Posts Tagged ‘SMB’

Is your Facebook Advertising plan part of a bigger plan?

November 9, 2016

Digital advertising is getting a lot of attention and is generating a lot of buzz. For many small to mid-sized businesses, the risk is chasing the latest shiny object, the newest silver bullet. Keep in mind advertising is a marketing tactic. To clear through the noise, stay focused on your objectives and then evaluate if the tactics (e.g., digital advertising) will attain the objectives as effectively and cost efficiently as other alternatives. There are many aspects of digital advertising – PPC, Facebook Advertising, geofencing and the list goes on. One’s head could be spinning trying to evaluate what makes sense for your business. This blog highlights Facebook Advertising and how it is integrated into the overall marketing strategy to achieve both awareness and leads for a FMM client. The intent of the below is to highlight the importance of integration and coordination. Ultimately that is critical to effective and efficient planning and execution.

Assumptions before you read any further:

You have carefully reviewed all marketing tactics to achieve your defined objectives and have affirmed that money spent on Facebook advertising makes sense.

random-puzzle-pieces-dreamstime_xs_12493544

Integrating Facebook Advertising into your Marketing Plan: Review your marketing efforts – are they tightly integrated or is each effort (e.g., website content, banners and promos on your website, email marketing to drive leads, and Facebook advertising) a separate, disjointed effort like pieces from multiple puzzles? Are the messages cohesive? Do all the graphics support a consistent and cohesive brand? Think of your marketing plan including digital advertising as building one puzzle, not a bunch of random, puzzle pieces (e.g., tactics).

To help you integrate digital advertising into your plan, review the below simplified (yes this is simplified!) flow chart of 4 tightly integrated marketing work streams for one of FMM’s clients. Each month once the promotions have been confirmed with sales management, 4 tightly integrated work streams are kicked off. For this client, sequencing and timing is critical to have all elements orchestrated and live as promotion time periods are generally short (generally ~21 days ).

facebook-advertising-strategy-and-process

The 4 integrated work streams are:

  1. Email marketing with A/B testing – driving consumer to unique landing pages added to websites.
  2. Research – specifically competitive research and demographic profile building to support ad campaign building and website content.
  3. Website content – click throughs from email marketing campaigns go to unique landing pages; Facebook ads link to unique landing pages for additional details of specials. Pages include calls to action, competitive research to assist consumer in decision-making with all pages using Google Analytics for reporting and analysis by campaign.
  4. Facebook Advertising campaigns – multiple campaigns are developed for targeted audiences leveraging competitive research and demographic profiles to create a Facebook custom audience. Each campaign has unique ads linking to custom website landing pages. Each Facebook ad also includes a tracking URL, for accurate measurement of response using Google Analytics.

Your business may not be as time sensitive. For us, the tight orchestration is critical to not miss market opportunities and reach our ideal target audience through 2 primary marketing strategies: targeted email marketing and Facebook advertising allowing us to reach a distinct target audience with the same promotions.

Even if your business is not as time constrained, some things don’t change by incorporating digital advertising into the marketing mix. The same fundamentals apply that have always applied in effective marketing:  get the right offer out to the right audience.  Make sure the pieces fit together.  completed-puzzle-dreamstime_xs_70193339

Building Your Marketing Department – 3 Options CEOs Should Evaluate

November 1, 2016

It’s time. You know it. Your trusted advisors know it.

You need to fill that important gaping marketing hole in your organization. You have reached that point.

But now what?  Create a job description and start a search?  What is the job description? What skill sets do you need?

When you hit this important juncture, you need to take a step back and think through what is best for your business. Just like any decision, you need to know your options and evaluate each one.

CEO and 3 Options to evaluate

3 options you should evaluate:

OPTION 1 – HIRING: If you decide to make your first marketing hire for your growing small to mid-sized business, who do you hire? What skills do you really need? The likely answer is that you need a broad range of skills.  It’s also unlikely that you’ll find all of those capabilities in just one person. I have seen marketing job descriptions that are so unrealistic it is comical.

