing world we live in. In addition to shifting the paradigm it is critical that we store all of the information coming in from our customers and prospects so we can track and measure the effectiveness of our marketing efforts, and the best place to do this is in your CRM system.
Perhaps this six step idea of how customers engage will strike a chord with you and will more accurately reflect how Marketing can measure its contribution. These six steps are:
These may seem like a new twist on an old idea, but language matters. These labels aren’t about what we do TO a prospective customer, but rather what we do WITH them. These revised labels suggest collaboration between the buyer and your company. Another key difference from the traditional approach is that these labels are behavioral in nature. This makes it easier to define what behaviors for each measurable stage you want to be able to affect and measure. Together, these steps create the string or series of behavioral events most prospects exhibit on their way to becoming and remaining a customer. Let’s briefly examine each of these.
While awareness is an important factor, what really matters is establishing contact. Prospects may be cognizant of your company and its products and services but until they demonstrate some degree of interest, you may be wasting time and money. Making contact means you need more than a vague idea of the market or customer set, you must have actual contact information. For some organizations, they are just beginning to build their contact database. For others, they have an extensive existing contact database they may be adding to and maintaining.
For most companies, though, this information is stored in their CRM systems, which if set up properly tracks every single customer or prospect you are engaging with. CRM systems, such as salesforce.com, are the basis for all Sales and Marketing campaigns so when getting ready to contact the people in your database you need to make sure you have a well thought out lead and contact lifecycle built to capture all this contact information. If your response lifecycle is constructed properly you can “count” the number of people who gave you their contact information and permission to contact them.
With contact made the next thing is to connect. What is the difference between a contact and a connection? A contact is an observable signal of hello from a person; it doesn’t mean they are eager to get to know you better. A connection suggests at least the virtual exchange of a handshake and the establishment of some type of rapport. You can approach measuring Marketing’s impact on creating connections in much the same way as we measured contacts: the number of connections made, the cost to acquire and maintain, and the rate of conversion from connection to conversation. We’ll be able to use a version of these metrics for each step.
Unfortunately, you can’t tell how deep a well is by measuring the length of the pump handle. That is, just because the connection has been made, doesn’t mean you have a customer or even someone who is inclined to engage in a conversation beyond the casual and polite visit to borrow a thing or two or yack about the weather. It’s about becoming a follower — downloading material from your website, signing up for your newsletter, participating in your webinars, etc. This is why the conversation stage is so important. This is the first stage that truly signals more than a passing interest.
Connection is perhaps the most important stage to track when measuring you marketing. From a metrics perspective the connection is all about who responded to your campaigns – how many hand raises each campaign produced, how every Marketing campaign contributes to the Sales pipeline of your company, etc. For this to be as effective as possible tracking the results of these connections in salesforce.com (or whatever CRM solution you use) is very important because it keeps Sales and Marketing on the same page and gives everyone context for the conversation that is about to start.
Now we’re talking! That’s the best way to describe the conversation stage. There’s a flow of information back and forth between prospects/customers and you. Both parties are engaged. This is where the rubber meets the road. You cannot acquire a customer that requires a considered purchase without a conversation or series of conversations. Once the conversation is in play, the next step is consideration.
We must understand the difference between a conversation and consideration. Just because we have a conversation in play with a customer doesn’t mean you have a qualified opportunity that is seriously considering purchasing from you. Consideration involves customers/prospects applying careful thought to your offer and company and weighing their options. Different marketing vehicles, such as customer references, case studies, and third party white papers, will be deployed at this stage to help the customer/prospect build preference and predisposition toward your offering. At this stage it is possible to determine whether you have an opportunity worthy of sharing with sales.
Time is money so in addition to measuring the time it has taken to move a contact to this stage you can begin to quantify the value of the opportunity as well. We can measure Marketing’s financial contribution to the pipeline. One of the best ways to quantify Marketing’s contribution to the pipeline is by leveraging weighted campaign influence as opposed to traditional Marketing ROI. Weighted campaign influence enables marketers to attribute multiple campaigns to every opportunity but also assign different campaigns certain weights, because it is highly unlikely that every campaign touch played the same role in creating an opportunity. Check out Full Circle CRM’s description of campaign influence to learn a little more about this metric.
