Competing Without Instruments – It’s Possible, But Not Recommended

As I’ve written before, one of the ways that B2B marketing is similar to endurance sports is that both are relentlessly focused on metrics. We track every aspect of on-line marketing efforts in order to prove marketing contribution and ROI. Data such as total visits, new sessions, channel specific metrics, bounce rate, total conversions, and lead-to-close ratio give us B2B marketers an accurate view of our efforts and success. Triathletes have the same instincts. We track our heart rate, power output, and cadence as the key inputs, and speed (of course) as the key output. Well, what would happen in  a world in which we were competing without instruments?

Competing Without Instruments at the Patriot 70.3

Yesterday was my annual race at the Patriot Half triathlon. Since its inception in 2007, I’ve missed the race only once, and it always proves to be a lot of fun. Yesterday’s weather was ideal, so I felt confident even though my spring preparation was not up to standard because of the record snowfall and late New England winter.

Through a combination of oversight on my part, equipment failure, and just plain curiosity, I ended up competing without instruments. First, I found myself engaged in a chatty conversation as the 1.2 mile swim started, so I failed to start my watch. Next, my bicycle computer shut down for good about 1 mile into the 56 mile ride, so I had no idea of my speed. As I got comfortable with the idea of having no data, I simply decided not to start my watch as I began the 13.1 mile run.

What I Learned: It’s Possible, But Not Recommended

Competing without instruments is anathema to triathletes like me. The biggest factor in my overall time is my run. And to have a successful run, I really need to make sure I don’t work too hard on the bike. That was a bit of a challenge yesterday, when I had no indication of my speed. So I rode by feel, using my instinct to determine when I was putting in too much effort.

Truth be told, I actually prefer NOT to know my speed on the run. Having my per-mile pace is great when the run is going well. But when things aren’t, watching my pace get slower and slower only leads to disappointment and a further deceleration. So not starting my watch was no big deal.

race_1323_photo_20778244It turns out that I had a great race. I finished 75 seconds faster than my 2014 results.  My swim was 2 and half minutes faster. My bike was 1 minute faster. I averaged 20.9 miles per hour instead of 20.7 last year. But my run was 80 seconds slower (8:17 minute mile pace instead of 8:11 last year).  I finished 8th of 52 competitors in my age group this year, vs 3rd of 40 last year.  Which leads to another parallel between marketing and triathlon – it’s all about who shows up!

I wouldn’t recommend racing a triathlon without instrumentation, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend marketers to compete without instrumentation. Data is key to results in both areas. What do you think? Have you competed without instrumentation before? What were YOUR results?

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Sales Kick Off Time is Jeopardy Time!

It’s that time of year again! Yes, Super Bowl weekend is only days away, and my New England Patriots are contending once again! We New England folk have left “Deflate-gate” behind, and looking forward to a competitive game and another Patriots win.  But it’s also the time of year for a different kind of kick off – the annual sales kick off. And this year, I came up with an innovative spin, worth of a Bill Belichick eligible receiver tactic.

My company just wrapped up sales kick off, and after celebrating a very successful 2014, we set our sights on this fiscal year. My job includes not only creating the sales enablement kit for the company, but also verifying that the sales teams actually KNOW the content. (For a related topic on designing highly effective sales enablement material, see my post “Beware the Thing of Beauty.”) Rather than presenting to the sales team the key content, which would have taken hours anyway), I used a game of “Jeopardy” to quiz them on their knowledge of the material.

The game was great fun, even after a late night of partying. And it was highly effective at achieving its goal – pointing out where additional study was needed.

8 Steps to Run a Sales Kick Off Jeopardy Game

Here are the eight essential steps to our Sales Kick Off Jeopardy Game. Feel free to innovate, modify and explore for your own purposes.

1. Set the Teams to Generate Competition

Sales people are natural competitors. They love to match up against their peers. And they love to win. We set our Jeopardy teams based on the sales teams’ geographic regions – east, west, federal, and Europe. Since our Customer Services teams are responsible for generating business from existing customers, we also had them compete as well. And we set all of these teams against a team of Pre-sales engineers, generally regarded throughout the company as masters of the product. Early input from the Vegas odds-makers had the Pre-Sales team as the heavy favorites.

2. Use a Live Studio Audience to Raise the Pressure

audienceWe held our game in front of the whole company, and we promoted it as such in advance. The sales teams knew that their answers would be seen and heard by the management team, the engineers, the customer support staff, etc. Everyone in the company. So there was incentive to review the content to avoid embarrassment.

3. No Hidden Agendas – Publish and Promote the Source Material

We built our questions only on material that the sales teams had all previously received and which they had ready access to. There was no hidden agenda, or content based on “tribal knowledge.”

4. We’re All in the Same Boat – Every Team Member Must Answer

shutterstock_38366425Each of teams was comprised of six team members, and we charged team members with ensuring that every team member answered at least one question. That way, no team could rely on their “ace” – the heavy hitter who knows the answer to everything. After all, the goal of any sales enablement effort is to ensure the WHOLE sales team is highly effective at uncovering customer pain points and differentiating your product.

5. Include New Hires to Set the Bar High

We’ve added additional sales staff over the past few weeks to continue our growth. Even the team members who have been with our company for only a few weeks had to play.  No one got a “bye,” although new hires did have option to use a “lifeline” to ask someone in the audience (not on their team) to answer the question for them. This had the added benefit of emphasizing the need for everyone in the company to be familiar with our positioning.

