It’s That Time of Year (Again)

For a lot of U.S. companies, the period after Labor Day marks the beginning of the annual process of starting to determine priorities and allocate resources for the upcoming year. I think it’s fair to say that most marketers put the annual budgeting and planning process in the “necessary evil” category, but I’m not one of them.

One of my previous roles involved working at a B2B media company for 15 years.  I worked with and for the same Publisher for virtually that entire time, and while he loved the editorial side of the business, he didn’t love the commercial side of the business or putting together the massive business plans and budgets required for this $37 million business unit. After just a few years of driving millions of dollars in new revenue growth within my own department, the Publisher tasked me with the new job (on top of my existing one) of managing the budgeting and financial planning process for the entire business unit, hoping that I could help drive profitable revenue growth across the entire enterprise. I held the job for the next 13 budget seasons, and during that time we became the largest and most profitable business unit at the company.

Most department heads hated budget season (which stretched from late August until December), but I loved the challenge and process of taking our overall business strategy and working with the department heads to translate it into actionable department-level business plans and annual budgets. Once the annual budgets were established, we calendarized the approved annual numbers into monthly budgets that would form the basis for budget-to-actual comparisons in our monthly financial statements. Along with cider mill donuts and football, it’s one of the reasons that fall is my favorite season.

While I can’t possibly offer advice to deal with every tactical challenge you may encounter in putting together your budgets, I can offer some perspectives and thoughts to make budgeting something that supports, informs and guides your efforts rather than something you do just to “check the boxes” with your corporate finance department.

Plan First, Budget Second

Whether required as part of your budget process or not, it’s always a good idea to start with your overall business plan. Our rule was simple – keep it to a single page per department. I wanted a bullet-pointed, action-oriented list of each department head’s priorities and strategies, how they planned to execute those strategies tactically, and what resources (FTEs, outside resources, additional expense investments, changes to allocated costs, corporate resources, senior leadership involvement, etc.) they needed to do it. Revenue goals for income-generating departments were to be realistic, based on market trends and historical performance, and needed to be appropriate to and commensurate with changes in department spending.

Start at Zero

No matter how tempting, resist at all costs the inclination to carry over last year’s budget, make a few minor changes, and call it a day. Use the opportunity the annual budget process provides to truly think through your priorities and performance and develop a zero-based budget from that plan. Determine if the team and strategies you have in place now are the ones that are optimal to help you achieve your goals for 2018. If not, what are you going to do instead? Are there opportunities to share services with other departments or otherwise reduce costs through outsourcing or other strategies? Can anything currently being done by an outside provider be done more cost-effectively or faster in-house? Be realistic about how quickly any additional investments are going to pay off in the form of increased revenue. Make sure all of this strategic thinking is captured in your business plan and in your budget.

Keep the Budget in Perspective

Once budgeting become more than just an exercise and something that is truly based on a foundational business plan, the numbers become less powerful. Other than in certain cases (commissioned salespeople, executives with incentive plans based on revenue or profit, etc.), achieving numerical goals is never the ultimate objective – merely the yardstick by which progress is measured. Breakthrough performance is never a result of taking last year’s revenue and adding 3%. Breakthrough performance comes from solid strategic thinking, testing new ideas in the marketplace, and taking intelligent risks by uncovering new tactics that further your long-term strategic objectives.

Everybody Talks About ROI…

…but nobody is really doing it. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but my point is that Return on Investment (ROI) is a term easily bandied about by far, far more marketing practitioners than those that are actually doing the math correctly and consistently to measure the success of their initiatives. That’s a shame, because if marketing wants to continue to have a seat at the corporate strategy table, we must be able to demonstrate the value of what we do beyond awareness and “buzz,” to driving real-world results like increased sales pipeline and profitable revenue growth. Luckily, the tools that we have to link “top of the funnel” activities to later stage results have never been more available or easier to use.