Even though the opportunity has now moved to the domain of Sales, Marketing still plays a role in converting the opportunity from consideration to a contract to consume or an actual consumption of the product or service. And upon consumption, Marketing can now measure the overall conversion rate, and time, the cost from contact to customer, the cost to acquire, and Marketing’s “win” rate (how many of the Marketing opportunities closed and how this rate compares to the win rate of non-Marketing generated deals).
Leveraging your CRM solution to track your company’s Marketing funnel is a great way to concretely track this. For example, you can set up reports on your Sales, Telesales, and Marketing funnels inside of salesforce.com to see the results of the handoff between Marketing and Sales as well as the volume, conversion rates, and velocity of leads generated from your campaigns. You can see where Marketing is effective and where it can be improved.
It would be a shame to stop investing in a relationship that has just begun. A customer is your most important asset. Customers are also your most important advocates. In the world of customer generated content, blogs, social networks, and product reviews, marketing organizations need to focus on developing their customer community, the final C in the pipeline. There are numerous ways to build this community, such as using Facebook and LinkedIn or other social networks to create a means for your customers to engage with you and each other. Hopefully these six key measurable stages for developing, implementing and measuring Marketing’s contribution to the opportunity pipeline offer you a valuable approach for understanding how to measure the engagement of your customers. It also enables a more collaborative conversation with marketing and sales. With a new year on the horizon, now is the time to revisit how you frame your pipeline.
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If you’re like us, you probably have one of those piles on your desk that keeps being moved from one corner to another. You know that pile you need to get to but avoid because it will take some real effort to tackle. For many marketing professionals, marketing accountability, analytics and ROI are in this pile. Not too long ago at a marketing conference where Laura was speaking, the organizers had set up round tables with specific topics for discussion over breakfast. Laura was sitting at the measuring marketing ROI (return on investment) table (of course, where else would I be sitting?) which was strategically located right next to the buffet line. While she was sitting there waiting for people to join her, she kept hearing people say, “Oh measuring marketing,that’s just too hard.” There were hundreds of marketers attending this conference, and about 2 dozen tables of 10 were set to accommodate the early risers. Yet only four other brave souls joined her.
We must stop avoiding this topic and tackle the pile. As Sylvia Reynolds the CMO of Wells Fargo says, “Marketing must be a driver of tangible business results…we must start with the goal in mind and a clear way to measure that goal.” ROI is important for accountability–besides being able to justify spending and enable us to run the marketing organization more effectively and efficiently, knowing what is and isn’t working helps marketing achieve greater influence and serve in a more strategic role. Various surveys suggest that over a third and as much as 42% of marketing budgets are not adequate enough to achieve the outcomes and impact expected.
Perhaps your organization like many others is in the thick of budget planning. A key part of budget planning is to establish and validate the money you plan to spend. The more aligned marketing is with the outcomes of the organization and the more the plan includes performance targets and metrics, the more likely you will be allocated the budget you need to achieve the expected results.
So what does it take to tackle this Marketing Accountability pile? Here are six affordable steps any marketing organization can take to start whittling away at the marketing accountability and measurement pile.
1. Focus. Nothing of importance miraculously gets done on its own. To effectively tackle the marketing measurement pile will take all of Covey’s seven habits: from taking a proactive approach and beginning with the end in mind, that is the outcomes you are expected to impact, to keeping the effort a priority when other things present themselves as urgencies to making marketing measurement a win/win for you, your team, and the rest of the organization. More than likely, you are going to need a cross-functional team to tackle this pile – people from finance, sales, IT, operations, etc. working collaboratively together to define the metrics and hunt down and organize the data.
2. Plan an attack. You know that age old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer being, “One bite at a time.” This is true for the marketing accountability and ROI question. If this is a new effort for you, you need to break it into manageable pieces. Quantify your objectives, decide how you will measure them, collect the data that you need to meet the objectives, establish a baseline, gain commitment to the measurement plan, and finally, measure.
3. Get data: “Data is the new creative,” declares Stephan Chase of Marriott Rewards. Establishing metrics, determining effectiveness, understanding efficiencies, all take data. Without data you cannot monitor and measure results. And don’t assume that you have the data that you need to measure your objectives. For example, if you want to measure how many new customers you interest in a new product, you may find that you need first to determine what a “new” customer is. This may require different views of your existing customer records or new strategies for evaluating.
