Updated: Jul 29, 2019
Become a "next-level" Marketer
What do you do as a marketer? You help sales sell stuff right? Wrong. You do that too, but long before you are able to provide sales quality leads you are going to have to do whatever it takes to make informed decisions on your client’s behalf. Then you are going to have to help them understand why you are making the recommendations you are. After all, their success is your success, and their failure is your failure too.
Marketers are busy people. Rather you are a new member with everyone assigning tasks to you like they were the only ones doing so, or have worked your way up to running a half dozen projects and a few campaigns. If you work at a large company, you may specialize in an aspect of marketing like generating the leads that are your sale's team's life blood.
Outbound activities have changed to inbound activities, social media needs a strategy, branding is more important than ever, advocate and funnel marketing is a thing. Your web must be analyzed; hell, your search status gets more attention than the number of contacts in your database.
Your contacts are nurtured, scored, rated and passed on to sales ini a seamless fashion only to be overlooked. The creation of collateral, reporting, tin cupping for funding, emails and a new surprise every day to keep you on your toes. It is surprising any marketer ever finds the time or energy to take their marketing to the next level.
The last thing any of us want to hear is that we are not doing enough at work. You show up early, work hard using whatever tools you are provided. You are busy just trying to do everything already assigned to you. You have done your requisite number of working late nights for “free pizza."
Wait, it gets better!
On the journey from a great idea to a funded project you may find yourself learning skills that seem to have nothing to do with marketing. You have to convince stakeholders in other departments, review and report to sponsors. You cross-coordinate with other teams, justify the cost to your boss, tin cup for more money, and you had better be showing return on that investment (ROI) right out of the gate or noone is going to care anyway. This doesn't include hours wasted on chatty coworkers, emails, departmental meetings, social events, commuting, or "duties as assigned." Does any of this sound like your day? Sorry to say, that's pretty normal.
What I am going to suggest next will take your marketing to the next level, and it will free up many of the timewasters identified previously. You will have to invest time and effort on the front-end to enjoy successful programs in the end.
When you start thinking in terms outlined below you will have a better understanding of your client’s business for every meeting moving forward. You become a trusted advisor, not only regarding your services, or industry trends, but regarding their business, and their greedy needs. If you are able to address the greedy needs of every key stakeholder as your roll out your new idea, they are going to get behind that idea. The other people you work with everyday may not know half of the things I am going to suggest you take the time to learn, but their executives "holding the purse strings" think this way. Your company's executives think this way. So, you had better be prepared to discuss your activities in a language (Finance) and context (thiers) that they will understand and appreciate.
How do I take my marketing to the next level?
If you are an average marketer, you think through your process from beginning to end before you ever lift a finger to execute marketing activities for your own company. You already know your own gatekeepers, naysayers, and champions. You know your company’s culture and capabilities, SWOT, KPIs, and fulfillment capabilities. You know your customers, personas, buying journey, and even which of your reps can handle a complex sales and which cannot. Since you know all the important details regarding your own business’ internal and external environment, you are in a good position to market for your company, sometimes it may feel like you are doing so intuitively. It is easier to be “intuitive” when you have all the necessary information. The official term for this process is, conducting situational analysis. It is part of your strategic planning process. Simply put, you also have to gather all the internal and external factors that may blindside your marketing efforts for your client’s company same as you would if you were marketing for your own company.
Sometimes in quarterly reviews, you will hear marketing managers suggest that the things that caused their campaign or program to fail could not have been anticipated. Yes, they could have been anticipated, and worse if you do not stop and go back to gather situational analysis information you are probably going to run into similar failures moving forward for a lot of the same reasons. That is what we are going to talk about here.
Conducting Situational Analysis
Most marketing consulting firms have standard checklists they send over to help capture this information. They know it is important to capture, but usually will not spend a lot of effort collecting it. Unfortunately, your average employee at any company does not stay current on these metrics because it does not appear to affect their daily job, so it is likely no one you are talking with will have all these answers unless their marketing team is already staying on top of it. If their internal marketing team already thinks this way, they would probably not need your help. Even if they do know this information they will not have your context to connect important dots. You will have to help them. Most employees do not think about that stuff; it does not seem like their job to have that view. It is yours. When it comes time to collect (the information you need to do your job) they will make excuses, whine, complain, suggest they are not going to do your job for you, etc.
Get the information even if you have to do it all yourself. You will not regret it! Whatever information and insights you imagine you need to market for yourself, you will also need regarding your client’s circumstances as well, it just makes sense. That means you will have to go online and research their company on a site like hoovers.com or yahoo financial. These sites will also help you read their financials and provide insights you may not have caught on your own. They will list financials, competitors, and recent news that may affect your efforts as well. Next you can read any publicly traded company’s quarterly and annual reports here: https://www.sec.gov/fast-answers/answers-form10khtm.html for very deep insights like KPIs and executive salaries. This will help you see the decisions their company is making at a high level. These decisions do not have to be a mystery; the information is all there if you know how to read it.
I recently got a call from a friend doing marketing for their company’s reseller partners. He worked for a fortune 500 marketing team. He wanted me to help him brainstorm some new demand generation activities for one of their largest reseller partners. His programs required joint funding so he needed to pitch his ideas at an upcoming quarterly business review (QBR) to obtain funding. My programs were doing great so he asked me to share some ideas. I appreciate his faith in my results, but those results are because of proven processes, and the first step is to do my homework.