It was Day 3 for me at a former company when I asked to see the actual expense and revenue numbers behind a telemarketing campaign that was showing 100% ROI on the marketing spreadsheet I had been given. When I saw that the campaign cost $80,000 and returned $80,000 in margin, I questioned how the marketing analyst (yes, this was his job) had arrived at 100% ROI instead of the correct 0% ROI. He replied that it was being calculated as “return OF investment” rather than “return on investment,” and that same formula had been used for THREE years for all of the company’s marketing campaigns. After checking with my new boss to make sure that the company didn’t have some sort of double-secret way of calculating ROI that NO ONE else in the world uses, I had the analyst recalculate the entire spreadsheet, which showed that we were, in fact, losing money across the board on most of our existing campaigns. After all, if you put $50 in the bank and get $50 back at the end of the year, you don’t think “Wow, I’ve received 100% of my money back.” Instead, you lament the fact you earned zero interest on your money that has been tied up for an entire year.

(Return – Investment)
————————- X 100 = ROI%
Investment

Once we get beyond the correct method of calculation, there are several nuances, however, that go into determining the “return” and the “investment.”

  • The first question is should return include just actual revenue from marketing campaigns, or should it also include the risk-adjusted value of the sales pipeline that has been increased? If you have a lengthy sales cycle (3 months or more), I believe that you MUST include pipeline value as well as realized revenue in the calculation, particularly if you need the ability (and most of us do) to show ROI while the campaign is in progress.
  • If you are doing customer acquisition for a business that has very high renewal rates, or operates on a subscription model, you may also want to consider including the lifetime value of those revenue streams, risk-adjusted for their likelihood (renewal rate after year one, year two, etc.), as well as any continuing marketing costs to secure that renewal. While this adds complexity to the calculation, it typically allows you to pursue customer acquisition channels or sources that may have a negative ROI in year one but renew at such high rates that they become profitable when analyzed over the longer term.
  • In most cases, you will need to calculate the margin on the sales revenue (and pipeline value) rather than include all of the revenue in the calculation of return. At one previous company, my CFO argued that our marketing ROI calculation should be based on net margins (which were about 20-25%) rather than gross margins (which were about 60-65%). This goes against traditional marketing theory, but also double-counts the marketing expense, since it is already deducted in the calculation of net margin. In the end, I did it the CFO’s way, but our marketing ROI would have been 2X-4X higher if we had applied the gross margin to our revenue and pipeline numbers instead.
  • The “investment” calculation is far more straightforward, and is typically just the out-of-pocket cost for the marketing activity, particularly if outsourced to a third-party. Depending upon the nature of the marketing initiative, it should also include costs for purchased media, creative time, printing or production costs, an allocated share of platform costs (for an email marketing or marketing automation platform, for example), and any direct sales costs (commissions, broker’s fees, sales incentives, etc.).

Going forward, marketers must embrace both their left-brain analytical side as well as their right-brain creative side to be successful. At a minimum level, this allows you to allocate resources to the marketing activities proven to generate the highest returns. If done correctly, it provides a consistent framework and set of standards for deciding how to make the best use of limited marketing resources. Beyond that, however, it helps guide overall marketing strategy, insulates those high-performing programs from arbitrary senior management decision-making and budget cuts, and guarantees a seat at the table when setting overall corporate strategy.

In future blogs, I’ll take a look at the various strategies used to attribute revenue to various customer touchpoints, such as first touch attribution (FTA) and multitouch attribution (MTA). This becomes a critical component of “closing the loop” on your digital marketing campaigns for those organizations with complex customer journeys or campaigns targeted to “top of the funnel” acquisition (i.e. search) as well as nurture campaigns (i.e. webinars) designed to accelerate the sales cycle for those existing prospects.

The Quell Group provides a complete set of digital marketing services, including assisting with the selection, implementation and advancement of technologies that address your company’s unique marketing challenges. To discuss how to achieve your growth goals through smart application of marketing technologies, contact John Fitzgerald, Senior Director of Digital Services at The Quell Group, at 248.519.2066 or jfitzgerald@quell.com.

The Account Based Marketing (ABM) Approach

The Account Based Marketing (ABM) market is one of the hottest areas for marketing investments today, but there are many misconceptions about ABM – is it a technology, or a set of technologies? Or is it a new approach to digital marketing that focuses on key account behavior rather than individual engagement? The answer is, of course, that it is both. My definition is that it is a technology-enabled approach to addressing one of the fundamental challenges in B2B marketing – monitoring, influencing, and reporting on the behavior of the many individuals and functional areas involved in B2B purchase decisions.