4. Analyze: Once you have the data, the challenge is to generate insights that facilitate fact based decision making. One of the most valuable applications of data and analytics is in leveraging your metrics. The metrics are what enable continuous improvement as you strive to achieve and set new performance standards. Just looking at numbers doesn’t tell you as much as evaluating trends or creating statistical models that help you identify an optimized approach to your marketing efforts. Consider looking at your measurements for what isn’t immediately obvious such as what might have happened if that campaign had gone to the three bottom deciles of customers?
5. Use a systematized process: You may need to set up systems and processes that enable you to capture and track results on an ongoing basis. Many organizations put a substantial amount of energy into initiating these programs and then let them fizzle as other priorities surface. It takes both process and discipline to sustain a measurement effort. Systems help you automate a process so that the process can become a manageable part of your day-to-day operations. Today every marketing organization is moving at a breathless pace. Implementing test and control environment can keep you from having a fatal, head on collision
6. Train. Many marketers are unaccustomed to living in a metrics-based environment. You may need to invest in measurement, analytics, as well as data training and skills development. Start by taking a skills inventory. Find out who in the organization has data management, analytics and measurement skills. Decide what skills they need to perform at your expected levels. Develop training that fills the skill gaps. Doing this in-house allows you to tailor to your needs, but consider courses from universities, associations and external consultants to fill out your requirements.
Moving marketing performance metrics from the “too hard to” pile to the “we can do it” pile can reap rewards for the entire organization.
For more information on Marketing Alignment and Accountability, download our Free White Paper: Charting a Course for Marketing Effectiveness: Alignment & Accountability
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Numerous studies throughout 2012 reiterated just how challenged marketers are in proving
Marketing’s business value.
The Capsicum Report found that “Marketers lack commercial acumen and don’t speak the language of the business, reporting their contributions in terms of ‘activities’ or ‘outputs’ rather than the business key performance indicators.”
The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that “the CMO’s traditional dilemma of demonstrating effectiveness, return on marketing investment, and relevance to the business still persists.”
The Forrester Evolved CMO study stated that “to prove their value and justify investment, they (CMOs) must tie marketing closer to business results.”
The 11th annual marketing performance management study conducted by VisionEdge Marketing and ITSMA reported a continuing trend of the C-Suite’s perception that only about 25% of marketers are able to demonstrate their impact and contribution to the business.
Some marketers, though, are cracking the code, and we can learn lessons from them as we work to power up our marketing.
One of the key differences about the stellar performers is that these marketers view and present themselves as businesspeople first. This elite group is customer-centric above all else, and it’s driven to transforming or establishing Marketing as a center of excellence within the organization.
These marketers work at ensuring that Marketing focuses on producing results that matter to the business, particularly in customer acquisition, retention, and value, and they are able to communicate those contributions in ways that are relevant to the C-Suite.
These marketers consistently apply five best-practices:
1. Aligning marketing activities and investments with business outcomes
2. Developing outcome-based metrics and reporting capabilities to demonstrate their
3. Employing and developing analytical skills
4. Investing in the infrastructure, processes, and systems to support their work
5. Building collaborative alliances with Finance, IT, and Sales colleagues.
They also recognize that deploying those best-practices is only part of the equation for boosting their performance and measurement competencies. They realize that playing a more strategic role takes added muscle, which they build by…
- Embracing strong talent, balancing creativity with science derived from valuable customer and market insights
- Emphasizing innovation for all aspects of marketing—related to strategy, implementation, processes, and so on.
Every organization can benefit from adding such power and muscle to their marketing team:
Take a look at the most recent 2013 Marketing Performance Management Report: Executive Summary (FREE DOWNLOAD) or Purchase the Full Report at the VisionEdge Marketing Online Store!
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Various studies over the years have examined the relationship between content relevancy and behavior. Almost everyone would agree that content must be relevant. But what is relevance? According to Wikipedia: “Relevance describes how pertinent, connected, or applicable something is to a given matter.” A thing is relevant if it serves as a means to a given purpose.
In the context of this discussion, the purpose of content is to positively influence customer or employee behavior, such as increasing purchase frequency, purchase velocity (time to purchase), likelihood to recommend, productivity, etc.
When we ask marketers and others how they measure content relevancy, we often hear, “We base it on response rate.” If the response rate meets the target, then we assume the content is relevant; if response doesn’t meet the target, we assume it’s not relevant.