There are two likely outcomes from pursuing the hiring option:

  1. You Over Hire – You hire a senior person, add a 6 figure salary to your payroll, add the benefits burden including skyrocketing health care and office space and the reality is, you still have not solved your core challenge. You still have a gap in marketing skills as you will need additional expertise so this senior hire can get the marketing job done. This person will need the arms and legs to get the marketing program off the ground, and will no doubt request hiring multiple agencies (e.g., PR, advertising, digital marketing). This will bump up your marketing investment dramatically. You will be seeing dollar signs.
  2. You Under Hire – You avoid the big hit to your payroll and overhead, but boy do you pay for the management and supervisory burden of hiring a junior person. You now have a young, inexperienced employee demanding your time and direction. While eager, they don’t know anything about your industry, your business model, and they have little to no real marketing expertise. You have a tactical marketing person who lacks the experience and skills to strategically plan for and implement a marketing plan. You have hired an extra set of hands. The reality is this person can become more of a burden than a solution. At the end of the day, this hire may be too inexperienced to even serve as the marketing point person that could guide and manage agencies. You likely don’t have the marketing background to provide ongoing direction so you start to question if you were better off to have not hired at all.

Assuming you are convinced now to NOT HIRE, what other options do you consider?

OPTION 2 – Agencies.  You investigate the agency route. Hire an agency and let that firm be your marketing department. This option comes down to a similar basic question: what expertise do you need? Keep in mind most marketing agencies are specialists, they are niche players offering expertise in an area (or areas) of the marketing spectrum (e.g., PR, advertising, digital advertising, branding).  The problem with this approach is that most firms don’t operate as a fully functioning, integrated marketing department, as most represent parts of the marketing pie vs. the whole. To be effective, these agencies will require that someone in the company (by default – you) be their primary point of client contact, to provide ongoing strategic and tactical direction, and offer input and approve all materials. In other words, a degree of the burden, integration and coordination across various aspects of the marketing plan have to be owned by someone. (Assuming there is one marketing plan at all, as each agency will have their own view of what is most important) In addition to the coordination and integration challenges, another important consideration of this option is cost. Hiring an agency (for a spot/niche solution) or multiple agencies is costly and if you’re budget is too small (from their perspective), you may end up with junior people working on your account.

OPTION 3 – Outsource your marketing department. You decide not to hire to avoid rising health care costs and the administrative burdens outlined in Option 1. You avoid managing junior people and trying to manage multiple agencies that don’t work together and are not cost-effective. You evaluate the 3rd option: securing a proven marketing firm that functions as your marketing department – an outsourced version – that offers all of the disciplines on the marketing spectrum. Unlike the other two options, you secure one senior point of accountability who is part of your management team and manages the rest of the team. Unlike the other options, the burden of managing multiple agencies, integration and orchestration concerns are eliminated.  You don’t have to wonder if the sales tool kit messaging is aligned with the company positioning language in the press release or the messages just developed for your social media outreach.  It’s one integrated team. This option is not about cobbling together independent marketers and calling it a marketing department. What it is about is having a full-service marketing team all wearing the same team colors who are dedicated to your company’s success – and on the same page every step of the way. With one hire, you get a full service marketing department with specialists brought in when and as needed. Your level of investment? That should be based on goals, timeframe (how quickly you want to move) and what you can afford to invest to fuel your growth. The model should scale with you as your business scales. You get flexibility,  proven expertise and one point of accountability for a fraction of what it would take in terms of time and energy for you to build this talent pool, that you don’t need full-time. ROI is higher than both Options 1 and Option 2. There are not many firms that offer this model and do it well which is why Option 1 and Option 2 are more common.