A recent study showed that there are, on average, 5.4 people involved in B2B purchase decisions – and as the number of individuals increases, the likelihood of a purchase decreases. With only a single individual involved, there is an 81% chance of a purchase decision, but that drops to 31% once 6 or more individuals get involved (Harvard Business Review, 2015). An IT purchase, for example, might involve the CIO but also representatives from marketing, operations, finance, legal, procurement, and many other functional areas, all of which may have an effective “veto” over the technology buy. These buying teams have a diverse set of priorities, and winning them over requires knowledge of the players as well as a strategy for addressing their unique priorities.

One of the early ABM pioneers was Demandbase, but there are more than a dozen vendors competing squarely in the ABM space, as well as many more offering ABM functionality within their marketing automation, CRM, or sales enablement tools. Engagio and the unfortunately-named Terminus are two of the other major ABM platforms, and Marketo is a great example of a marketing automation platform that has added ABM functionality into its base product. Unlike the software vendors in the more-mature marketing automation space, ABM vendors generally focus on one or two specific functions, and only recently have begun introducing software suites that provide a more-comprehensive ABM solution.

I was an early adopter of ABM technology at a prior company, implementing three Demandbase modules that served up unique versions of our website to different vertical markets based on visitor IP address (utilizing the dynamic content functionality of our website CMS), automatically filling website inquiry forms with standardized company information, and providing analytics that allowed us to view online engagement across key accounts or specific market segments with precision. While the ABM technology would have allowed us to, for example, serve up unique versions of our website to each key account, that would have crossed the line from “relevant” to “creepy” (and frankly, required much more work for very little marginal return).

ABM technology generally breaks down into three distinct areas – to target, engage, and analyze decision-makers at target accounts — and I’ve tried to provide some examples of functionality in each area, although this list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Targeting Decision Makers
    • Lead-to-account matching identifies website and online campaign engagement from individuals and attaches them to the correct company account
    • Account planning supports the creation of annual plans for key accounts with the specific activities and support needed to achieve growth goals
    • Relationship mapping allows the new business development team to see target organization’s structure, internal and external stakeholders, and corporate relationships
  • Engaging at the Account Level
    • Coordinated communications makes sure that everyone on the business development team is in sync with outbound communications to the target account
    • Website personalization provides highly relevant online experiences to targeted accounts as well as real-time alerts when decision-makers are engaged on the site
    • Targeted advertising provides the ability to precisely target marketing messages to the companies, job functions, titles, or even individuals that matter most
  • Analyzing the ABM Impact
    • Analytics measure awareness and engagement across the entire set of account decision-makers
    • Whitespace analysis provides a visual representation of the existing business within key accounts as well as the opportunities available to expand that relationship
    • Attribution reporting provides account-level metrics on awareness and engagement to show the full return on investment of your ABM programs

The Quell Group provides a complete set of digital marketing services, including assisting with the selection, implementation and advancement of technologies that address your company’s unique marketing challenges. To discuss how to achieve your growth goals through smart application of marketing technologies, contact John Fitzgerald, Senior Director of Digital Services at The Quell Group, at 248.519.2066 or jfitzgerald@quell.com.

Customer-Centric Content and Search

Last month, I attended the C3 2017 Conference in New York City, which is becoming one of the best annual digital marketing conferences around. The conference has a specific focus on both SEO and content marketing, which makes sense given that the event is sponsored by Conductor, one of the leading technology platforms in the space.

What struck me – besides the wealth of great digital marketing talent on stage – was the lack of discussion around the latest Google algorithm updates. There was little, if any, mention of the impact of the latest Panda or Penguin updates. Instead, the focus was on creating great user content and great user experiences, and how Google’s application of machine learning has ushered in a new era of search marketing.

Gone are the days of SEO as a stand-alone discipline, often with the singular goal of obtaining high search rankings regardless of content value. But that strategy no longer works. Google’s AI has become incredibly adept at determining how much users are satisfied by the content they find via search, and in rewarding great content with high rankings. Conversely, if users are bouncing back to the results page and not engaging with your content, Google understands this and will penalize those sites that continually disappoint users.

Conductor’s CEO Seth Besmertnik kicked off the event with the theme of “Your Customer is the Algorithm.” SEO practitioners focusing on technical optimization may have been able to “game” the system in an earlier era, but no longer. Truly understanding customer needs – and delivering content that answers their questions and solves their problems – is the only certain way to achieve search marketing success.