6. Base the Content on Your Selling Priorities

We chose the categories and the questions themselves based on our most likely selling scenarios and the biggest selling opportunities for 2014. We had two categories of questions that had to do with differentiating our product from those in related market segments. And we had two categories of questions on mobility and one on virtualization, since those represent large growth drivers for the company.

7. Make it Fun

We found funny-sounding buzzers for each team to use, based on farm animal sounds and noises that emanate from the human body. This helped to keep the scene pretty light.

8. End on a High Note

We scheduled the game at the very end of the sales kick off meeting. It was a high energy, fun way to end the session. And before we handed out the trophies (to the Pre-sales team, as expected), we emphasized the importance of studying the content. After all, the whole purpose of the game was to set ourselves up for another successful year.

What’s Your Sales Kick Off Strategy?

Our Jeopardy game approached worked so well. The feedback was amazing, even from the sales teams who didn’t perform well. The management team loved the approach, and we’re already planning follow-up sessions. What’s your sales kick off strategy for emphasizing sales enablement?  Share your ideas. I’d love to hear them.

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Patriot 2014 Still Life

Year End Roundup – Top 10 Posts of 2014

2014 has been a great year! A successful racing season. A great new job (well not so new any more). And some inspiring endurance events, near and far. With the end of the year right around the corner, it’s a perfect time to review the Top 10 Posts of 2014. Here they are, in reverse order.

10. Structured Learning in Career Transition

Tri bike InTransitionSince my new job as Chief Product Evangelist at Aternity has driven so much of this year’s activities, this is the blog to begin my list. A career transition is not like a triathlon transition. I found the advice in Michael Watkins’ book The First 90 Days to be extremely useful. Definitely worth a read.

9. Career Check-in at the Two Thirds Point – Heartbreak Hill

tf90d-book-coverThe clear follow-on to the first blog on the list provides 16 tips for the new exec to cover as he or she accelerates the ramp-up period to catch up with other members of the executive team in the first 90 days.  Just like in the Boston Marathon, where leaders are often caught at Heartbreak Hill. This blog provides more guidance from Watkins’ book.

8. Benefits of a Positioning Statement

At Aternity, one of my first contributions was to lead the executive team through a positioning statement exercise for the various markets we serve. We returned to this work over and over in the subsequent months. This blog covers a template for a positioning statement and the benefits for working through the exercise.

7. Creativity & Analytics – the Biathlon CMO

biathlon ski-79564_640Next up is a discussion of the two characteristics of successful marketing executives – creativity and analytics. Two completely different skills, like the aerobic and sharp-shooting expertise needed by biathletes. Just like in the sport, individuals tend to have natural strength in 1 of the 2 areas. Developing the area requires work.


6. Sometimes Metrics Don’t Matter

Cycling Crash John Kershner ShutterstockI know it seems to fly in the face of the previous topic, but sometimes having all of the B2B sales and marketing metrics at your fingertips doesn’t lead to a successful outcome. This post was inspired by the carnage at this year’s Tour de France, in which so many of the favorites crashed out. Chris Froome. Alberto Contador. Mark Cavendish.

5. Marketing & Strategic Alliances – Like Doubles Luge

As a small company serving enterprise customers who are deploying mobile as a component of their strategy, my company works closely with the leading Enterprise Mobility Management vendors, like Citrix, Good, and MobileIron. A big part of my job has been to articulate the value proposition of our joint solutions to our mutual customers.double_luge021110

In that way, my marketing efforts become an extension of our strategic alliance initiatives. And our strategic partnerships become an important route to market for our products and messaging. Marketing & Strategic Alliances – like doubles luge, except for the speed and the uncomfortable body positions.

4. Beware the Thing of Beauty – Drive up Acceptance

Next on the list is an equation that will help you ensure effective sales enablement tools. This blog covers a key equation, E=QxA, that says that the effectiveness (E) of any tool or program depends on both its quality (Q) and its acceptance (A) by your intended audience. For example, It does no good to produce a ROI calculator that covers every customer scenario,  but is too complex for the sales team to actually use.

3. Marketing Tips from Rowing: Cadence & Power

Boys in the BoatInspired by reading “The Boys in the Boat,” I realized that cadence and power impact the effectiveness of marketing programs, just as they determine the speed of a boat. Since October is also when the Head of the Charles Regatta occurs, this blog, and its companion contain examples of how to use frequency and power to drive marketing results.

2. Make Content Generation a Team Sport

TrackRelayHandoffBuilding a cross-functional team of social media contributors has been one of the highlights of my first year. As this blog suggests, making it easy for others to contribute compelling blogs, videos, and other social media efforts, is the key to generating compelling content. We now have a team of pre-sales, product management, and customer service team members who are regular contributors to our efforts. And with all of the great content being generated, we’ve now launched a fancy new company blog.

1. Racing Season – Time to Deliver Results

Patriot 2014 Run

Well, there really is no contest for determining the top blog of 2014. This blog covers my successful 3rd place finish in my age group at the Patriot Half Triathlon, while relating the swim, bike, and run legs to B2B marketing. I registered for the 2015 Patriot Half race on the very day that registration opened. It will be tough to duplicate last year’s results, but I’m sure planning to give it a try!