Clearly there is a relationship between relevance and response. Intuitively we believe that the more relevant the content, the higher the response will be. But measuring response rate is not the best measure of relevancy. Many factors can affect response rate, such as time of year, personalization, and incentives. Also, in today’s multi-channel environment, we want to account for responses or interactions beyond what we might typically measure, such as click-throughs or downloads.
So, what is the best way to measure relevancy?
The best-practice approaches for measuring relevancy are many, and many of them are complex and require modeling. For example, information diagrams are an excellent tool. But marketers, who are usually spread thin, need a simpler approach.
The following three steps provide a way to tie interaction (behavior) with content. It’s critical
that you have a good inventory of all your content and a way to define and count interactions, because once you do, you’ll be able to create a measure of relevancy.
The process and equation include the following:
1. Count every single piece of content you created this week (new Web content, emails,
articles, tweets, etc.). We’ll call this C.
2. Count the collective number of interactions (opens, click-throughs, downloads, likes,
mentions, etc.) for all of your content this week from the intended target (you’ll need to
have clear definitions for interactions and a way to only include intended targets in your
count). We’ll call this I.
3. Divide total interactions by total content created to determine Relevancy: R = I/C
To illustrate the concept, let’s say you are interested in increasing conversations with a particular set of buyers. As a result, this week you undertook the following content activities:
• Posted a new whitepaper on a key issue in your industry to your website and your
• Tweeted three times about the new whitepapers
• Distributed an email with a link to the new whitepaper to the appropriate audience
• Published a summary of the whitepaper to three LinkedIn Groups
• Held a webinar on the same key issue in your industry
• Posted a recording of the webinar on your website, SlideShare, and Facebook page
• Held a tweet chat during the webinar
• Tweeted the webinar recording three times
• Posted a blog on the topic to your blog
We’ll count those as 17 content activities.
For that very same content, during the same week, you had the following interactions:
• 15 downloads of the whitepaper from your site
• 15 retweets of the whitepaper
• 15 Likes from your LinkedIn Groups and blog page
• 25 people who attended the webinar and participated in the tweet chat
• 15 retweets of the webinar
• 15 views of the recording on SlideShare
That’s a total of 100 interactions. It’s likely that some of these interactions are from the same people engaging multiple times, and you may eventually want to account for that likelihood in your equation. But, for starters, we can now create a content relevancy measure:
R= 100/17 = 5.88.
Using the same information, had we measured only the response rate, we might have counted only the downloads and attendees—40 responses—so we might have had the following calculation:
R = 40/17 = 2.353
As you can see, the difference is significant.
By collecting the interaction data over time, we will be able to understand the relationship between the relevancy and the intended behavior, which in this example is increased “conversations.”
I strongly encourage you to consider relevancy as a key measure for your content marketing. By tracking relevancy, you will be able to not only set benchmarks and performance targets for your content but also model content relevancy for intended behavior.
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Lately, we have seen an increase in two requests from event organizers: send a customer to speak instead of you and/or speak for free. While made with the best of intentions, these requests are at the very least rude and at worst portray organizations as unprofessional. Why are these seemingly innocuous requests rude?
Mack Collier of The Viral Garden has articulated why it is wrong to ask experts to speak for free, saying that good speakers spend days creating material and preparing for a presentation. He estimated that he spends “anywhere from 15 to 30 hours preparing/rehearsing the presentation, and loses a minimum of one day due to travel, usually two days.” This is a big investment of time for anyone — and for experts, time is money. A good event organizer will not ask a speaker to speak for free and they will cover travel costs. Speakers understand the need to offset costs by giving speaking slots to sponsors. But sponsors are advertisers. Just because someone paid for a sponsorship doesn’t mean they have the expertise you need.
As someone who has organized numerous events, my goal is to secure speakers who provide the expertise participants will benefit from. The speaker’s expertise should be lending credibility and value to your event. Framing the event as a business development opportunity for the speaker is unprofessional; the reason to select speakers is for the value they bring to your program. A good speaker is not there to make a sales pitch; rather, to educate, entertain, and/or motivate the audience.