I started asking him the kinds of questions I would have asked his client. Without the big picture anything we create could be hit or culturally, could fail any number of reasons not presently identified. He is working with low level marketers at their firm, but the QBR is with executives who do know all this stuff. You better know it too.
I asked him what he knew about the partners KPIs, SWOT, mission statement, current go-to-market activities compared to their competition. How do their sales reps receive leads, are they tracked after the marketing handoff, what is going on in their industry, have they created their customer personas, do they know their buyer’s journey, how their client currently goes to market, their budget, how they measure success, ROI measuring tools, timing, their bandwidth to accept new leads, upcoming announcements, events, sales rep’s ability to field different types of leads, and a dozen other questions that needed answering (tactically and strategically) before they should attempt to recommend anything. Once he obtained the big picture, and I gave me a few hours to study it, I would be happy to recommend activities with a high likelihood for success.
I saw from his face that my friend thought I was just being a dick, or didn’t want to give him ideas. He was not happy that I gave him homework when all he wanted was a few wiz-bang marketing ideas. There are infinite ways to market, but only one chance to start correctly out of the gate. The more work you put into your preparation, the less work you will have to put into this account every day and every project moving forward. Every meeting and every conversation after you obtain this insight will have a much higher rate for success. This should have taken about an hour or two if he knew his customer and could read online information.
Below is basically what I was asking him to pull together:
He answered that he had not talked with his customer about “any of this stuff.”
(see my field of dreams marketing blog). His client had asked him to present some marketing ideas and he wanted to do that. He was working for them and was not comfortable giving an assignment to the client. I think his client was being lazy and he was being lazy, either that or stupid. I understand that it is not easy, but it is the most important part of my process and what I attribute any small success to. I am not willing to throw out ideas even ones that were wildly successful for other clients, because depending on the client, the same idea may not work at their company.
See the big red box in the image above?
That is the piece I am specifically talking about here that many marketers skip. I am here to tell you, two hours on this before you begin, will save you untold hours of work producing "hit or miss" efforts.
I have also noticed that in the process of helping you collecting this information about their company, your contact will also develop a deeper understanding of what you together should be trying to accomplish. You will have better conversations and better results. Moving forward whatever you develop for them will already have this going for it. I gave my friend a few basic templates to fill out that I found online and suggested he get on a call with the partner to discuss these items before he even starts thinking about go-to-market activities.
I told him once he puts some basic information together and spends an hour studying it himself, I promised him that good ideas will start to make themselves known. He will have the context needed to design a truly amazing activity that fits their partner’s culture and capabilities.
The best part of this story (bet you saw this coming) is that after my friend and his client started working together to answer the long list of questions, discussed marketing and non-marketing elements that could affect their strategy, talked about the partner’s clients, reps, sales and all…they didn’t need me anymore. I got an email that several great ideas came to them while completing the forms, and my input was no longer needed. Yay! Thought them to fish instead of giving him a fish.
Free Download “Principles of Marketing v2.0”
So what was in the list of questions? Nothing magical. For a deeper dive into the process here is an easy read that provides much more context and detail about this (and other marketing best practices). You can download it as a pdf here for free (normally sells for $75). Principles of Marketing v2.0 by Jeff Tanner and Mary Anne Raymond.
Probably the same stuff that you would have put on your list right? Whatever it takes to get a foundational understanding of your client’s important metrics from your client’s perspective. The conversations your list evokes is the real magic here, not the questions themselves. Get clear on their company goals, culture, mission statements, value prop, KPIs, SWOT, sales process, current tools, existing collateral, customer persona, journey of customers, existing analytics (or lack of), so many great “connect the dots” ideas will arise. When you start talking about what they have tried, what their competition is doing, what has run them afoul before, you often will have many great ideas filtering up.
Give it a couple days for your subconscious to work on it and make sure you keep a notepad by your bed because a great idea is going to make itself known. Be ready to catch it.
Maybe they already have done a great job of gathering and providing this information on their investor’s page, maybe you have to think about your questions and put some that are relevant yourself, it was more important that they got together to talk and have that “big picture” perspective in place before trying to come up with any ideas.
Honestly, when you get talking with them, they will not know many of these answers themselves. They should, most don’t, you need to. You will likely need input from several folks there to get enough of a picture to have solutions start presenting themselves.
Learn enough about their business and strategy so that when you add your marketing perspective into the mix, you become an extremely valuable resource and made privy to conversations their “marketing firm” would normally never have access to.
What’s better than people finding your amazing content online and following it back to your landing pages? Them picking up the phone and calling you because they know you are actually able to help them. Understanding their business like you do, you are probably the best person to go to for insight and perspective they couldn’t get elsewhere.
People come to you when they believe you understand them and want to help them. That should be your first step. Deserve that trust. First strive to understand aspects of their business that are important to success better than they understanding them, then use your expertise to always advise them honestly. This is similar to inbound marketing in as much as you want to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right message. However, add a face they trust, and a voice they can talk to when they really need someone, and you have advanced your relationship way past right place right time. They will come looking for your specifically next time they have problem and not nearly as likely to go asking a bunch of “professional” strangers online with hidden, but obvious agendas. They are going to move heaven and earth to find you.