(An open letter to executive level marketers of mid-sizecompanies and CEOs of small organizations.)
Dear Executive Marketer,
I’ve personally been in the business of marketing and salesfor over two decades. As I see it, there are three major barriers to successfor the executive marketer in the present age.
Every day as a marketing professional, you go into work withthe goal of moving the needle for your organization. You’ve spent countlesshours researching and working with your team to produce some of the bestcreative and to execute on your marketingstrategy.
Unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t translate to the end user andit shows in the lack of results you are getting from yourcampaigns. Finding your target audience has become much easier in somerespects, due to the tools we have at our disposal. However, in a lot of waysit has become much harder to engage and convert those that audience intocustomers. Since we have so many tools, they can sometimes get in the way of usgenuinely connecting to your audience and communicating your message clearly.
The single biggest question our team gets from new clients is “how do youcut through all the noise?”
The answer to this question is simple, but in practice itcan be much more difficult. After working with organizations and consumers fordecades, my team and I have been able to simplify the problem of engagement andoffer a solution that’s been tested and confirmed to work.
However,with that solution in mind, there’s a bigger problem to solve – the dilemmaevery marketing professional faces at some point in their role. Before you cansolve the engagement problem, you have to first be clear about the majorbarriers that stand in YOUR way to get your job done.
I’m writing this article to clearly state the main issuesthat lie in front of professional marketers so they can have 20/20 vision asthey move through the field of land mines called marketing. I hope this willshed some light on the barriers you face so you can more readily attack the real problem of engagement.
Let’s jump in and break down what I think are the three major barriers tosuccess for executive marketers today.
Anestimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.
For some of you reading this, you know what I’m going to say. It’s the800 pound gorilla in the room but somehow it’s not being properly addressedinside your organization.
You have found yourself looking down the barrel ofyour marketing budget with leadership holding the gun. It’s a difficultsituation. If it helps at all, I can count on one hand how many clients Iknow who have had marketing budgets that were not highly scrutinized bytheir board of directors or that one person in leadership who doesn’t “believe”in marketing. They just don’t exist. All executive marketers arestruggling with this problem.
Having a hard line on your budget is not all bad. I’ve seen where ithas forced a good teams to become great. They had to be more creative with themoney they had and rethink how they are getting through.
If budget is always the issue, I’d like to push back on that for now andI’ll present a solution at the end for you to consider. Nothaving enough money to do a great job marketing is a real problem but beforethrowing the baby out with the bath water, I would ask you to first reconsiderone thing – your strategy. In our experience, it doesn’t always take more moneyto achieve more effective marketing. Sometimes it just takes looking at theproblem from a different vantage point.
Theability or power to do, experience, or understand something.
Adding to the difficulty of budget, your team is probably limited aswell. There’s a really good chance you’ve been trying to add another contentcreator for the last 2 years and just haven’t been able to justify the addedexpense or quite honestly, you don’t have the time to train them.
Assembling a team of strategic, creative and talented people thatwake up with the mission of moving the needle for the company can be a realchallenge. Finding and hiring people who fit the culture you are building canpresent its own hurdles while you are working to move marketing initiativesforward. Nevertheless, it is always something you are working on. And from ourexperience you typically end up with one or two rockstars that carry themajority of the weight but this usually still results in having more work to bedone than there are capable hands.
Whenit comes to building a great marketing team, the underlying problem you face,is getting them to consistently create engaging content that adds value to youraudience and drives the user to a decision. You may need to change yourapproach, but your team may not be able to handle the change.
Let’s take video for example. You know you shouldbe using video more often in your marketing but there are several barriers tointegrating that into your overall strategy.
1. It costs more money.
2. Your current brand creative may not be where you like it and thereforeyou are having trouble visualizing how to translate yourmessage into video and it be effective.
3. You don’t have the staff to put it together from a skill set standpointor just simply, (there is not enough time) from the standpoint ofhaving enough time in the day. So, it just sits on the back burner, nevergetting pushed up to see how it could really affect your overall reach orengagement.
If you were really honest, you’d probably admitthat it’s a risk for you to try out new marketing ideas without being able toprove they will work. You know that you ultimately need to show an ROI or thatthe money was spent wisely to get approval to start. This is one of the reasonsI see over and over with new clients and it is typically why they arestuck in their growth. I see clients all the time that justwant to get the website launched or the blog post written or the social mediapost published. They spend a lot of time just getting things out of the doorand they are not evaluating new ideas and how it might help themrevise their current outlook on tools, platforms or tactics.
Another example of executive marketers having a lack of capacity is how many timesI see their key social media channels being neglected. I’m not talking aboutposting consistent content. In fact, that’s exactly the opposite of what I’msaying. Most marketers are busy making sure they are posting content when theycould be doing something more effective for their brand or theiraudience. What about having a team member actively present on social,creating conversations and engaging their audience? This could be amuch better use of a team member’s time rather than churning out another pieceof generic content for the blog.
Through some of our brand feedback posts, ourteam discovered big companies like Loft and Advance Auto not paying attentionto the conversation happening online without them. Influencers and raving fanson Instagram are talking about the company’s products and their experiences. Itis met with a void in those conversations from the brand.
Theyhave to remember, social media is a cocktail party. Small groups of peoplestand around talking about their lives.