The second request is to substitute a customer as an expert. The underlying message is “you are good enough to do the work for a company but not good enough to speak at our event.” This request places the experts and their customers in a very difficult situation — who pays for the customer’s travel since many companies’ travel budgets have become restrictive, who prepares the presentation, who preps the customer since they are not experts, how do they handle Q&A’s, what if a company commitment comes up and they need to bail, and so on.
This kind of request often results in the experts paying travel for both the customer and
themselves, preparing the presentation since the customer doesn’t have the time or expertise, and having do a dive and catch when the customer has a last-minute schedule conflict. It also creates schedule challenges for dry runs, which can negatively impact the event attendees’ experience. It is easy to see that this particular request creates an enormous amount of work and additional costs for the experts and additional work for their customers with no payoff for either party.
In today’s environment, customers want to use their limited resources to reach their prospects and customers, to grow their businesses. Their time is money, too, and they want to invest where they will see the best return. If you want to be a better event organizer, stop making these two requests of the experts who can add tremendous value to your event.
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The Right Stuff, a 1979 book by Tom Wolfe, chronicled the sequence of events bridging the breaking of the sound barrier and the Mercury space expeditions. The book (and subsequent movie) explored why the Mercury astronauts accepted the danger of space flight, as well as the mental and physical skills required of them to do their job—in other words, the ”right stuff.”
Recent studies suggest the need for many marketing professionals to re‐skill and re-tool. Only about 5 percent of marketers surveyed in a recent CMO Council study are highly satisfied with their levels of accountability, operational visibility, and marketing output. Most see plenty of room for improvement.
So what skills and tools are needed for your organization to have the right stuff?
Regardless of company size and industry, marketing teams (whether a team of one or more) are under increased pressure to drive top‐line growth and profitable revenue. For many organizations this means acquiring new skills related to marketing performance measurement and management, analytics, benchmarking, and customer engagement. Let’s review these four specific skills every marketer should have under their belt:
• Metrics and performance target‐setting. With greater demand for marketing to be more accountable, solid metrics, performance target‐setting, measurement, and reporting skills are crucial. Participants in numerous studies comment on the importance of being able to set measurable goals and track results. These skills will be in vogue for a long time to come.
• Analytics. This is the ability to derive insights from data. If growing valuable customer relationships and being able to forecast sales from future marketing activities are important, then analytics ought to be on the top of your skills‐to‐acquired list.
• Benchmarking. This is the process of comparing what your company does to another that is widely considered to be an industry standard or best practice. The aforementioned CMO Council study indicated 58 percent of respondents have nominal or no benchmarking capabilities. If you don’t know what the standard is, how will you know what to strive for when it comes to such things as win/loss ratios, marketing key performance indicators, share of preference, product adoption rates, and so on? Benchmarks are essential to any organization that believes continuous improvement is critical to the pursuit of excellence.
• Customer experience management. If business exists to produce and serve a customer, and marketing’s job is to create, communicate, and deliver value to customers, then marketing is your organization’s ultimate steward of the customer experience. Marketers need to be sure they have the skills necessary to improve customer engagement and touch- point effectiveness. They also must respond to changes in the buying cycle and conduct voice‐of‐customer research in order to retain customers, create loyalty, and transform customers into advocates for the company.
Marketing operations refers to infrastructure — that is, the tools, systems, and processes in place to facilitate customer‐centricity. Forty‐four percent of the respondents in the CMO Council study are looking for way to lower costs and improve go‐to‐market efficiencies. For many organizations, achieving these operational efficiencies requires infrastructure changes and improvements.
With limited resources, where can you get the best bang for your buck? Here are four areas for investment consideration:
1. Operational process alignment. When was the last time you mapped your operational processes and verified marketing alignment with the sales, product, service, and other parts of the business? All of us get into routines and habits. Reviewing processes and updating them may be time consuming, but if you are looking for ways to reduce inefficiencies internally, this is a necessary step.
Many years ago, when I was in the semiconductor industry, we needed to find a way to reduce the time from order to delivery of product. It was just taking too long to get product to customers, and we didn’t know why. When we calculated the time it took for the individual steps of order placement, manufacturing, testing , assembly, and shipping, the time didn’t add up to what it actually took.
So we mapped the process, counting the time product was ”in‐transit,” whether physically or in some other way. Lo and behold, the in‐transit time was off the charts. The mapping process enabled us to identify the inefficiencies, label the white spaces, and put in new processes to reduce and even eliminate them.