For one client of For Marketing Matters, 166 hours were dedicated to managing and executing the marketing plan this past September. While that may sound like a lot, it is actually equal to ONE FTE for the month. That particular client benefitted from 9 FMM team members working on various elements of the marketing plan ranging from senior marketing talent with 30+ years of industry and marketing expertise to junior marketing coordinators. The skill set spanned 9 team members who brought their respective talents to the mix, ranging from strategy and messaging to PR to social media, SEO, web content development, email marketing, and graphic design.

Before you think about hiring to secure marketing expertise for your company, evaluate all your options. Other savvy CEOs of small to mid-sized businesses who are ready to invest in smart growth are going with Option 3 and finding an efficient and highly effective solution that delivers the ROI they seek from their marketing investment. For more on how FMM operates as a highly effective outsourced marketing department,  contact Mary at mhonan@formarketingmatters.com.

 

Choose your words carefully

May 27, 2016

chess move strategy

One of my favorite parts of marketing is developing the brand through the careful selection of words.  I am a nerd. I readily admit that and am totally comfortable with that label.

This past month has been great spending strategic time on words. We made considerable progress for one of our clients in further development of the company’s messaging, positioning and terminology. In the past month we announced a new product and all the various efforts of preparing for that launch led to pages of notes, questions, and points of clarification. Additionally, and true for any small, rapidly growing company, the message naturally evolves over time. Two of us on the For Marketing Matters team led the charge to document standards to solidify and clarify positioning, messaging and word choice. Over the course of two meetings with the CEO we honed in on specific word selection to discuss, confirm and document standards including examples and explanations for the word selection. This document is a tremendous resource for our marketing team, but also for the company as a whole. The sessions with the CEO resulted in further clarity and alignment to the point the CEO requested the asset be included in the board package for this week’s meeting.

Why words matter (and how you could benefit from this same effort):

  1. Alignment.  How aligned is your team? For this client, the management team is geographically dispersed across the globe working at a rapid pace. This poses a real challenge for broader, strategic discussions to occur across the management team on a regular basis. We literally kept a running list of inconsistencies and questions to bring the challenge to light while developing press releases, sales tool kit materials, web content, technical specifications and sales presentations. As engineering was finalizing the product, operations was selecting final exterior finishes and sales was building the pipeline and the risks of mixed messages was high. Everyone had the right intent, but it felt like herding cats.
  2. Ownership. Words should not be casually selected with little to no grasp of the implication it can have. Example.  I was on a call reviewing a PowerPoint presentation and an idea was casually raised wondering if we should edit a bullet n the PowerPoint to describe the product as a “smart device”. I literally almost dropped the phone. Huh? This is not a casual edit to then move onto the next bullet. This type of descriptor needs to be thought through in terms of the implications to the product positioning and to the market and target buyers. If you are a CEO, ownership of messaging and the resulting choice of words needs to be made clear – this is not to be casually edited by anyone in the organization to decide they want to jump on the bandwagon of ‘smart devices’ or ‘Made in the USA’.
  3. Clarity. Literally don’t leave it up to chance. Don’t assume other employees are on the same page. Get it in writing and then distribute it – especially valuable if key personnel are geographically dispersed and don’t have the benefit of being in the same office, picking up important tidbits throughout the day.
  4. Scale. Just like the old telephone game played at many a sleepover as a kid, the message gets distorted with every person added to the chain. If scaling your organization is a priority to achieve your growth goals, don’t ignore the critical role that words have in enabling your company to scale. Capture the words you want employees to use; capture the words you want customers/clients/prospects to hear and understand. Use this asset as part of your on boarding plan.

focus definition in dictionary

 

Some tips to help you build, expand and manage this asset:

Ground rules:

First, it is important to recognize and embrace that this asset is never done.  It is a working document and marketing should own it. If you don’t have senior marketing expertise on your team, you need to. They don’t need to be fulltime, but you still need the expertise.