How amazing would it be if a rep from Loft appeared in your small groupof friends when you were talking about your recent shopping experience? Theyshow up and encourage you saying, “that top looks amazing on you!” It wouldkeep you going for months to hear from the brand itself. Something as small as alike from the brand motivates people more than you can know.
Why is that true? It’s because at the core, people are relational. Itis no different than popping your head in a team member’s office every once ina while and saying, “I think the work you did on the last project was reallygood … keep it up!”
Capacity is a tough nut to crack. I’ve found it takesrethinking strategy and then rethinking what each person is doing with theirtime for maximum engagement on the front lines. Doing great marketing with asmall team is possible. I will talk more about this at the end.
A planof action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
When it comes to a marketing strategy, what keeps you up at night? Moreoften than not, I see executive marketers mostly concerned with two things:
1. Maintaining and growing the image of their brand and 2. MQLs. Beingable to prove they are making an impact to the bottomline in their departmentis of great concern. Is this what you find yourself thinking about?
In large part, you know that you could be doing a lot better, but youstruggle with not knowing how. Your position is not unlike that of a CEO or aCFO and the responsibilities they oversee. You are expected to know how tocircumvent the most pressing hurdles when it comes to your role. But let’s faceit, no one has all the answers, it’s a process of trial and error based onexperience and insights.
When it comes down to it, as a good executive marketer, you are strivingto hit a home run. And with the budget conversation aside, you want to takerisks to hit those home runs. But you are experiencing only base hits. You knowyou have it in you to do more but sometimes it takes an outside perspective tohelp you get there.
Acceptingthat your strategy may not be working –
The problem of growth is always staring you in the face. I think thesingle biggest barrier to a marketer having success is not having the rightquestions to ask about the marketing they are doing. The key to finding aneffective strategy is usually based on the questions that you bring to thetable. The right questions reveal your best next steps.
For example, specifically, if you are trying to increase conversions on alanding page, there are many tactics you could deploy that may or may not fix theissue. But having the right question based on the right context will take youmuch further.
What is the motivation of the user when she lands there? Is what you aresaying to her impacting her decision? If you were in her shoes, would you careabout what’s being presented or would you click away? Looking at the problemfrom the user’s perspective brings you closer to knowing what words to type,what color to use, where to send them and what to do next.
On a macro level, we did some work with a local communitybank who had to completely change their marketing strategy. They realized theywere getting squeezed out by big banks and credit unions and had to changetheir business model. By closely examining a new marketing approach (which wasspecifically based on the end user), they were able to confirm the new approachto how they provided their solutions. The result meant they weren’t competingwith other banks anymore. They were winning customers on a completelynew premise of banking.
We helped a bank think like a tech company inorder to market themselves to several niche audiences. We stepped up tohelp a national restaurant chain use unproven tactics to win new long termlocal customers. We helped real estate brokers completely reinvent theirdigital marketing to target a referral based sales pipeline vs a direct toconsumer approach and won big.
These strategies were a combination of our external insights and theexecutive marketers we were working with at these companies. Youknow your business and more importantly, your audience. When we come in, webring new questions to spark new conversations about how to reach your audiencein new ways. A good strategy is based on the quality of the questions broughtto the table.
Our Approach to Strategy
Our approach to strategy is value-driven and results oriented, supportedby data and testing. The target audience is the number one priority, then yourbrand messaging and finally building the bridge between the two with campaignfocused messaging and creative to grab their attention and drive them down thefunnel.
How itall comes together – Our Solution
You may think you have a capacity problem or a strategy problem or abudget problem. You may be right about any one of them. However, something Isee a lot is the lack of outside perspective to know which one it is and howthey work together. This is where bringing in an agency can shed some light onnew growth opportunities. Getting insights from an outside team of marketersusually allows an executive marketer to redirect their efforts for moresuccess. Here is a basic framework to use when assessing your marketing forproblems.
Capacity + Results = Need a Bigger Team
If you are at capacity with your team but you are getting results, youshould not have a hard time getting an increase in your budget due to that factthat what you are doing is working. More money and a bigger team should allowyou to do more of what you are doing. In that case, looking at an agency tohandle these capacity issues can be an affordable and efficient option. Thebiggest value an agency brings to the table is the ability to hit the groundrunning with a breadth of knowledge that will compliment your team’s efforts.
Capacity – Results = Need a Better Strategy
If you are at capacity and not seeing the desired results, you may need anew strategy. Taking a fresh look at what you are doing can sometimes solvecapacity issues. Changing the tasks you are working on may have a greaterimpact without needing to expand your team.
When you improve your strategy, typically your team capacity will beimproved to some degree and most of the time your budget becomes less of anissue. However, there are times when an improved strategy means more time fromyour team and more money from your budget. This is simply the calculated riskneeded to make the necessary changes for growth and to find what works for thisseason of your organization.
Minimal Budget + Good Strategy = Success
Beyond the obvious issue of getting your leadership to commit a sizablebudget to your marketing department, I’ve seen organizations work with a smallbudget and make big impact. But, it always comes back to strategy.
Understanding what your audience wants and how your brand can deliver,then crafting a message that has impact, is key to solving myriad of problems.If you know where to reach your audience and what to say to get them engaged,you can make a little money go a lot further with a much smaller team until youstart having success and want to multiply your results.
Did any of these ideas resonate with you? Ifso, would it make sense to connect for 15 minutes and talk through which ofthese areas you think may be your biggest concern?
Either way, I wish you all the best in your marketing endeavors.
Lee Murray | Founder/Marketer