Perhaps my favorite speaker was Wil Reynolds of Seer Interactive, who delivered the morning keynote on day 2 of the conference. He expanded on the customer-centric theme, and shared a personal anecdote that illustrated his theme of “People First vs. Google First Search.” For years, his agency ranked #1 for a highly coveted keyword (i.e. “SEO agency”) that generated exactly zero revenue for his firm. Why?  Because he didn’t understand that virtually all users searching for that term are looking for a local resource, not a national firm such as Seer.

The main takeaway for me from this year’s conference is that SEO and content are inextricably bound together. Search is more than simply keywords and rankings. It is the voice of the customer. It is the connective tissue between your customer’s intent and your ability to understand them, and then use that understanding to engage their hearts and their minds.

Building Personas to Improve Engagement

Storytelling is a large component for modern marketing campaigns, as content creation has become a critical element for the buyer’s journey. Not only are marketers developing relevant content to help audiences make more informed decisions, they’re also positioning their companies as valuable resources in the digital space.

On the other hand, developing content that’s timely and relevant can be challenging and time consuming. Strong content strategies are built purposely with specific audiences and needs in mind. We must first learn more about the audience, and we must take some time to identify and distill the key messages that will resonate with these audiences.

Defining Marketing Personas

Customers and potential customers take their own buyer’s journey based on distinct needs, interests, habits and trends, so it’s important to consider those unique experiences when developing content. Some folks are ready to make a purchase, others are still considering options, and some haven’t even found your content yet.

Learning more about your audiences can help you tailor content for those critical moments when buyers express interest. This can mean the difference between converting leads and missing potential sales. Leveraging marketing personas is a great way to creating stronger content that fits specific audience needs.

Personas are fictionalized characters based upon data gathered from customers and potential audiences in a number of categories. The data is analyzed and reorganized to describe and reflect the attributes of real people in your audiences. Some categories can include:

  • Demographics
  • Attitudes
  • Media habits
  • Buying preferences
  • Interests
  • Behavioral patterns
  • Job description
  • Career experience
  • Education level
  • Pain points/Motivations
  • Job keywords
  • Product/Service needs

Used to personify your character, this data helps marketers and salespeople gauge customer drivers, beliefs, backstories, personality traits, fears and more. Here’s an example:

The information here is gathered through qualitative and quantitative research. A mixture of focus groups, interviews, polls and surveys can be used to collect details from defined audiences. Then it’s a matter of comparing results to identify trends, insights and similarities that can be applied to a single persona that represents a specific audience.

Applying Personas to Marketing Automation

Content needs will look different from persona to persona. The example above indicates Charlie Seasweet is concerned with overall profitability and missed growth opportunities, thus putting pressure on each department to prove ROI.

As a result, the most effective content strategy for reaching him should include short summaries, infographics and overview videos that provide enough information to cover the who, what and why – but not the how. On the other hand, a persona for department managers may prefer blogs, peer-reviewed articles and video presentations, as they want content with more insight.

While some audiences prefer detailed reports, others may only have time for bite-sized materials. The only way to understand these preferences is to create detailed personas for each target audience. Not only will you be able to implement more effective marketing strategies, you’ll also see improvements for your sales teams, as they’ll have a better understanding of audience needs and desires.

In our next blog, we’ll explain how personas fit into the sales funnel. For more information on personas, marketing automation or other marketing strategies, visit www.quell.com.

A Grumpy Guy for a New Age

Many B2B marketers will recall with fondness the old McGraw-Hill advertisement which featured the original “grumpy” decision-maker, seated in his chair with his hands clasped, asking a series of questions to the unlucky representative trying to sell him something…

“I don’t know who you are.
I don’t know your company.
I don’t know your company’s product.
I don’t know what your company stands for.
I don’t know your company’s customers.
I don’t know your company’s record.
I don’t know your company’s reputation.
Now – what was it you wanted to sell me?”

The answer to all of these challenges was, of course, (print) business publication advertising.  And in 1958, when the ad debuted, that was the correct (and largely only) answer to the challenges of B2B marketing and sales.  The ad was named one of the year’s top 10 by Advertising Age and the hugely successful campaign was updated with new models in 1968, 1979 and 1996.

