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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Why is it marketers become so quickly enamored with the next shiny toy? And at what cost? What do I mean by “the next shiny toy”? For many marketers, the first new shiny toy came in the mid-’90s with the creation of websites. And even though email (initially known as electronic mail) started its humble beginnings in 1969, it wasn’t until the ’90s that it became a pervasive marketing channel.
In addition to email, marketers chased another new shiny toy: Internet marketing. In 1994, zero dollars were spent on Internet advertising. By 1996, US companies had invested $301 million in Internet marketing, primarily in the form of banner ads and attempts to transform other offline advertising concepts to the Internet. We weren’t content, and before we figured out how to strategically use our new toys, we charged off into new territory.
In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed what would become the most popular search engine, Google, and marketers couldn’t wait to get their hands on this next shiny toy: search engine optimization and pay-per-click (PPC).
In 1997, Jorn Barger coined the term “weblogs,” and marketing had another new vehicle for reaching customers.
In less than a decade, marketers had led their organizations into new channels—without having mastered any of them.
Still, we couldn’t help ourselves when 2001 ushered in the next shiny toy: Web 2.0, which facilitated online collaboration. MySpace entered the market is 2003 as the next shiny toy officially emerged: social media. With the ability to move beyond HTML to rich user interfaces, Flickr came on to the scene, followed by Google’s G-mail and the inauguration of Digg. Marketers experimented with and pursued social media to the fullest extent of their abilities. While we dabbled, mobile marketing hit the scene in 2001. And while we talked the talk, SMS technology didn’t become widely used until mid-2008.
Our appetites for the new shiny stuff seem insatiable.
This article isn’t meant to be “marketing media in review.” Its purpose is to demonstrate that marketers tend to race headlong, hell-bent after the next shiny toy. But at what price? I’d suggest at the price of our credibility and the opportunity to be perceived as a strategic player.
Chasing the next new thing potentially portrays us as tactically opportunistic. If we want to be accepted as members of the strategic team, we have to exercise strategic discipline. That means we need to be concerned with making decisions that affect the direction of the organization and not just add a new toy in the box.
When our enthusiasm (or that of our colleagues) convinces an organization to experiment with the next shiny toy without understanding the strategic implications, as marketers we are doing a disservice to the organizations we support and we’re presenting marketing as a primarily tactical function.
So, am I suggesting we stop chasing the next shiny toy? No. But before we do, we should understand the strategic context and implications of doing so. Perhaps before we leap, we need to master the toys we’ve already acquired. Yes, our competitors may start using the next shiny toy first, but the misuse of a new shiny toy can be far more damaging.
Here are five things to consider before taking the plunge that will, at least, help you appear more strategic in your deployment of a shiny new toy:
- Customer and market demand. Have the customers you want to connect with and engage adopted the new channel, or are you getting ahead of them? Being first on the block may be irrelevant if the markets you serve or want to serve aren’t ready. The timing of deploying a new channel should be based on how stable it is and how familiar and comfortable people are with using it.
- Skill level. Do you and your people have the skills to successfully implement and use the new toy? If a successful implementation requires complex new skills, and if it is too time-consuming or costly to acquire that level of competence, it may be too soon for your organization to tackle the new channel.
- Payoff. New channels have a steep learning curve and are costly. The adoption of a new channel may require configuring systems, upgrading technology, or even adding new systems and training employees. Before you embrace the new shiny toy, develop and present the business case that assures your leadership team that the investment will pay off.
- Vehicle stability. Are the standards for the new channel or technology stable? The value of a new channel or technology increases once the standard of use is established. Otherwise, you may be in for a lot of rework—and that means time and money.
- Critical mass. One of the reasons new channels and technologies risk our credibility is that they often have relatively poor performance in their initial incarnations. A key strategic factor to consider before deciding to adopt a new channel or technology is whether there are enough suppliers in the market to make the adoption easy, cost-effective, and user-friendly.
We’ve all seen how enamored children are with new toys. And we’ve also seen just how easily and quickly they can discard what was once so treasured and coveted. So although the new toy beckons, be sure you have the answers to those five questions before engaging in the chase.