Second, this is not distributed for review and comment!  The danger of everyone in the company feeling they have a voice in weighing in on word choice is not realistic nor recommended. Marketing owns messaging. Marketing is not part of everyone’s job description. Working closely with the CEO is critical, but the reality is that others in the organization are most likely not well-suited for the nuances of word choice and let’s face it we all have our view of the world (remember those old posters where Boston would dominate the Globe, or New York etc.?)

What to include in establishing messaging, positioning and terminology standards:

Messaging – should include company-level and product level. Include the elevator pitch.

Terminology – document the terminology that is critical to your value proposition. Use examples of how the terms are to be used and what terms should never be used.  Example – for this client, the product is NEVER referenced as a ‘device’.  If this makes your head hurt, secure the right expertise to facilitate this investment – it will deliver a ROI if implemented correctly across the organization. No doubt.

Trademarks and registered trademarks – from a branding perspective, develop standards of how TM and R will be used. Again, consistency and clarity builds the brand. Don’t leave this to others in the organization to know how to handle. Document it and distribute across the organization.

Let’s face it most small, entrepreneurial companies don’t have a lot of overhead. They are nimble organizations. Many have not secured an outsourced marketing department like For Marketing Matters to develop and manage such assets to enable scaling of the brand and the organization. The reality is we can’t review every manual, document, proposal, client report that goes out the door for this client. We can build standards and manage the brand as part of the team and ultimately serve as the internal police to protect the brand.

So what words matter for your company?

As CEO, do you cringe when a team member uses a certain word that you never want used? Do you have a visceral reaction when a client is referred to as a customer or serving a customer is described as ‘dealing with the customer’? If your word choice is not clear internally, how can you possibly be well-understood by the market?

Watch this great Inc. video of how Dermalogica focused on words to build their brand.

The nerd in me celebrates the progress made in establishing standards in terminology this past month.  It feels great and paves the way for scale, efficiency, clarity and consistency.  The ROI is unquestionable.

 

 

 

CEOs: 4 things you can learn from Twitter

January 29, 2016

checklistAs a CEO/President of a small to medium-sized business, learning from Twitter may be way down your list of ways to manage and improve your business.  But, take note as there are several key take-aways from their actions this week.  In case you missed it, Twitter was prominent in the news with four top executives leaving the company and as covered by many publications including, The Wall Street Journal article,  it was announced by Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey that he hired its first CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).

So what can you learn from Twitter?

  1. Don’t wait for a ‘growth rut’ as Twitter did before securing the marketing talent and leadership needed to fuel your business.
  2. Make sure marketing has a seat at your leadership table. This is Twitter’s first Chief Marketing Officer! Until now, senior marketers at Twitter as described in the WSJ article, bounced around like a ping-pong ball reporting through various other departments including Finance (yikes).   The new CMO of Twitter, Leslie Berland, formerly with American Express, reports directly to the CEO.  As she should.
  3. Marketing is a critical function for any business. It is not a function that you only need when you are a certain size. It is not something you can assign (like a task or project) to another person and hope they can acquire the expertise and skill.  It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses punt when it comes to marketing. Reminds me of the recent Allstate Mayhem DIY ads.  If awareness, credibility, and lead generation are part of your goals, you need marketing expertise.  You may not need a CMO, but you need marketing expertise. Your company may not need a full-time team or even a full-time hire. Rent expertise via an agency model or maybe a combination of both makes sense. Twitter realized they needed senior leadership in the marketing function. Evaluate what you need and make the right investment in talent to reach your goals.
  4. Take action. Stop thinking about it. Put a plan in place and act. Twitter has many holes in its organization right now, but they filled a key one. 11 months left in 2016. What are you waiting for?

You may not have any time in your busy day for Twitter as a CEO of a small to mid-sized company. Can’t imagine how Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey manages his day given he also is CEO of Square.

Failing to plan is…

November 25, 2014

You know the quote:  Failing to plan is planning to fail. Benjamin Franklin.