I hope your year was successful too! And I look forward to another exciting year in 2015. Thanks much for reading and commenting!

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Brand Alignment: Tata Delivers NYC Marathon Analytics – 10 Facts

Admit it! You rolled your eyes in October 2013, when the New York Road Runners announced Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as the new title sponsor of the New York City Marathon. No? At least admit you furrowed your brow. Or whatever you do to express wonder at the marketing process led up to THAT brand alignment decision.

I will admit it that I was confused. TCS is a $13.4B global IT services provider based in Mumbai India, with 300,000 employees in 46 countries.  Part of the Tata conglomerate, TCS competes with other Indian IT service providers, like HCL and Infosys. TCS offers IT services that range from application development, to business process outsourcing, and IT Infrastructure Services.  When it comes to brand alignment, TCS’s targets are large enterprises, not consumers. And endurance sports? Nothing to do with them at all.

Brand Alignment Examples That Make Marathon Sense

26 companies have sponsorship deals with the NYRR for the NYC Marathon. For many of them, the sponsorship seems to make more sense when it comes to brand alignment. They target consumers, not corporations.

50,000 runners will finish the race. Most of them from out of town. They can fly United and find a place to stay with Airbnb.

Of course, they need running gear. They can run on Asics, or shop Foot Locker for additional brands.

Brand alignment for companies that help fuel the runners CAN also produce some eye-rolling and brow-furrowing.

CoorslightRunners can stay hydrated with Gatorade, good old water from Poland Spring, or Coors Light? Well, it is a sporting event. And if it’s light beer, it must be good for you, right?

They can refuel with PowerBar, Snyder’s pretzels, or Dunkin’ Donuts?  Not the traditional training food, but it’s true that “American Runs on Dunkin.” Dunkin

 Analytics – Where Tata’s Brand Alignment Makes Perfect Sense

So, there I was, trying to make sense of this sponsorship decision, when I came across the “Analytics” section of the NYC Marathon website.  It’s easy to overlook, WAY over on the far right of the tool bar, but it is a veritable gold mine for endurance athletes like me who love to analyze data.NYCMar1And of course, it’s the data analytics that represent TCS’s core competency, and value proposition to the US enterprise market. Sponsoring the NYC Marathon enables TCS  to highlight its capabilities in new, growth driving markets like mobility, cloud, big data analytics, and social computing.

Ten Amazingly Cool Facts from Tata’s NYC Marathon Analytics

I could spend hours looking at the data in this section of the NYC Marathon website.  TCS has analyzed data from all of the NYC Marathon finishers from the race’s start in 1970 through today. The data is organized by gender, age group, and home country, and is presented in five different categories. Here are my favorite 10 facts, organized by category.

All-Time Participation

1. The Sandy Effect

winter-storm-58025_12802013 saw a spike of about 2,500 US runners, with a corresponding decrease in non-US runners. This effect is likely due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy which  caused the cancellation of the 2012 race . The controversy around the last minute decision to cancel the race may have led Dutch financial firm ING to decline to renew its sponsorship.

2. Women Runners are on a Roll

In 2013, 40% of the finishers were women, up from zero in 1970. Of course, Kathrine Switzer broke the marathon gender barrier in the 1967 Boston Marathon with her famous tousle with Jock Semple, and won the 1974 NYC Marathon.

3. Women 18-29 Out-finish Men

For the last two races, more women than men finished the race in the 18-29 year old category.  Maybe the guys are drinking too much Coors Light and eating too many donuts.


Participation Trends

4. Most People Run Four Hours

For 2010-2013, 3:59 was the statistical mode finishing time. More people finished in that time than any other.  And this is true for every age category up to 60-69! I can only hope to run a 3:59 marathon when I hit 60!


5. Watch Out for a Speedy 80 Year Old!

One of the 3:59 finishers in 2010-2013 was in the 80+ category!

6. Most People Have ALWAYS Run Four Hours

Just under 4 hours was the most frequent finishing time for every decade since the race started, except for the 1st decade, when 3:28 was the mode. It’s more fun to blame the beer and donut effect, but this is due to the increasing participation in marathon by recreational runners.

7. NYC Marathon Fever Never Strikes the Same Place Twice

In every decade, a different country has led the highest increase in number of finishers from outside the US.  In the 80s, it was France. In the 90s, it was the UK (which also led in the 1970s). From 2000 to 2009, Italy led. And Australia has led for the last 3 races. Since this is a measure of increase in number of finishers, as opposed to the gross number of finishers, my interpretation is that runners from outside the US return year after year.

First Time NYC Marathoners

8. “One and Done?”

Since the 1st decade, the % of veteran runners has continually decreased from 31% in 1980-89 to 22% in the 2010-13. This means either that new runners continue to flock to the sport, or that few recreational runners who run NYC once have the desire to do it again.

9. Never Too Old to Run

41% of the 70-79 age group runners in 2010-13 were 1st timers!


Age Graded Performance

This section is perhaps the most interesting section.  Age grading, as described by Runner’s World, allows runners to correct for gender and age in order to provide a comparison.

10. Hang on for Dear Life!

The data from the 2010-2013 races shows that negatively splitting the marathon is extremely rare. Only 5.2% of runners ran the 2nd half of the marathon faster than the 1st half. And the data shows that more elite runners are less likely to do it. This shows that more experienced runners save nothing for the end of the race. They set their pace and then hang on through the finish line.