Mike, the CEO of The Quell Group, and I were having a conversation last week about this ad and how the fundamentals of marketing don’t change – but the channels and means of effective prospect engagement are in constant flux.  Print business publication advertising remains part of the solution for many B2B marketers, but those traditional channels account for a smaller portion of the marketing mix as emerging digital channels provide the immediacy and measurability that marketers are seeking.

One recent Forrester Research study showed that 62% of B2B buyers say they can develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content, without speaking to the company’s sales representatives.

From that conversation came the question – what would the customer journey for the “new” grumpy B2B decision-maker look like?  There wouldn’t be a single answer, but multiple opportunities to influence and engage the prospect at all stages of the marketing and sales funnel.  There would be no “silver bullet,” and the new B2B marketer would need to employ multiple digital channels to capture leads and nurture the right audience with the right content at the right time.  Hence, our “new grumpy guy” was born:

What is Marketing Automation?

q_marketingautomation_blog_121516

Many companies have heard that implementing a marketing automation solution is the logical next step in their demand generation capabilities.  Perhaps they want to move up from “batch and blast” email marketing or managing digital channel “silos” that don’t provide a comprehensive view of online customer behavior.  But what is marketing automation, and how can it provide a competitive advantage for those companies that adopt it?

Marketing automation systems like Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot and Pardot provide a number of capabilities to streamline, automate and measure marketing tasks including lead management, outbound email campaigns, email database management, lead nurturing, and lead scoring.  All marketing automation systems are designed to integrate directly with CRM (customer relationship management) solutions like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics.  This integration creates marketing and sales alignment around lead generating activities and “closes the loop” between marketing activities and the customer revenue and sales pipeline generated from those activities.

Some of the specific functions of marketing automation platforms include:

  • Lead management – the ability to track real-time user behavior and data and aggregate prospect information across online channels (organic search, online display ads, PPC ads, email marketing, and social media), as well as offline channels such as trade shows, PR, print advertising and direct mail.
  • Campaign automation – allowing relevant emails to be triggered to deploy automatically or after a specific period of a time when a user takes an action, such as filling out a form on the company’s website, attending a webinar, or opening a previous email.
  •  Dynamic content – automatically populates emails with personalized content based on user information or based on segmentation parameters, such as vertical markets, industry segments, or even by specific named accounts.
  • Form design tools – allowing the marketing creative services team to develop website landing pages and registration forms that can be hosted on the company’s website, and can capture complete lead information across all channels in a single database.
  • Workflow – a visual framework for identifying future prospect engagement based on if/then logic, including forms, content, database updates, wait steps, and campaign execution.
  • Lead nurturing and scoring – provides a platform for capturing prospect information at an earlier stage by providing relevant, useful content, capturing the user’s interest in specific information, and predicting when leads are sales-ready.
  • Tracking and reporting tools – allows the marketer to see prospect engagement across all channels, including email opens and clicks, website visits, form submissions and event registrations, all of which can be used to determine marketing campaign effectiveness.

The end result, if implemented correctly, provides the right messages to the right prospects at the right time – resulting in vastly higher conversion rates and accelerated sales revenue.  All of these things are possible to do without a marketing automation platform, but technology becomes essential to do this at scale.  But like any other set of technologies, marketing automation requires a comprehensive strategy that integrates the right processes, people, content and prospect data to be successful.

The Quell Group provides a complete set of digital marketing solutions, including assisting with the selection and implementation of technologies that address your unique marketing challenges.  To discuss your company’s marketing technology strategy, contact John Fitzgerald, Senior Director of Digital Services at The Quell Group, at 248.519.2066 or jfitzgerald@quell.com.

Get in a Better Position

At The Quell Group, we are focused on assisting our clients to identify a market position that they alone can own. We argue that it is a far more valuable use of both time and budget to focus on the development of a bulletproof market position and supporting positioning statement. The delivery of your positioning—the channels, the words, the images—are secondary to the creation of a bulletproof position.

Position vs. Positioning

Your position is the set of things that you own: superior product quality, unmatched speed of product development, customer service that is unmatched, etc.

All market-facing materials will derive from the unique position you have claimed for your own. By virtue of supporting a true point of differentiation, your marketing activity will be more effective, more memorable and, most importantly, generate positive ROI.
A positioning statement is a definition of how a given product, service or brand fills a particular consumer need in a way that its competitors cannot.