So how is 2015 planning progressing for your business?  And, specifically, how is the marketing plan coming?

Plan Word Shows Guidance Or Business Planning

 

Next Monday is December 1st!

So here are some recommendations to help you get started on documenting the strategy for 2015, defining the business goals and then developing the marketing plan to get you on the right path for a great 2015.

Note this will be tougher if you have NEVER had a marketing plan.  If you had a marketing plan in place for 2014, then leverage that as your starting point.

 

Below are 8 steps to get started on a useful plan:

1. Define and document your strategic objectives.  What are the top 1-3 things you MUST accomplish next year? (Not tactics.  Strategic objectives.)

2. Identify the resources needed to achieve these objectives.  (people, money, processes, partners, new clients).  Keeping at a high level, what is it going to take to get you where you want to be?

3. How will success be measured?  If possible, identify intermediate metrics for success along the way and then ultimate success metrics. (revenue, # new clients, margin, # of new square footage operational in the new facility, etc.)

note:  with key business goals defined, then the marketing plan can start taking shape…

4. Define the fundamental focus of the marketing effort.  In other words, is the focus increasing awareness, generating leads and acquiring new clients?  Perhaps retaining existing clients and acquiring new clients to support your growth strategy?  Are you introducing a new product line that marketing will be critical in announcing and bringing to market?  Clearly define the priority and the marketing strategy  that will support the above business objectives.

5. The marketing plan needs to be developed within a budget.  Any increase from this year?  Know what range you are working with to avoid the frustrations of building a masterpiece only to learn your masterpiece has to be re-done to fit the approved budget.  Document the assumptions and as details are developed, code each.  Suggested coding would be critical (critical strategically), important (fundamental work that needs to happen) and nice to have (not essential, but would be beneficial).  With this coding, if budget money becomes available during the year, you know where the money will be funneled vs. late nights preparing for a board meeting figuring out how to build your compelling story of why marketing should get a slice of the pie!

6. With a defined marketing strategy and a budget, phase the marketing plan.  We start with defining the marketing priorities by quarter – then breaking that down into months.  This keeps you aligned with the overall business objectives and enables you and your team to not lose the forest through the trees.  Stay strategic.

7. Revisit the marketing foundation.  As part of the marketing plan, there are ongoing foundational elements that require ongoing marketing work.  The Dream list is never done.  What capabilities or services lack the support of compelling client solution briefs and testimonials?  Make sure your plan does not lose focus on efforts to strengthen the marketing foundation in the new year.  Weave this work into the marketing plan.

8. Summarize the marketing plan on one page.  If the executive summary is clear and solid, the detailed plan will be that much better.  Just like an elevator pitch can be the most challenging part of messaging work given its brevity, the same is true for a one page summary.  It forces us to clearly and concisely present the plan that is then detailed across many pages.

It’s getting late in November.  If your fiscal year is a calendar year, you need to get going to be set up for success come January 2.  If you are running a business without a business plan and without a marketing plan, maybe it’s time to think about your New Year’s Resolution now.  After all, as Peter Drucker says:  “What gets measured, gets managed.”

A solid plan is a great way to get ready for 2015.  No time like the present to get started.

Know when to walk away, know when to run!

November 14, 2014

I am not one to quote Kenny Rogers frequently, but boy does this line capture it for me.  Not all business is good business.  Not all revenue is worth it.  We all learn the hard way and with hindsight being 20/20, we commonly look back and think – should have walked away.  So what does this have to do with marketing?

Everything!

A solid business has to start with a solid foundation.  For Marketing Matters has 13 essential elements to be on solid ground and the first two are:

#1.  Define your value proposition.

#2.  Develop your target profile.

If you have completed #2 and I mean documented as clearly as you can EXACTLY who you want to be selling to and working with, then you are in MUCH better shape to assess prospects and decide whether the opportunity is a good match for you and your business.  Congratulations if you have this in place.  Most small and medium-sized businesses skip this step.  Responses include:  Oh, we know that.  Sure, we have done that…. so, I ask them for a copy.  Uh, Oh, it is in our heads.  We don’t have to write it down.