 Branding Alignment After All

So, on further review, TCS’s sponsorship of the NYC Marathon does make good sense from a branding alignment perspective. The “Analytics” section not only provides really interesting information for data nuts like me, but also aligns well to TCS’s new growth drivers in cloud, mobility, and big data analytics. With the increasing popularity of Fitbit and other personal mobile devices, we’ll soon be able to track the field in real-time. More analytics to come!

Let me know what you think. Check out the Analytics section yourself, and let me know your favorite data set!





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Marketing Tips from Rowing

Marketing Tips from Rowing, Part 2 – Cadence

Well, they did it! And it was sure fun to watch! As I mentioned in Part 1 of Marketing Tips from Rowing, last weekend was the Head of the Charles Regatta here in the Boston area. Sure enough, the Cambridge Boat Club not only defended their title and won the Men’s Senior Master Fours, but finished only .3 seconds off the course record they set in 2013! Riding my bike on the closed streets along the Charles River, I could see them gradually opening up a lead on the other boats.  Although I wasn’t quite close enough to hear their coxswain call the cadence, I’m sure that, at some point, she called for “Ten Big Ones” of extra effort, as they stroked to victory.

Power Last Week, Cadence This Week

In my first Marketing Tips from Rowing post,  I equated rowing with B2B marketing by focusing on power and cadence as the key drivers of effectiveness for both. A boat’s speed depends on how powerfully the rowers pull the oars, and the rate at which they do so.

Similarly, power and cadence can also be considered the two major drivers of an effective B2B marketing strategy.  Last week I covered power – how the power of a marketing program depends on how precisely the messaging and selling efforts engage the target buyer. This week’s Marketing Tips from Rowing post will cover cadence – the frequency of activities relating to awareness, demand generation, and sales enablement.

Marketing Cadence: 5 Tips to Finish Off “10 Big Ones”

Boys in the BoatLast week I also mentioned the powerful impact of Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat,” the story of the background of the members of the American rowers who won the gold in the Mens Eights in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

When extra effort was needed, the coxswain would call out, “Give me 10 big ones!” The rowers would respond with extra effort over ten strokes.  Here, then, are five tips that relate to cadence that will drive your B2B marketing effort forward.

1. Blogging Cadence

B2B marketers realize the importance of blogging as part of an inbound marketing strategy. Reaching your intended audience with compelling, useful information is a key way to drive them into, and through the inbound buying cycle.  The question is around cadence. How often should a company blog in order to maximize the impact on inbound traffic?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHubspot has published some great data on exactly this question. Check out the charts in the Hubspot post covering the impact of blogging frequency on website traffic.  The key data point is that companies that blog 15 times or month get 5 times as much website traffic as those that don’t blog at all. So, the answer, like in rowing, is that higher cadence drives better results.  But, also like rowing, the caveat is that cadence must not come at the expense of power. Just like fast sloppy strokes won’t make a fast boat, content must be of high quality in order to be effective.

Of course, the follow up question is how does a B2B marketer build a team to help develop that volume of blogs?  I covered that topic in a recent post called “Content Generation is a Team Sport.”

2. Refresh Customer Data to Validate Your Value Proposition

A key sales enablement initiative for any B2B marketer is to arm his or her sales colleagues with messaging and supporting data that will help drive buyers through the buying cycle.

Challenger Sale book coverIn past posts, I’ve written about my experience implementing the Challenger Sale  sales methodology.  One key to this approach is to identify and leverage a commercial insight. The commercial insight is the content, based on your product’s unique advantages, that sales uses to uncover a previously unknown problem in the current way the customer does business.   The commercial insight disrupts how the customer thinks about her business,  and ultimately leads to your product as the unique solution to the problem.

Whether you use Challenger Sale methodology or not, value propositions must be supported with actual customer data. Real results that customers have achieved using your product, that validate your unique advantages. Marketing messages are just words. Numbers add compelling context. Like Quality Guru W. Edwards Deming once said, “In God we trust. All others bring data.”

Ideally, you’ll gather supporting data for all of the key vertical markets you sell to, and in all of the geographic regions in which you sell.  You’ll have numbers that support each of the key use cases your product addresses.  You’ll put this into a searchable database that your marketing and sales team can access. And most importantly, you must continually add to the data set. I’ve found that the right cadence is quarterly updates for new case studies.

3. Reboot the Mission – Monthly

Along with your company’s moral, or core beliefs, your company’s mission statement is key to articulating your company’s business goals and differentiation. Your mission is  directly connected to your value proposition and competitive advantages.  Revisit these high level points with your marketing and sales teams frequently, at least monthly, so they remain top of mind.

4. Frequency of Touches – More is Better

There’s healthy debate as to whether or not it’s still relevant to discuss the number of touches required to convert a prospect into a qualified lead. In the world of inbound marketing, when most buyers are well educated about how to solve their problem even before sales engages, some inbound marketers believe that focusing on the number of touches no longer applies.  Others suggest that marketers should plan on between 7 and 13 touches to deliver a sales qualified lead. No matter what you believe, it’s important to keep up the cadence of interaction with your target buyers by providing them compelling content that educates them on the problems your solution addresses.