Once a solid positioning statement is developed, the rest of your marketing activity will be natural. Your positioning statement will dictate the words used in your social posts; the way the receptionist answers the phone; the look and feel of your trade show booth; in short, all market facing elements.

Bulletproof Positioning Statements

A positioning statement is a one- or two-sentence statement that articulates your company, product or service’s unique value to your customers in relation to your chief competition. It summarizes, for all of your team, exactly what makes your organization, your product or your service the compelling option for customers.

It conveys the distinct position that only you can claim — the position that is unique and cannot be duplicated.

It should capture those characteristics of your company that enable delivery of your value again and again. It ought to look something like this:

To DECISION MAKERS, COMPANY’S PRODUCT/SERVICE is/provides UNIQUE REASON TO BUY, which results in BENEFIT.

Or, in ‘real world’ terms:

To engineering hiring managers, Acme’s Engineering Scorecard provides a 10-step process for evaluating candidates for engineering positions, which ensures that new hires scoring eight or above are 85 percent more likely to be successful.

Tag. Are You It?

At Quell, we find that many clients initially gravitate to a desire for a single line that is intended to communicate their brand position. This catchphrase, known as a tagline, is a short collection of words that is supposed to be a memorable summary of their value proposition. If you take nothing else away from this post, understand that a tagline is neither a position nor a positioning statement.

Unfortunately, what some clients fail to realize is that the most ‘memorable’ taglines are usually the ones supported by multi-million dollar advertising budgets. We didn’t know we were supposed to just do it; that a soft drink could make the whole world sing and a computer could help us think different. We were told: over and over and over again.

Here’s a challenge. Think back to the last three meetings you had. Chances are, you exchanged business cards. We’re willing to bet that you can’t remember the tagline that was almost certainly prominently (and proudly) featured. Without the constant repetition and the mega budget, the tagline is usually an artifice that is quickly forgotten.

Lessons Learned

Thinking about taglines vs. positioning and positioning statements, everyone knows and loves “Got Milk?”, right? Right. And that’s the problem. Everyone knows the campaign, but it didn’t result in increased milk consumption. In fact, according to a Huffington Post article, gallons of milk consumed per capita actually declined from 23.9 gallons to 20 gallons during the duration of the campaign. So, it’s a very memorable tagline (again, supported by millions in ad spend) that wasn’t effective.

Compare those results against a campaign that Quell conducted for a leading financial institution. After a careful analysis of its market position, Quell assisted in identifying a uniquely distinctive market position and accompanying positioning statement, leading to the development of a campaign which resulted in more than 16 million digital impressions and a significant increase in new account creation.

Was there a tagline associated with the campaign? Yes. Was it the main point of emphasis and the reason behind our efforts? No. The purpose of the campaign was to effectively position the client to its target market as THE preferred option and to increase new account sign ups.

We’re happy to develop creative and memorable taglines, but not at the expense of the less-visible but more important work of creating bulletproof market positions and supporting positioning statements.

Contact us to learn more.

Disputing The Death of Direct

mailboxWith all due respect to social media and its many flavors, it may be that the death of direct has been exaggerated. While it is true that using direct mail is more time-consuming and expensive than posting on Twitter or even sending an email campaign, the use of direct mail can be an effective complement to many marketing initiatives.

Don’t forget that direct gives you an opportunity to directly deliver your message to your target audience. No spam filter, no distracting web banner, no scroll bar, no ad blocker.

An interesting and attention-getting direct mail campaign will engage the recipient, on average for 3-5 minutes. Compare that to 15 seconds for the average web visitor, eight seconds for the average email, and less than five seconds for an online post (assuming, of course, you got them to look at your message in the first place).

We are not advocating that direct mail is the be-all end-all of marketing. Instead, we suggest that it be actively considered as part of a multi-channel campaign. It is merely one of the tools available in the marketing toolbox.

As has always been the case, the key to success lies in three areas:

  1. List management
  2. Frequency
  3. Recency

From the top, the absolute rule to success is using a great list. It has to be clean, checked and double-checked, and would ideally represent the work of your own internal team. While there is a place for purchased lists (generally as a way to supplement an existing house list or to get started building a list), the best source of all is your own sales team or in-house lead generation activity. Talk about what you know to who you know.