2. Market/Business intelligence. There is an art and science to using external information for driving business strategy. Business intelligence applications enable the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of competitive, channel, product, and customer information to derive trends and insights. The value of having such a tool is that, when used properly, it enables you to begin conducting scenario analyses and anticipating the future. With the insights derived from business intelligence, there is the potential to anticipate the development of new markets, technological turning points, and how the competitor will react.
3. CRM. If the marketing organization is responsible for the relationship between the company and the customer, then it stands to reason the organization needs tools to facilitate this relationship. As you know, there are a range of CRM tools out there, so selecting the right one can be a daunting task. Even so, in today’s environment a company can’t afford to operate without a formal approach to customer relationship management. Of course, once you have the tool , the next biggest hurdle is using it.
4. Performance management. The ability to use analytics, reporting, and dashboards to assess marketing’s effectiveness, efficiency, financial contribution, and progress toward achieving pre-determined goals is performance management. In the end, marketing must demonstrate its value, which lies in how much you are “moving the needle.” This necessitates reporting on performance, impact, and ROI from the program level up.
Progress doesn’t come without missteps, misfires, and failures. Winners look for ways to overcome challenges and continuously improve. They seek outside help, new ideas, and new skills. While attending a Webinar, reading a book, or going to a conference helps, consider looking for ways that will enable the whole team to be on the same page at the same time. There are plenty of on-site and online programs offered by professional organizations and institutions, as well as by firms specializing in these areas.
In Wolfe’s story, the national heroes of the Mercury space program were not necessarily the truest and best. What they possessed was the right stuff, the skill and courage to ”push the outside of the envelope.” Does your marketing team have the right stuff?
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Sustainability. Green. Environmentally-friendly. However we refer to it, it is top of mind.Sustainability is about how your company and its products are affecting, and trying to achieve balance within the economic, social and environmental systems. This isn’t just an issue for the “big” companies. Regardless of size, every company and its leadership team needs to be exploring what green and sustainability means for the company and its products. Because strategic planning incorporates opportunity identification, risk management, talent development, and financial strategies, all of which fall within the domain of the C-suite, sustainability which affects all of these should be the concern of the company’s leadership team. Practical green and sustainable solutions can help reduce risk, meet compliance, and create market opportunities.
There are many ways for a company to integrate green into their strategic plan. For example in October of 2007, P&G announced a corporate strategy around three goals: developing and marketing $20 billion in sustainable innovation products; improving the environmental footprint in operations; and the social sustainability area of increasing the number of children in need that they reach. Fast forward 6 years-the results? $52 billion in sustainable product sales as of 2012, a 68% reduction of waste disposed, and over 400 million children helped that were in need.
Goals are good, but implementation is where the rubber meets the road. So how did they
accomplish surpass their goals set in 2007? P&G has a VP of Global Sustainability responsible for operationalizing each of these goals. Companies have found that this issue
is important enough to appoint someone as a champion of their sustainability initiative.
Green encompasses many factors. These factors can range from developing and manufacturing new green products, to looking at ways to make existing products more “green” by reducing their carbon footprint whether that’s in terms of the raw materials they source, the suppliers they use, how the product is packaged, the energy the company uses during production to the types of lights in the office. Whatever your approach, as you explore your company’s route to sustainability you should also discuss marketing the “green” aspects of your company to your customers
While being green is quite appealing, the journey takes time, investments, resources and commitment. You will want to establish performance targets and success metrics to help monitor the return on this investment. Is it worth the investment? The research suggests that it is. Sustainability is beginning to impact a company’s reputation. According to the firm, Conscientious Innovation, more than 70% of consumers link social responsibility to a company’s environmental behavior. Given the trend, sustainability in all its forms is becoming a necessary part of the way a successful company does business. And a recent study by Forrester revealed that 63% of US adults claim that they are concerned about the environment as a whole, and these concerns translate into spending changes. As this trend continues it will be important for every company to have a green marketing strategy designed to boost sales and increase loyalty. These two metrics – sales and loyalty – should be used to determine the success of your efforts and the return on your investment.
To get started you will want to create a roadmap to “sustainability” that identifies the strategies and tactics you will deploy.This roadmap should be integrated into your strategic, operational, and marketing plans. It might help to provide some examples of companies who have already embarked on the journey and what they are doing.