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Today, a suitable marketing automation platform is available to meet just about any company’s requirements and budget. These platforms often include systems for managing digital assets, allocating resources and tracking marketing expenditures, automating campaigns (online and offline), measuring marketing activity and demand generation, and managing Web content and leads.Many companies invest in marketing automation platforms as a way to make their marketing organizations more efficient. Though marketing automation can achieve that objective, two key benefits of these systems is that they help you connect better with prospects and improve the opportunity to engage prospects and customers.
What Marketing Automation Isn’t
Marketing automation isn’t magic. Success requires taking a methodical and disciplined
approach to segmenting, defining the customer-buying process, establishing agreed-upon
definitions of stages, creating personas, establishing common metrics, and committing to
faithfully using the system
.Marketing automation allows you to tailor your content and interactions to enhance how you connect with and engage prospects and customers. As a result, you can positively affect the conversion rate and sales cycle. And, in these tough times, who wouldn’t want to see higher and faster conversions?
Take a Customer-Centric Approach to Configuration
Such benefits alone present a good business case for marketing automation. But for a system to “be all that it can be,” it must be properly configured and deployed. Proper configuration and alignment require and enable stronger alignment between Sales and Marketing.
Many companies configure their systems around how they might sell and evaluate an opportunity (e.g., whether they’ve identified a budget, project, or need). However, before you deploy, take an outside-in view and configure the system around how your customer finds, evaluates, selects, and buys products in your category.
For your investment and that approach to pay off, Sales and Marketing need to agree on how the customer buys, the buying stages, and what constitutes a qualified opportunity, in terms of both fit (segment, budget, size, etc.) and buying behaviors. This approach allows you to use fit and behavior to create a lead-scoring schema.
Create and Measure Four Customer Interactions
Marketing and sales teams are typically proficient in connecting at the beginning and end of the conversation, but the real challenge is managing the middle of the conversation. The middle conversation is when prospects and customers are in the “in-between”—between initial contact and interest, on the one hand, and the short list and final selection, on the other.
A properly configured and deployed marketing automation system enables you to manage the middle. How? It makes it possible to cost-effectively sustain a dialogue with qualified
opportunities until they are ready to buy while enabling you to monitor the interaction between those opportunities and your organization.
You’ll want to set performance targets for these four kinds of interactions, and then use your marketing automation system to create, measure, and monitor them:
Think of connections as those contacts with whom you have established communication and rapport and who have agreed to be “touched” by your organization. A connection doesn’t necessarily result in a conversation. Connections are just that: two entities that have a link between them.Think of how many people you may have in your LinkedIn network that you are connected with but don’t necessarily have conversations with. Conversations suggest an exchange—the sharing of ideas, opinions, or observations. Consider how many people you “talk” with on a variety of 3 topics on any given day. Though some of those people might be interesting, they may not necessarily be the right people—or they may not be ready to move the relationship forward.
Ultimately your marketing efforts aim to create engagement, and you want your marketing automation system to support those efforts. Engagement consists of interactions that indicate the strength of the relationship.
Finally, you want to produce and measure consideration because it is the precursor to conversion. Consideration simply refers to those prospects and customers who are actively “shopping” for the products and services you offer and are considering your offer among the options.
If You Build It, They Will Come
The premise of marketing automation is that it will help Marketing increase the number of
business opportunities for your company, deliver sales-worthy and ready leads to Sales, improve your visibility into the pipeline, and enable your marketing organization to focus on efforts that will drive the highest conversion rate and the lowest cost.
The value proposition is that marketing automation will shorten your sales cycle and help
improve your forecast accuracy.And it’s all possible with this one caveat: Marketing automation is only as good as the effort you make in using it. To use it properly and realize the kinds of results you want will likely require changing processes, addressing Marketing and Sales alignment, and improving skills.
Research suggests that when marketing and sales processes, skills, and systems are aligned, an organization can see a five-fold improvement in revenue. If you are willing to make the necessary investments, you can realize the benefits of implementing a marketing automation platform.
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