I have a documented target profile and I ignored it.  I was introduced to a business owner, referred by another business owner that I have a lot of respect for and admire.  As a potential source for referrals, I wanted to help his client out and show what FMM can do.

As a marketer, I ignored my target profile, my notes from my initial meeting and my gut. Complete idiot. This business owner did not fit my profile at all.  He is a classic dabbler:  not interested in strategy, just marketing tactics.  His priority was getting an email blast out the door.  He was looking for a silver bullet and I took the bait.  I should have RUN.

Of course, the project (note to self – my business model is NOT to engage in projects, but to earn serving as the outsourced marketing department) had a tight timeframe and details were sketchy.  Again, RUN.  Just this once I will deviate from my core business strategy.  I was referred and I want to deliver.  I left the initial meeting with such clarity of how we could help his business have a clearer, stronger go-to-market plan.  So, I respond with “Sure, we can start with a project.”  In my mind I would still develop some of the core marketing foundational work that he really needed as part of the project and, of course, he will see the benefit.  In my mind, I will help him and it will be all ok.  Doh!  So not true.

To avoid reliving a nightmare of a project, this blog is focused on how you can learn from my stupidity.

Document your target audience.  Don’t skip this step.  This is NOT simply a title and industry.  Dig into the details of what are they like, what is important to you about this company and this individual. My ideal client is MARK.  Not because he is a man, but because he or she wants to make a Mark in this world – they are passionate about what they do and they invest in their business.  They are not dabblers.  They are not do-it-yourselfers.  They are smart, passionate, focused, driven and committed to growing their business.  To do so, they surround themselves with professionals to have the expertise and insight that they need and value.  They are optimists (working with pessimists is a drag for me). They know what they don’t know and they are not nickel and dimers.  I am their partner, not a vendor. They get ‘it’ and they appreciate accountability, hard work, insight and they value results.  They value having a plan to stay on course, but are open to evaluating what is working and what is not.

Once you have this type of target profile clearly defined, convert it into questions to evaluate prospective clients!  Once you have the profile and the associated questions to evaluate prospects, use it.  Be consistent.  I ignored my notes.  Not because I wanted to work with the business owner and his business, but because I wanted to deliver on the referral.  Stupid.

Then leverage your written target profile to help you and others in your company consistently and clearly evaluate prospective business.  Not all business is good business.  Not all revenue is worth it.  Not only will it help you RUN AWAY from potential clients that are not a good fit, it will help you scale your business to have more business development folks evaluating potential business in the same way. Make it part of your sales process.

If you don’t have a target profile developed, get this done.  In the meantime go with your gut.  I know a great marketing company that can help you grow…but you’ll have to fit the ideal target profile!

 

B to B Marketing: Is your company building a Dream List?

April 13, 2014

Scenario: You are CEO of a B to B business. Your goal is growth (sales and profitability). Your growth strategy is expand existing clients and attract new ones. You need to expand awareness of your products/services in a cost-effective way.

Marketing works the top of the funnel, building the message, creating the awareness and opening doors for sales to then qualify, build relationships, propose solutions and close the deal. A critical asset that a B to B company needs to effectively go to market is a Dream List.

What is a Dream List?
– it is an asset of all company contacts – clients, prospects, suspects, referral sources, partners, competitors.
– it is CRITICAL to organize this information in a useful manner.
– it may be as simple as establishing an Excel spreadsheet or may be part of your company’s ERP software – often referred to as the CRM module. You may use salesforce.com; honestly the actual software is less critical than having an asset that is carefully organized, built and maintained.