Steps every company can take:
1. Establish a Chief Sustainability Officer or a similar position to head your effort. For Mitsubishi, this is their President and CEO, Ken Kobayashi. When the CEO is the Chief Sustainability Officer, it signals the important of environmental and green considerations within the company. At P&G, Len Sauers serves as the Vice President of Global Sustainability.
2. Create a cross-functional team. Herman Miller has what they call an Environmental Quality Action Team (EQAT) which is composed on employees from across the company who address all the multiple components of the green strategy.
3. Assess your carbon footprint. The first thing the team should do is assess your current carbon footprint. The carbon footprint is a way to measure the impact your organization’s activities on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced. Every aspect of your carbon footprint needs to be inventoried from activities having to do with how the company uses energy or the quality of your customer database in order to reduce direct mail waste. For example, Gwen Migita, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility recently reported that at Harrah’s Entertainment, which operates 51 casinos worldwide, and significantly leverages direct-mail after a substantial database cleaning efforts was able to cut its mailings to the 40 million customers in its database, saving the company $3.5 million. Often one of easiest ways to start down the sustainability path is by focusing on how to reduce your environmental impact from the extraction of raw materials, the production of goods, the use of those goods and management of the resulting wastes.
4. Develop new opportunities: Reducing your carbon footprint is one side of the equation the other is developing new initiatives. These new initiatives can take the form of new products, which is what Home Depot is doing around their Eco Options products or be in the form of take back programs where companies will for example take toxic chemicals back. If new initiatives are not something you can tackle solo, consider looking for a partner or making an acquisition, which is what Clorox did by buying Burt’s Bees.
5. Integrate your strategy into your business. The best way to approach green is to look for ways to integrate it into what you already do. For example, Armstrong International, Inc., is looking a number of ways to modify what they do today. This includes exploring how to return hot condensate to be reused, installing double-pane windows and low-fluorescent lighting, using gas fired hot water heaters to heat their buildings, monitoring air quality in the welding area, reducing trash by 10 percent annually, increasing the amount of recycling, eliminating the use of Styrofoam cups, reducing storm/sewer water discharge, and saving carbon dioxide by replacing travel with videoconferencing.
6. Develop a Plan: The carbon footprint reduction is a good measure of progress but the ultimate goal is to have these investments result in cost savings and revenue growth. Trying to tackle everything can quickly become overwhelming. Apply the concept of Pareto analysis in your decision making. Select a limited number of things you can address that will produce the most significant overall effect – things that will increase sales, garner more customer and employee loyalty and the right return on investment. Develop the plan to address these items and how you are going to:
A) Communicate this plan and status internally.
B) Communicate this plan and your achievements to customers, prospects and other external stakeholders.
C) Measure and report on results.
This means your sustainability officer and the company’s marketing leadership will need to join forces. While the sustainability officer/department may be looking into the processes, practices and products that enable the company to become “more green” and manages the technical expertise; it is the marketing organization that is responsible for building and communicating the strategy. Your marketing organization needs to communicate how the end-user can be environmentally sustainable through the use of your products as well as the company’s progress with its sustainability initiatives.
7. Establish a company culture and align the business plan. All the best laid plans can go awry if the company’s business values and culture don’t support the effort. Part of the process will require you to set policy, implement changes, review successes and failures. Hold periodic sustainability milestone meetings to demonstrate your commitment, address issues, and measure progress. CEO Mike Duke of Wal-Mart takes this approach. Wal-Mart’s sustainability department runs lean with the focus on integrating sustainability into the overall business.
8. Measure and report results: Sustainability and green are new ways for a company to
demonstrate its social responsibility and serve as good community citizens. However, companies and organizations are in business to see a financial return. So where should you expect to see the results of your green investments and marketing initiatives? On the increase sales side your efforts should pay off in faster product adoption rates and an increase in the rate of growth in your category. And on the customer loyalty side of the equation, you should expect to see increases in share of wallet and referral rates. Using your performance today as your baseline, monitor the changes in these numbers as you ramp up your sustainability efforts and your promotion of these
efforts to track the degree of impact.
In summary, getting your customers to use your sustainable products to help them become more sustainable themselves achieves three key things. First, it boosts your sales and helps build stronger brand loyalty. And it helps your customers become more sustainable in return, creating a ripple effect making your efforts extend beyond just your company
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