5. Check Your Splits – Weekly

stop-watch-396862_1280As the Cambridge Boat Club Men’s Senior Master Four pulled along-side the boat house after their win, I noticed their coxswain pull a packet of information out of her jacket  pocket. I learned that she carrier along with her the boat’s splits from the previous year’s race, so that she could compare their performance this year to their record-setting pace from last year.

Similarly, B2B marketers should compare metrics for actual attainment vs. plan, at least weekly, to track progress toward monthly, quarterly, and annual goals.  This allows for early course correction if the trends aren’t going in the right direction. Or identification of particularly effective tactics that can be repeated for additional success.

What Are Your “10 Big Ones?”

So, there you have it.  Marketing tips from rowing, brought to you by the Head of the Charles Regatta. 5 tips for marketing cadence here. And 5 tips for marketing power in the last post.  Tell me what you think regarding either one. Do you have other best practices for getting more power, cadence, or overall speed?


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Content creation is team effort

Marketing Tips from Rowing: “Give Me 10 Big Ones!” Part I

I have rowing on my mind these days. October brings the Head of the Charles Regatta to the Boston area.  My good friend and training buddy, Greg, rows for the Cambridge Boat Club Senior Master Fours, who are defending champions and course record holders.  Boys in the BoatI’ve also been riveted by “The Boys in the Boat,” Daniel James Brown’s story of the American rowers who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book not only covers the backgrounds of the University of Washington rowers as they struggle through their ruthless training regimen, but it also provides the historical context of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and, of course, the rise of Hitler.

What does rowing have to do with B2B marketing? You’re right to be skeptical, but it turns out that the factors that drive a fast boat also drive an effective B2B marketing program.

Power and Cadence:  Keys to a Fast Boat, and Effective Marketing

Moving an eight-oared boat through the water requires a complex choreography of physical effort and coordination. But the simple fact is that a boat’s speed depends on two factors: how powerfully the rowers pull the oars in the drive phase of the stroke, and the rate at which they do so.  A rower’s power depends on how accurately he sets his oar blade in the water at the “catch,” and how precisely he engages his legs, back, and arms to pull it through during the “drive.” Cadence is driven by the number of strokes per minute. Stronger pulls and more strokes per minute mean more speed.

The coxswain sets the power and cadence of the boat
The coxswain sets the power and cadence of the boat

It is the coxswain’s job to watch the competition and set the race strategy by dictating the power and cadence for the rowers.

Power and cadence can also be considered the two major drivers of an effective B2B marketing strategy. Just as the power of the stroke is driven by the accuracy and strength of the oar blade’s engagement with the water, the power of a marketing program depends on how precisely the messaging and selling efforts engage the target buyer. Cadence of a marketing program is set not by strokes per minute, but the frequency of activities relating to awareness, demand generation, and enablement. Just like a winning boat, a successful marketing program must have the right combination of power and cadence.

Driving Forward:  “Give Me Ten Big Ones!”

The 1936 US Olympic eight achieved its success by waiting until the last possible moment in races to drive up the stroke rate. Because of their conditioning, the team could maintain contact with their competition at a high power and moderate stroke rate, then raise the cadence in the final moments of a race and break away to the finish line.

Occasionally, the coxswain called for the rowers to increase their power for a fixed number of strokes in order to stay within striking range of their competition. Hearing “Give me ten big ones,” the rowers applied extra strength for ten strokes while maintaining a set cadence, thus vaulting the boat forward.  Here are the “Ten Big Ones” that relate B2B marketing to rowing, under the headings of power and cadence.

Marketing Power: Engaging the Buyer

shutterstock_38366425Just like a rower applies power through the rowing cycle, from catch, to drive, to recovery, the power of a marketing program is driven by the engagement with the target buyer through the buying cycle.  Many factors impact marketing program power, but here are the five with which I’ve had the most success.

1. Identify Your Moral, then Leverage It

My company has been lucky enough to work with Small Army, self-described story-tellers masquerading as an advertising agency. The Small Army team has helped us articulate our moral, or core beliefs, and leverage them in our awareness, demand generation, and enablement materials. Since so much marketing language sounds the same, core beliefs can often be a company’s key differentiation.

2. Focus Relentlessly on Target Buyer Personas

Buyer Personas help you get the most out of your marketing programs by focusing on the demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals of your key prospects. Your marketing program will deliver more power by crisply articulating the problems your prospects have, their objectives in solving the problem, where they go and the experience they want in seeking solutions, and their common objections.

3. Develop a Compelling Commercial Insight

In a previous post on the Challenger Sale Methodology, I discussed the importance of developing a compelling  Challenger Sale commercial insight. “A compelling, defensible perspective from a supplier that materially impacts  a customer’s performance and directly leads back to their unique capabilities.”  The commercial insight is the content, based on your product’s unique advantages,  that sales uses to uncover a previously unknown problem in the current way the customer does business.   The commercial insight disrupts how the customer thinks about her business,  and ultimately leads to your product as the unique solution to the problem.

Identifying the Commercial Insight truly takes a team, as I discussed in the earlier post. Engage your colleagues in sales, pre-sales, product management, and support to be sure you have it nailed.