A Dream List - A critical element for a strong Marketing Foundation

A Dream List – A critical element for a strong Marketing Foundation

If you don’t have a company asset (aka A Dream List) that represents a usable list that marketing can use to target and prioritize messages to fuel your growth, you are going to struggle with achieving your growth goals. You also run the risk of renting lists and driving costs to acquire new clients. Build an asset that marketing AND sales continue to add to. Over the past 3 years, we built a Dream List for one client from scratch – starting first with consolidating their known contacts. We started with ~400 B to B contacts and have grown that to over 6,000 contacts that is our source for our ongoing marketing efforts. When this client installs their new ERP system this July, we will simply map the fields of our Dream List Excel file to load all this knowledge and all this work to be housed as a central asset.

I am looking forward to the fruits of our labor appearing in pipeline reports where the pipeline can then be sorted by industry, by client type, by source code and by many other fields enabling us as marketers to see the impact we have made on the bottom line and by continuing to build the Dream List adding new contacts daily that come in from our marketing efforts that generate phone and email and web leads. A closed loop marketing effort is a beautiful thing, but a critical marketing foundational element is that unglamorous Dream List that we started building years ago.

By the way, you may wonder why I call it “A Dream List”? Like the Dream Team is your go-to A players, the Dream List is the go-to list for your marketing efforts. It should be your source, your “system of record” of your client base, a centralized repository of your prospects and contacts you have built over the years. Start building.

This is not a good sign

March 23, 2014
The importance of alignment

The importance of alignment

Is this an accurate image of how your marketing and sales groups operate? Each headed in their own direction? If so, you as the CEO have a fundamental problem and it is not just an internal issue.

Alignment is required. I use this term “alignment” consistently when working with my clients. For all of my clients a marketing plan is in place. As we make measurable progress building awareness and generating leads, the client conversation naturally leads to the importance of alignment with sales. What specifically do I mean by alignment? Visually it would mean moving the sales sign in the above image so it is right under marketing and headed in the same direction. The direction is defined by the company strategy and priorities.

1. Why under marketing? Simply, marketing builds the top of the funnel through its efforts focused on building the brand awareness, generating leads for sales to then nurture and close. Sales leverages the marketing message to retain clients, expand business and handle leads from marketing to convert to clients.
2. Why in the same direction? Honestly, this seems like it should be obvious. Do you want marketing focused on acquiring new clients through lead generation efforts yet sales is only focused on expanding existing clients so there is no appetite or bandwidth to work the leads that marketing is bringing in? The two groups need to be aligned to the priorities of your company. I have clients that struggle with the ‘alignment’ word. Some clients prefer ‘partnership’, but to have a partnership you first need to be aligned.

Alignment is key. Alignment between marketing and sales MUST include the following:
Strategy. Make sure you have alignment at the strategic level. In other words, if your growth strategy for 2014 is based on acquiring new clients while retaining existing and expanding within existing, there is a direct implication to the role that marketing will play to reach BOTH existing clients and new and that naturally affects the sales organization and how it develops its sales plan for the year.
Goals. The goals for both marketing and sales need to support the strategy. These should be measurable and tracked consistently for both groups.
Incentives. Many companies only have a sales incentive plan. Why don’t you have an upside for marketing that is ‘aligned’ with the behavior you need that is also then aligned with sales? Make sure you are not equating aligned with the incentives being the same! Marketing should have incentives tied to the top of the funnel while sales should have incentives tied to the middle and bottom of the funnel.
Priorities. As CEO are you confident that the quarterly and monthly priorities within marketing and sales are in alignment? Are they pulling in the same direction or working against themselves?

The reality is that all your functions need to be aligned, working like a well-oiled machine. I am focused on marketing and sales because there is SO MUCH opportunity for companies to grow by getting these signs aligned and headed in the same direction. The upside is HUGE.

How will you as a CEO or President get the signs headed in the same direction starting in Q2?</strong>

At the risk of thinking about this as an organizational exercise, keep in mind the real negative impact of having these two groups not in sync is felt by your clients and prospects. They are the ones getting mixed messages. That should be enough reason to work on this intersection and make it a priority.