Regular use of attention-getting direct campaigns will solidify your brand in the mind of the recipient. Be sure to use consistent brand cues in your materials; consistency in logo usage, color palette, and creative theme lead to memorability. A multi-touch campaign leads to greater response than a one time drop.

Be sure to consider using a direct mail piece as a mental trigger for more effective sales follow up activities. The dimensional package that was received earlier in the week is much more memorable than the one-off email.

It gives a visual and tactile cue to the recipient that lodges in their memory and provides a ‘hook’ to which the salesperson can refer when they follow up and seek an opportunity to engage in conversation. Having this reference point is more impactful than trying to ask someone to remember an email-based offer for the free article or webinar invitation.

Again, we’re not knocking email-based content, webinars and lead nurturing. Each one of them has their own place in an integrated marketing campaign. There are simply times that a well-executed direct mail campaign is an effective and memorable way to get the attention of your target audience.
Give it some thought and give us a call to discuss how we can assist you in dragging direct away from death’s door.

CEOs Champion the Most Successful Brands – Inside and Out

 

headerimage

Strong brands are assets. And whether you believe it or not, the CEO has the greatest responsibility for delivering a brand to market and the greatest burden of proof for its authenticity.

Large publicly traded enterprises, privately held middle market operations and small local businesses alike all benefit when a brand is effectively defined and communicated. When done right, a brand attracts investors, partners and employees and drives profits, stock performance and retention.

To be clear, a brand promise is the statement that identifies for customers what they should expect from all interactions with your people, products and services. And for the brand to be authentic, customers must actually have the promised experience. It is not the name, logo or tagline – those elements represent only the identity portion of the branding mix.

For example, Dell Technology enables its customers to grow and thrive and actively celebrates their achievements with its brand promise “The power to do more.” If you’ve ever flown Southwest Airlines, you’ll likely agree that the promise of “lower fares, more flights and more fun” is delivered at every touch point.

Some key attributes of the brand champion CEO are a willingness to embrace the spotlight, leading by example, setting a path to the promise for employees to follow, and personally listening to what customers have to say.

Embrace the spotlight

More than just providing words on paper or a screen, the CEOs of Dell and Southwest, Michael Dell and Gary Kelly, aren’t afraid to step into the spotlight and champion the brand. They personally drive public relations, cement relationships with customers, communicate regularly via traditional and digital channels, and fight for what the company stands for – even under public scrutiny.

And that’s just what we see on the surface as outsiders looking in.

CEOs that successfully champion the brand must also instill passion and respect for the brand into the organizational mindset and daily routine for all employees.

Set an example and a path to the promise for employees

More than one man or woman at the helm, organizations are an entire ecosystem of leaders and employees doing the work the organization does. How will employees know what to do when the CEO is not in the room?

In addition to leading by example, publicly and internally, successful brand champion CEOs establish fundamental operating philosophies, structures and communication processes that support the brand, and reinforce the expectation that everyone must hold one another accountable for their part in delivering the brand promise. A “brand behavior” reward system might be worth considering.

Firing on all cylinders under the heat of the spotlight, and backed up by an engaged workforce that is traveling along the path laid out for them, the effective brand champion CEO can now rest assured the customers are having a positive and authentic experience. Right?

Well, not exactly.

To be an effective brand champion, the CEO must stay dialed in to customer sentiment, and the best way to do that is to stay personally engaged with the CMO and the extended marketing function.

Personally listen to the customer

Some best practices leading brand champion CEOs such as Dell and Kelly employ to stay connected to the customer experience include personally:

  • attending top-level marketing committee meetings,
  • participating in customer feedback sessions,
  • keeping a finger on the pulse of digital, and
  • commissioning and reviewing marketing reports, analysis and insights.

Traditional one-way brand messages broadcast to a homogeneous audience are losing effectiveness at a time of unprecedented consumer adoption of digital channels – from the web and email to mobile and social media. Digital paves the way for direct consumer relationships that in the past were the domain of sales teams alone. Customers ultimately decide now who wins and loses.

Customers are as much in control of brand meaning and its value in the market as the company itself is. As markets continue to change rapidly and customers continue to gain power, CEOs and marketers must operate as a tightly knit unit to rigorously defend the master brand and must be more adept at making the strategic connection between the corporate boardroom and the customer.

To learn more about how to Unknot, Align and Market a winning brand position, go to quell.com.