4. Quantify the Business Benefit

In addition to having a laser focus on your target buyer and a compelling, unique value proposition, you need to have numbers. Words can be confusing, generic, and nuanced, but numbers don’t lie. On a rowing erg, average wattage shows exactly what the output of a rower is. Similarly, prospects want to know what business benefits can be achieved using your solution. Increased revenue. Better customer satisfaction. Faster customer service time. Lower operational cost. Fewer problems. Like average wattage, these are the metrics that matter.

Marketers need these metrics for all of the vertical markets they serve, and for all of their key solution areas. Maintain a database that can be searched by geography, vertical market, and problem area, and maintain it over time, so it continually grows. Nothing is more compelling to a prospect than a story of how someone just like them, in the same industry, addressing a similar problem, achieved a significant, quantifiable business benefit.

5. Move Forward Faster with Effective CTAs

Just before a rower’s oar blade exits the water to begin the recovery and set-up for the next stroke, she applies a strong “finish” to get every last bit of propulsion out of her effort. A strong finish is needed to deliver the maximum benefit of the preceding stroke.

Similarly, a strong Call to Action is needed to maximize the benefit of a web page, or call campaign, or sales presentation. Delivering compelling CTAs will enable marketers to successfully drive their prospects through to the next stage in the buying cycle.

Next Up:  Marketing Cadence

This post covers the first category of marketing tips from rowing – power. The next post will cover cadence. I’ll wait for the completion of the Head of the Charles Regatta for that. I may just finish “The Boys in the Boat” by then too. In the mean time, please tell me what you think.



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Beware the Thing of Beauty – Remember E=QxA

Beware the Thing of Beauty. That’s one thing I have learned the hard way in my years as a B2B marketer.  Like the Sirens, with their beautiful voices, luring sailors to their deaths in the shallow waters and rocky coasts of their islands, the Thing of Beauty can lead the unwary B2B marketer off course.  Oh, you think you haven’t encountered the Thing of Beauty?

Tell the truth. As a B2B marketer, have you ever rolled out a program, or a sales enablement tool, like a presentation or an ROI calculator, that was so incredibly well-thought, detailed, and thorough, only to have it fail in the field, for no apparent reason? I sure have, and I bet you have too. How could that be? Well, I’ll share with you my experience, and the key equation that will arm you against the allures of the Thing of Beauty.

The Enchantment of the Thing of Beauty

The problem we B2B marketers can have is that we get enchanted by complexity. fractal-429034_1280If we’re not careful, we design programs or build presentations and ROI calculators that address any potential sales scenario, or use case. Encouraged to be thoughtful, deep thinkers, we can respond with content, collateral, and programs that ensure any corner case is well-covered. That’s how we avoid pitfalls, isn’t it? We wrestle all of these issues to the ground, and produce a deliverable that addresses any possible scenario. This output can only be described as a Thing of Beauty because of its comprehensiveness.

After spending days or even weeks designing our Thing of Beauty, we roll it out to the field, or to the rest of the organization. Then, like Captain Renault in Casablanca, upon discovering that gambling takes place in the cafe, we’re shocked, shocked, that our Thing of Beauty doesn’t succeed. How could that be? There is no doubt about the quality of our deliverable. What could have happened?

E=QxA – The Equation that Arms You Against the Thing of Beauty

The error we make is that we equate the quality of our deliverable with its effectiveness. We believe that if our deliverable is of high quality, then it will be highly effective. Even further, we believe that the higher the quality of our deliverable, the MORE useful it will be. Putting this understanding into an equation, we can say that we believe that the Effectiveness (E) of any program or deliverable is equal to (or proportional to) the Quality (Q) of that program or deliverable.

In fact, thinking this way is dead wrong, because it fails to account for a key variable.

The Equation that is the Antidote to the Thing of Beauty
The Equation that is the antidote to the Thing of Beauty

Effectiveness (E) is not equal to, or proportional to just Quality (Q).  The Effectiveness of any program or deliverable certainly depends on the Quality, but it also depends on the Acceptance (A) of that program or deliverable by the intended audience.  The equation that will keep you safe from the allures of the Thing of Beauty is E=QxA.

Effectiveness = Quality x Acceptance

Acceptance drives Effectiveness as much as Quality does
Acceptance drives Effectiveness as much as Quality does

Acceptance is as important a factor in determining the effectiveness of a deliverable as is Quality.  The sales team won’t use your presentation if speaking to the slides requires memorizing too many non-intuitive notes.  The pre-sales teams won’t use your ROI calculator if it requires updating an Excel file on the fly, in front of a customer, with the inherent risks of obtaining an incorrect outcome.  Your business plan template, although beautiful in its format and comprehensive coverage of every possible partnership component, won’t be used if it takes your business development team weeks to fill out.  Take it from me. I know. Each of these is a real example of a way I fell under the spell of a Thing of Beauty.

To be effective, you have to produce deliverables that have high Acceptance.  If your teams accept them, they’ll be used, and they’ll help you achieve your goals. If they don’t, they’ll be wonderful Things of Beauty for you to admire alone, as they park on your bookshelf or hang on your wall. Wonderful for you to admire.  Useless for the business.

Remember Acceptance.  Design your deliverables with high quality, but make sure they aren’t so complex that your audience can’t use them. Simplicity may be better if it means higher Acceptance. Sure, maybe you can’t cover ALL of the use cases, but if you can cover the 80% that the field encounters on a regular basis, then you’ll be more effective.