Two weeks left in Q1. SMB CEO, are you where you wanted to be?

March 14, 2014

Hey Mr./Mrs. CEO or President of a small to mid-sized growth business!

It’s the middle of March. Hard to believe based on the cold snowy days here in New England, but enough talking about the weather. Let’s talk business. Specifically, YOUR business.

Time for action. Stopwatch on white background. Isolated 3D imag

There are two more weeks left in the month of March. Two more weeks left in the first quarter of 2014. Just eleven business days left. Tick. Tick.

Are you on track to meet your Q1 goals? Do you have the actionable information you need to confidently answer this question?

At this point in Q1, the marketing plan for your business should be rock solid. The plan is being executed and you as CEO should have the following information readily available QTD (quarter to date) from your VP of marketing (internal or agency):
1. # leads generated by marketing efforts by source code MTD and QTD; conversion rates to quotes and sales
2. Analysis of key channels including website updates, analysis, key SEO term rankings
3. Event plans for upcoming events to define goals, metrics of success and roles to generate ROI on exhibiting at trade shows
4. Media coverage secured; updated media list and upcoming planned interviews
5. Reporting on brand awareness
6. Status of sales tool kit and new materials developed QTD to support sales process
7. Timing and schedule of any remaining marketing initiatives planned for Q1
8. Any other key metrics reports for top strategic goals – direct marketing, email marketing, webinar attendance

If you are serious about growing your business, look at your business like a CEO. Surround yourself with talent to achieve your growth goals. Discipline, rigor and accountability are not only critical to bigger business’ success. They are why small businesses get bigger and so many SMBs stall or ultimately fail. You can maintain your culture while still instilling discipline, accountability and reporting to help you do your primary job: leading the business in growth and prosperity. As a marketer, the above list is an example of the types of information you should have to assess the execution of the marketing plan. As CEO, you need this same degree of reporting and accountability from all key functions. The clock is ticking. Q1 is wrapping up quickly. What decisions and investments will you be making to make Q2 a great quarter for your company?

Tick. Tick.

The Marketing Power of Signs

February 14, 2014

Good signs create brand awareness. Many business owners can improve their marketing efforts simply by investing in quality signage.
Two examples to share with you today:

Example #1: A missed opportunity

Creative use of an ambulance!  No signage.

Creative use of an ambulance! No signage.

Points for creativity are earned by this roofer who uses an ambulance for transporting roofing materials and ladders. Unfortunately the creativity stopped there and the obvious opportunity to have some fun with branding and signage fell through the cracks. After doing good work, there was no request to put a sign in our yard to promote his roofing services in our neighborhood where all homes were built around the same time and are likely in need a new roof, too. A missed opportunity to leave business cards for us to share. The owner clearly did not know he was doing the roof of a marketer! I did not even know his company’s name when someone asked me for a reference. Missed opportunity. A sign would have created at least one lead if not more. What is that worth to the owner?

Example #2: Signs lead to Connections and Charity Involvement
Contrast the above example of a missed opportunity with the power of effective signs. I am on the board for Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity and we are in the midst of planning for the June Home Builder’s Blitz when two homes will be built in 6 days! In a recent meeting, it was brought up that we needed a few more building companies to commit to the cause. I immediately thought of local builders’ that I knew of and suggested that the lead builder reach out to Steeplechase Builders as I had seen their signs in many places. Fast forward, Steeplechase Builders was thrilled to be contacted as they were looking for charity to get involved in and this was a perfect fit. This week I met the two principals of Steeplechase Builders and shared with them the story of how their signs led to their being part of this great effort. These business owners are smart: they regularly invest in their signs and leverage their existing customers to be a solid referral source. It is likely their involvement in Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity will increase the visibility of Steeplechase Builders and it is my hope that this leads to continued growth for these business owners who are committed to giving back. See what a sign can do!