What about you? Have you fallen for the Siren song of the Thing of Beauty? How do you arm yourself against it happening again?  Please let me know what you think.

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Rugby washington-80382_640

Content Generation is a Team Sport – Make the Hand-offs Easy

We all know the importance of generating compelling content for social media efforts.  If you’re a B2B marketer, content generation is a major part of your job, whether it is creating or promoting content like blogs, videos, and podcasts.  But knowing that it’s a major part of your job doesn’t mean it’s ONLY your job.

There’s no way you can do it yourself.  Michael Johnson  won gold in both the 200m and 400m at the Atlanta Olympics, and still owns the 400m world record (43.18). But even with those golden spikes, Michael’s time doesn’t come close to the women’s 4x100m world record time (40.82) set by the US at the London Olympics.  To really succeed in content generation, you have to make it a true team sport in your organization.

TrackRelayHandoff 2But, even if you get the right people on your team, you have to make it easy for them to generate content.  Every member of your team will have their “day job,” and content generation can easily take a back seat, no matter how good their intentions. Just like a relay team needs smooth hand-offs between runners to succeed, your content generation team needs an easy way to support the efforts.

In my current role, I’ve started a cross-functional content generation team, and wanted to share my approach for making it easy.  See the short presentation here.

Six Tips for a Smooth  Content Generation Hand-off

Here are the top six tips from my approach.

1.  Align Your Team to the Audience They Know

The main goal of content generation is to provide information that your target audience will find useful.  To make it easy for your team, get them aligned to the audience they know best. Your technical colleagues will be comfortable discussing technical topics, like how to get the most out of your product’s features, or how to address tricky real-world problems. Your customer support team member will find it easy to discuss the top Frequently Asked Questions that he or she hears on a regular basis.

2. Build a Three-Step Template

Not everyone is a natural writer (Part I).  We all know that getting started is often the hardest part of writing.  Make it easy on your team members by creating a template for other teams to follow that will guide them to the compelling content your target audience expects. Give them no more than three steps to follow to pull together the information you know your target audience will devour.

3. Do the Writing Yourself

pen and paperDid I say that not everyone is a natural writer?  I thought I did. Even with a template, your team members may still struggle to get something written. The solution to that problem is staring at you in the mirror. Pick up the pen yourself and interview them. Have your team do the work to gather the information in your templates, the appropriate product dashboards or screen shots.  Then, sit down with them and talk through it. You’ll have to write it, but it will likely be faster than endlessly prompting them to do something that doesn’t come naturally.

4. Set Achievable Goals, then Measure!

Like everything else, having a written target for content generation will help your team focus. Make the goal SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely), get buy-in from yoru team, and then measure attainment.

5. Commit to Fast Edit Cycles

There’s nothing more painful than endless edit cycles when trying to get content out the door. With discipline and focus, you can create a seven-day review cycle.  Delivering fast results will help you motivate your team to keep up their efforts.

6. Share the Recognition

Although we as B2B marketers are responsible for driving the social media and content generation effort, we’ll get a lot more willing participation by sharing the recognition among all of the contributors. Recognition motivates people, especially those who are not natural writers.

Give this approach a try and tell me what you think. And please let me know if you have other ideas for getting a team involved in content generation!

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Cycling Crash John Kershner Shutterstock

Sometimes, B2B Marketing and Sales Metrics Don’t Matter

Is it blasphemy to say that B2B marketing and sales metrics don’t matter?  Almost as blasphemous as saying that last year’s Tour de France winner and overall favorite, Chris Froome, will not only fail to repeat, but will crash on stage 4 and abandon the race on Stage 5. Or that two-time past winner Alberto Contador will also abandon the race on Stage 10. Or that Mark Cavendish, winner of 25 Tour de France stages (3rd all time), will be forced to withdraw in the very first stage, not only on UK soil, but in the birth place of his mother.  Are these poor outcomes the result of improper preparation, or just plain bad luck?

It’s common knowledge that having marketing and sales processes that are well defined and aligned routinely leads to successful results. Build an effective demand generation, lead conversion, and sales prosecution machine, and instrument it with the right marketing and sales metrics, then manage that machine to your quarterly and annual targets.  It’s really a science.

B2B marketing is now known as much for its analytical side as it is for its creative side.  A variety of great sources address B2B marketing and sales metrics, including Hubspot, Sales Benchmark Index, and Heinz Marketing. You have to know the average sales price for your products and market segments.  You have to know the conversion rates throughout the marketing process from inquiry to marketing qualified lead, to sales qualified lead, and to prospect.  Your have to build a disciplined sales process with well-defined outcomes to provide visibility at each stage.  (See my post on using your ears to get better pipeline visibility.)

It’s not that different than the training regimen followed by professional cyclists getting ready for the Tour de France.  Build endurance by putting in the right miles.  Develop the power necessary to break away in the final meters of the stage.  Establish the right team strategy throughout the race and during each stage to get your team leader onto the podium. Follow the right nutrition plan and get enough rest. Metrics and analytics, not to mention external monitoring, accompany every phase of the training process.

Like the carnage at this year’s Tour de France, the difference between making the quarter and not doing so sometimes comes down to luck.  You can instrument each stage of the B2B marketing and sales process with the right metrics, and expect to meet your quarterly numbers with just a week to go.  Then, something unexpected arises and a handful of critical deals get delayed. Your quarter is blown.

Just like Mark Cavendish suffering an unfortunate bump in the final meters of the opening stage, crashing, and dislocating his collarbone. Or Chris Froome crashing minutes into Stage 4, then again on Stage 5 in the rain, even before the cobblestones. Or Alberto Contador withdrawing mid-way through the climbs of Stage 10.

Sometimes the metrics don’t matter. Luck plays a major role.  What do you think? How has luck helped or hurt your business?  Let me know!

(Photo credit John Kershner Shutterstock)


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Patriot 2014 Still Life

Racing Season is Here – Time to Deliver Results!

It’s my favorite time of year again – triathlon racing season!  Time to deliver results for all of the hard training time invested over the past year.  Time to compare my performance to not only other racers, but also to my performance in years past.  Time to determine whether I hit my goals for the year, or came up short.  And to analyze what I can do better for the future. To deliver results in the three disciplines of triathlon is a lot like delivering results in the three disciplines of B2B marketing.  There are skills that are common across swimming, cycling, and running, like building a strong aerobic base, just as there are skills that are common across awareness, demand generation, and sales enablement, like having a strong positioning statement.  There are also capabilities that are unique to each individual area, in both triathlon, and B2B marketing.

3rd place podium finish
3rd place podium finish at the 2014 Patriot Half

Last week I competed for the 7th year in the Patriot Half Triathlon, in East Freetown, MA.  Voted “Best Small Race” by New England triathletes, the race consists of a 1.2 mile swim in Long Pond, a 56 mile bike through the rolling hills, cranberry bogs, and local ponds, and a 13.1 mile run with 3 nasty hills.  I had a great race, beating my goal time, and finishing third in my age group.  In this post, I’ll analyze my result by leg, and point to additional posts that relate B2B marketing to swimming, cycling, and running.

Top 5 Lessons from the Top 5 Finishers

A few things are apparent by looking at the top 5 finishers in my age group.

Top 5 finishers, men 50-54
Top 5 finishers, men 50-54
  1. The winner of my age group finished 4th in the whole race!  Unbelievable!
  2. There’s a big time separation between the top 2 finishers and the rest of us.  It’s darn hard to break 5 hours in this race!
  3.  Big gains happen out of the water.  The swim is the shortest leg, so it’s easy to make up any lost time on the bike and the run.  Just compare my results to the 2nd place finisher to see this.
  4.  It all comes down to the run.  Having a fast bike leg, but leaving no energy for the run can be devastating.  This is most apparent when comparing my results to the 4th place finisher.
  5.  It can pay to be a fast swimmer.  Sometimes the swim proves to be the difference in finishing position. See this by comparing my results to the #5 finisher.

B2B Marketing and the Swim Leg

Ironman, triathlonNormally, races begin with a mass start of 40-50 athletes within a cohort.  The starting gun goes off, and swimmers jockey for position at the front of the pack, each seeking the best line to the first buoy.  If you’re not a strong swimmer, it can be scary, and dangerous.  Swimming isn’t known as a contact sport, but in triathlon it is.   Arms get tangled.  Faces get kicked.  Bodies get trampled. Patriot 2014 Swim

The swim start of this year’s race was done much differently than in any other race.  We were sent off in threes, every 10 seconds, in a time trial start.  The start was so civilized!  No massive scrum.  No crawling over bodies.  With less pressure to sprint out in front of the main pack, I had a swim leg that was a minute or so slower than usual, but a much more enjoyable experience.   For posts on how B2B Marketing relates to swimming, check out my post on the 4Ps of the Marketing Mix.

Cycling and B2B Marketing

Patriot 2014 BikeOver the past several years, my biggest struggle in triathlon is determining how hard to push on the bike leg.  Push too hard, and my legs are jelly when it comes to the run.  Walking tends not to have a good impact on one’s finishing time.  Go too slow, and I give up valuable time.  I’ve never found the right balance of speed and energy conservation.

Until this year.  This year’s bike leg was effortlessly fast.  I’m not quite sure why.  Spring weather wasn’t conducive to a lot of long rides, and I did fewer outside miles this year than any past year.  For whatever the reason, I averaged 20.7 mph on the bike, and felt like I could have gone faster without much effort.  During the bike leg, I knew that three racers from my age group passed me, but I expected that. For a cycling approach to B2B marketing, check out my blog on using a team pursuit for building a Challenger Sale commercial insight.

It All Comes Down to the Run

Patriot 2014 RunYou wouldn’t know it from this picture, but I had my best run leg ever at this year’s race.  Part of it was the weather.  High 60s and overcast the whole race.  Part of it was my energy conservation on the bike.  And part of it was my constant mantra to just keep running.  For the first time, I avoided walking.  I averaged 8:13s for the half marathon, taking a few walking steps at each aid station to swallow a bit of energy drink, and then getting back into my stride.  The best part of the run was at mile 12, when I caught and passed the competitor who ultimately finished fourth. Read my post on how coming up to speed as an exec at a new company is like a runner catching the leaders on Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon.

How’s Your Season Shaping Up?

In future posts, I’ll share results in the three areas of B2B Marketing.  Until then, tell me what you think.  How’s your racing season shaping up?  Have you been able to deliver results according to your plan?

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